In Mali, as in the Central African Republic, UN peacekeeping missions are increasingly reaching out to private contractors to hire drones to boost their intelligence capabilities, in a move backed at the highest level in New York.
Abidjan is trying to place a new battalion within the UN mission in Mali (Minusma), where Ivory Coast already has 800 Blue Helmet peacekeepers
Since late September, the UN peacekeeping force in Mali has been deploying surveillance aircraft supplied by the US military contractor MAG Aerospace. A bolstering of its capacities that comes at an opportune moment as the troops of France's Operation Barkhane get ready to withdraw from the north of the country.
Following President Macron's announcement on 10 June of France's plans to end Operation Barkhane, the French presidency is trying to mobilise its partners regarding the situation in the Sahel. French diplomats have begun a major operation to persuade the European Union, the UN and the African Union to get more involved in the region, with a Sahel Coalition summit coming up in July and France due to take the chair of the UN Security Council on 1 July.
The arrival of the Biden administration should help rekindle talks for a replacement of the current MINUSMA head, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, whose mandate ends in April. Paris and Washington have been bickering over the matter for months.
The US president-elect Joe Biden already has his diplomats working on what position they will take in the Sahel, a contrast to months of blocked negotiations with the Trump administration.
Following a six-month selection process, French gendarmerie general Bettina Boughani has been appointed by the United Nations' Department of Peace Operations to take charge of the United Nations Police unit within the UN's MINUSMA mission in Mali.
The commandos of Task Force Sabre are having to face up to sweeping changes brought about by the departure of half of France's conventional forces in the region, the growth of the European task force Takuba and a possible reduction in their own numbers.
A major contract to build and operate a NATO compound in the Sahel is due to be awarded this month. [...]