The group of parliamentarians visited the about 70 Norwegian soldiers stationed at Camp Bifrost in Bamako. A Hercules airplane from the Norwegian Air Defence have, since January this year, been stationed in Bamako on a transport mission for the UN Forces.
Camp Bifrost was built by Norway to accommodate the Norwegian soldiers and will continue to be run by the Norwegian personnel, even after the Hercules has finished its mission in November.
The UN Force MINUSMA (Multidimensional integrated stabilization mission in Mali) consists of 11.000 soldiers from 40 countries. The parliamentarians were told that the Norwegian contribution is significant,. The Hercules is the only airplane with the capacity to transport food, equipment and personnel to the MINUSMA operations in the north of Mali as well as carry out airdrops, day and night.
The parliamentarians expressed their gratitude to the soldiers for their willingness to serve. They were very impressed by the quality of the personnel and equipment. They were also put up for the night in the tented camp and got to experience first-hand the conditions offered to the soldiers.
The delegation met with Force Commander Maj. General Mikael Lollesgaard. He briefed them on the totality of the military part of the MINUSMA operation and the significance of the Norwegian contribution. The Force Commander emphasized the importance of UN peacekeeping missions in general, and particularly in Mali.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Abdoulaye Diop expressed his satisfaction with the decision to open a Norwegian Embassy in Bamako. He hailed Norway for the excellent and protracted cooperation. In his political brief he underlined the crucial distinction that must be made between groups that carry out legitimate political activity and the terrorists. This distinction makes it possible to have a political dialogue, and to maintain this dialogue, even in a demanding security situation. Peacebuilding is a prerequisite for development. Thus efforts to achieve peace and development must go hand-in-hand.
Minister of Defence Mr Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga acknowledged that Mali’s own military forces does not have the capacity, training or equipment to handle the security situation on their own in the vast territory that make up the country.
He expressed his gratitude to the UN and MINUSMA, but he was concerned about the further development of Mali’s military capacity. He emphasized the need to build a national army that could eventually have the capacity and competence needed to take over the responsibility for maintaining security in the country.
The delegation was headed by the chairperson of the parliament committee Ms Anniken Huitfeldt and included the following Members of Parliament: Ms Liv Signe Navarsete, Mr Øyvind Hallaråker and Mr Christian Tybring-Gjedde.
The group were accompanied by the Ambassador to Mali Ms Hege Hertzberg and the embassy councillor responsible for Mali, Ms Synne Bjørnrå.