UN replaces Mali peacekeeping chief

Bamako - The United Nations peacekeeping chief in Mali is to be replaced after just one year in the role, diplomatic sources said on Friday, amid criticism of the country's peace process.

Former Chadian foreign minister Mahamat Saleh Annadif takes over from Tunisian Mongi Hamdi in January, a source in the incumbent's office told AFP.

Hamdi, a former foreign minister in Tunisia who took up the peacekeeping role in January, is expected to return to a government position in his own country.

"We are aware. Hamdi is going and Mahamat Saleh Annadif is coming," an official in Mali's foreign ministry said on condition of anonymity.

Under Hamdi's watch, Mali concluded a landmark peace agreement between the government and a Tuareg-led rebellion which has launched several uprisings since the 1960s.

But jihadist violence has intensified on the ground and the management of the transition to peace has been criticised by the international community.

"What is clear is that Hamdi didn't get a grip of the management of the Malian crisis," a diplomat in Bamako said on condition of anonymity.

With more than 1 100 troops and police, the Chadian contingent is the third-largest contributor to the 10 300-strong Minusma peacekeeping force, behind Burkina Faso and Bangladesh.

Deployed since July 2013, the mission has been the UN's most costly in human life since Somalia from 1993 to 1995.

Annadif was head of the African Union mission in that country from November 2012 until June last year.

Jihadists linked to al-Qaeda seized the towns and cities of Mali's desert north in 2012 with the help of Tuareg rebels in the wake of a military coup.

The jihadists quickly sidelined their Tuareg allies, but were themselves ousted by a French-led military intervention launched in January 2013.

Democracy was restored following elections in the summer of that year but large swathes of the northern desert remain beyond the control of Malian security forces and their foreign allies.

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