Prime Minister Solberg to visit Norwegian troops in Mali
Erna Solberg (Conservatives) attends her first «hot» assignment as Prime Minister when she visits the Norwegian soldiers in the UN force MINUSMA in Mali on Thursday and Friday.
The UN peacekeeping operation in Mali (MINUSMA) is considered the most dangerous operation that the organisation is conducting at the moment. More than 190 UN soldiers have been killed since the force was established in 2013. Most of the troops are from other African countries.
Solberg is, however, not worried about the safety of the Norwegian troops serving there:
“The Norwegian soldiers operate transport operations and a camp in Mali. UN missions are not very dangerous for well-trained soldiers such as, among others, the Norwegians,” Solberg believes.
She highlights that the situation is more dangerous for UN soldiers from countries who are not only less well trained – but have to carry out missions on the ground, to boot.
Norway contributes to the MINUSMA force with a Hercules C-130 and about 60 personnel. The high level of threat in northern Mali and the large geographical operating area, which consists mainly of desert, make ground transportation very demanding and risky. The Norwegian aircraft will mainly carry cargo and personnel around the country.
Minister of Defence, Frank Bakke-Jensen (Conservatives), is accompanying the PM on the trip.
UN missions more demanding
Solberg does not hide the fact that UN peace operations are more demanding now than before:
“UN soldiers are on «hotter» missions now than before. Previously there were more «structured war zones», now it is more often guerrilla activities,” she highlights.
Solberg emphasises that the Norwegian authorities are concerned about the safety of Norwegian personnel.
“We do not deploy persons that we don’t believe are capable of handling such tasks,” she adds.
Important to contribute to Mali
Solberg believes that it is important to help stabilize conflict areas. Norwegian efforts in Mali are part of the focus on vulnerable states and combating violent extremism.
“Society must participate in areas where security challenges are such that they create ripple effects in the rest of the world,” she asserts, adding:
“Stabilising countries and creating fertile ground for economic development and functioning democracies will, in turn, lead to less extremism. It will also lead to less refugee pressure on Europe.”
First «hot» mission as Prime Minister
Solberg and Bakke-Jensen visit the Norwegian Camp Bifrost outside Bamako on Thursday and Friday. This is the first time she is on a so-called «hot» assignment as Prime Minister.
“I was in Afghanistan when I was a Member of Parliament, but this is the first trip of this kind as Prime Minister,” she clarifies.
During the stay in Mali, Solberg will meet the Prime Minister of Mali, Boubou Cissé, and the management of MINUSMA:
“It’s important to talk to the UN and with the authorities in Mali to learn how they view the challenges.”
The Government has stepped up the Norwegian efforts for stabilisation and conflict resolution in the Sahel In recent years. Further development in Mali is of great importance to the region.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today