U.N. force to replace Africa troops in Mali

AFP-JIJI

U.N. soldiers will take over from African troops in conflict-scarred Mali from Monday, making up the organization’s third-largest peacekeeping force by the end of the year.

A 12,600-strong force will take over security duties from French troops who entered Mali in January to halt an Islamist advance and help the government re-establish its authority.

France is winding down its deployment from its peak of nearly 4,500 but is to keep up to 1,000 troops in Mali. They will maintain responsibility for military strikes against the Islamist rebels.

Rwandan Gen. Jean-Bosco Kazura, formerly second in command of African Union troops in Sudan’s western Darfur region, will lead the force. The majority of the soldiers will be Africans already stationed in Mali, but China has offered to supply more than 500 troops in what would be its biggest contribution to U.N. peacekeeping operations. Sweden will send 70 troops for a maximum of one year, and Norway is to contribute 25 soldiers and police.