ABIDJAN – Ivory Coast will more than quadruple its troop presence in the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in neighboring Mali to 800, President Alassane Ouattara said on Friday, making it one of the mission’s leading contributors.
The batallion of 650 troops will join the 150 Ivorian soldiers deployed in Mali, where security has deteriorated sharply in recent years due to attacks by jihadist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State as well as ethnic clashes.
The unrest has destabilized West Africa’s entire Sahel region as national armies, Western commandos and the 15,000-strong U.N. mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, fail to maintain control.
MINUSMA was set up in 2013 after an Islamist uprising in the north the year before. Amid continuing violence, it has become the U.N.’s deadliest mission, with nearly 200 members killed, mostly in combat.
Led by France, Western powers have also provided funding to a regional force called the G5 Sahel made up of soldiers from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania to combat jihadists.
“We must strengthen our security cooperation and continue our advocacy for the G5 Sahel and the resolution of the crisis in Libya which contributes greatly to instability in our sister countries of Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and beyond,” Ouattara told reporters on Friday.
He said the additional troops would be deployed “very soon” without providing details.
While Ivory Coast has been largely spared the violence affecting its neighbors, an attack in 2016 by al Qaeda gunmen on a beach resort along its southern coast killed 16 people.
(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly, Writing by Edward McAllister, Editing by William Maclean)