Mali is expelling the spokesman of the UN's peacekeeping force in the country, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday, citing posts he made on Twitter about a diplomatic incident with Ivory Coast that has soured relations with the UN.
Olivier Salgado, spokesman for the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), has been given 72 hours to leave over "tendentious and unacceptable" posts he made on Twitter, the government said in a statement.
The expulsion comes amid mounting friction between Mali's ruling military and international partners supporting the country's fight against jihadists.
Last week Mali announced it was suspending all new rotations of the MINUSMA peacekeeping mission, including those already scheduled, for “national security” reasons.
The announcement came just days after the Malian authorities arrested 49 Ivorian soldiers it later described as “mercenaries” intent on toppling the country’s military-led government.
Ivory Coast said the soldiers were sent to provide a support role for MINUSMA, under a routine rotation, but Mali claimed they had no mission orders or any authorisation to enter the country.
The foreign ministry statement accused Salgado of Twitter posts "declaring without any proof that the Malian authorities had been previously informed" of their arrival.
MINUSMA, it said, was asked to provide evidence to support Salgado's assertions but had given no reply.
A costly mission
The incident takes place against a backdrop of problems in Mali, one of Africa's poorest and most unstable countries.
Thousands of people have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced in a jihadist campaign that began in northern Mali in 2012 and then spread to Niger and Burkina Faso three years later.
MINUSMA, launched in 2013, is one of the UN's biggest peacekeeping operations, with 17,609 troops, police, civilians and volunteers deployed as of April 2022, according to the mission's website.
It is also one of the most dangerous UN missions, with 275 fatalities from attacks, accidents or other causes, according to the website.
On Friday, Egypt, MINUSMA's biggest single troop contributor, said it would "temporarily suspend" its participation in operations after seven of its troops were killed this year.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)