Dutch Minister Quits Office

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert Photo

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert

Consequent upon reports revealing lapses in her ministry, Dutch Defence minister has resigned her appointment.

Following a report that revealed “serious shortcomings” by her ministry, which resulted in the death of two Dutch soldiers in far away Mali, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Dutch minister, has resigned from office. But she was not the only one that left office following the demise of the soldiers, which occurred during a training session in Mali last year. General Tom Middendorp, top Dutch military commander, also stepped down over the failures.

According to reports, the soldiers identified as Kevin Roggeveld, 24, and Henry Hoving, 29 died when a mortar grenade unexpectedly exploded during target practice in Kidal, north-west Mali in July 2016, while a third soldier was injured. The deceased were said to be serving as part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.

In a report by the Dutch Safety Board, it was revealed that the Dutch military had been using old, defective grenades that had not been tested or stored correctly. The Board noted that after the shells were bought in 2006 “with the help of the US Department of Defence amid a pressure of time,” the Dutch defence ministry did not conduct its own procedural checks to ensure that they were safe.

As a result of the findings, Hennis-Plasschaert, while addressing the lower house of parliament in The Hague, Netherlands, on Tuesday, admitted that she failed in her duty as a defence minister. “I am politically responsible and am taking that responsibility,” she said.

The situation in Mali is not getting better. It is bad to the point that the UN peacekeeping mission in the country is described as the most dangerous in the world.

As reports have it, security situation in Mali has deteriorated since 2013, when French forces drove away allied Islamist and Tuareg rebel fighters who held much of the northern part of the country. As the UN said, attacks by militant Islamists against government forces, UN peacekeepers and French troops have increased in recent months with about 75 attacks between June and September.  This, they said, is double the total attack recorded in the previous four months. The bad news according to the UN is that Malian troops suffered the heaviest casualties in the attacks.

According to the Netherlands defence ministry, the Dutch contingent in Mali is mostly involved in reconnaissance missions, police training and intelligence. But from all indications, keeping peace in Mali does not come cheap. Apart from the human losses, it also gulps millions of dollars. In the meantime, the UN mission in Mali, Minusma, has over 12,000 uniformed personnel and 1,350 civilians, in its employ and the mission is maintained at an annual cost of $1 billion.

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