Expected Council Action
In August the Council is expected to consider options set out by the Secretary-General on possible steps to ensure the full restoration of constitutional order and territorial integrity in Mali, including the deployment of military forces by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in line with resolution 2056. It is likely that the Deputy Secretary-General will brief the Council. Representatives of ECOWAS and the AU are also likely to brief.
No Council action is expected immediately after the briefing.
Key Recent Developments
On 5 July, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2056, expressing its full support for the joint efforts of ECOWAS, the AU and the transitional authorities to attempt to re-establish constitutionality and the territorial integrity of Mali.
The resolution declared the Council’s readiness to consider backing a military deployment in Mali as proposed by ECOWAS “once additional information has been provided regarding the objectives, means and modalities of the envisaged deployment and other possible measures.” It called on the Secretary-General to support ECOWAS and the AU in preparing the deployment plans and to report to the Council by 31 July on “possible steps” to restore constitutionality and the territorial integrity of Mali.
Resolution 2056 was the culmination of intense diplomatic activity since 22 March, when young officers, led by Capt. Amadou Sanogo, overthrew the civilian government of President Amadou Toumani Touré, ahead of presidential elections scheduled for 29 April in which Touré was not participating. That same day, the Council issued a press statement (SC/10590) condemning the forcible seizure of power and calling for the “immediate restoration” of the deposed government.
The soldiers had abandoned a faltering campaign against Tuareg rebels in the north of the country. The Tuareg, under the banner of the Mouvement national pour la libération de l’Azawad (MNLA), seized the northern half of the country and declared it independent of Mali shortly after the coup. The situation was further complicated by the strong presence among the Tuareg of members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which by July had gained ascendancy and effectively sidelined MNLA. AQIM—and its ally, the Islamist group Ansar Eddine—imposed a regime of terror in the vast area, including extrajudicial killings, the destruction of historic monuments in Timbuktu, and the oppression of women, triggering the flight of an estimated quarter of the population.
On 26 March, the Council issued a presidential statement (S/PRST/2012/7) expressing “serious concern” about the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in the region “which is further complicated by the presence of armed groups and terrorist groups.”
On 6 April, ECOWAS brokered a framework agreement resulting in the military junta’s promise to give up power in return for an amnesty and the lifting of the sanctions ECOWAS had imposed. The junta also agreed to a timetable for a return to constitutional rule and elections.
During their visit to Côte d’Ivoire on 21 May, Council members held a high-level meeting with ECOWAS in Abidjan. The participants included ECOWAS Commission Chair Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, as well as the Foreign Ministers of Côte d’Ivoire (current chair of ECOWAS), Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal. Benin also attended as the current chair of the AU.
On 12 June, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), meeting in New York on the eve of its annual consultative meeting with members of the Security Council, issued a communiqué calling on the Security Council “as a matter of urgency” to “endorse the envisaged deployment of an ECOWAS force [in Mali] and to lend its full support to the efforts being exerted to this end.”
The next day, at the sixth consultative meeting between the two councils, Mali was prominently discussed. A communiqué (S/2012/444) issued at the close of the meeting acknowledged “the efforts of ECOWAS to explore options to restore peace and security in Mali in the context of upholding its territorial integrity.”
This was followed by an informal interactive meeting on Mali, requested by Togo, held on 15 June in New York between Council members and representatives of the AU PSC and ECOWAS. The Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso, Djibrill Yipènè Bassolé, who is leading ECOWAS’ mediation efforts on Mali, provided an update on his efforts and requested a mandate from the Council for the planned ECOWAS military deployment in Mali.
On 18 June, the Council issued a press statement (SC/10676) taking note of the request by ECOWAS for the Council to authorise the deployment of a “stabilisation force” in Mali and expressing Council members’ readiness to further examine the request “once additional information has been provided regarding the objectives, means and modalities of the envisaged deployment and other possible measures.”
ECOWAS deployed a Technical Assessment Mission (TAM), led by Brig-Gen. Mohammed Lai, Chief of Staff of the ECOWAS Standby Force, from 7-18 July, to assess the feasibility of deploying troops in Mali.
On 25-26 July, the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff (CCDS) held an emergency meeting on Mali in Abidjan to consider the report of the TAM, which would later have to be endorsed by the Heads of State of ECOWAS.
The situation in Mali, meanwhile, has continued to deteriorate, with reports of massive human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings. On 25 July, Human Rights Watch reported that soldiers loyal to the 22 March coup leader Captain Sanogo had “forcibly disappeared” 20 soldiers alleged to have been linked to a failed counter-coup in April. The situation in the northern half of the country has been even more critical. There have been reports of massive human rights violations and inter-factional killings as well as of kidnappings and ransom demands.
In view of the situation, the Justice Minister in the transitional government, Malick Coulibaly, formally requested on 18 July that the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigate atrocities being committed by the various Islamists and rebel groups in the north of the country. The request stated that the crimes committed in northern Mali since January involved “grave and large-scale violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law.”
Human Rights-Related Developments
In a resolution on the situation of human rights in Mali, the Human Rights Council (HRC) condemned human rights violations and acts of violence committed in northern Mali by the rebels, terrorist groups and organised transnational crime networks. The resolution, which was tabled by the Group of African States and adopted without a vote during the HRC’s June session, also expressed support for current efforts by the AU and ECOWAS to settle the crisis and invited the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor the human rights situation in the north of Mali and to report to the Council at its next (September) session.
Reacting to the destruction of sites of religious significance, including in the World Heritage site of Timbuktu, two UN human rights experts on 10 July strongly condemned serious violations of cultural rights and the right to freedom of religion and belief in northern Mali. The HRC’s independent expert in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, said that for the local population the destruction of tombs was a denial of their identity, beliefs, history and dignity. The special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, observed that attacks on places of worship and the desecration of cemeteries violated the human rights of the entire community. Shaheed and Bielefeldt echoed the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in reminding the perpetrators that deliberate attacks against historical religious sites may constitute war crimes.
The key issue for the Council is to assess the feasibility of the ECOWAS proposed approach and the degree to which this is echoed by the Secretary-General.
Determining the appropriateness and level of support for ECOWAS’ troops to be deployed in Mali and the mandate of that force would be the next key issue.
An important issue will be whether the upcoming proposals would be addressing the situation in Bamako-controlled parts of the country only or the entire Malian territory, including the renegade north.
Massive human rights violations, especially against women and non-Muslims in the Tuareg-controlled parts of Mali, are an issue of concern.
A related issue is dealing with the growing threat of terrorism in Mali and the wider Sahel region.
A further issue is the use of the ICC to address some of the violations in Mali, both by the radical Islamists in northern Mali and by the military in Bamako.
Options for the Council include:
- receiving the briefing and options from the Secretariat as well as the conclusions from the ECOWAS-led military assessment team and postponing action until a further careful consideration of ECOWAS’ military plans; or
- receiving the briefing and then adopting a resolution authorising the deployment of an ECOWAS’ force in Mali.
An immediate option could be requesting the appointment by the Secretary-General of a Special Envoy on Mali as a step towards forging a more effective approach to the complex issues relating to the country.
There is consensus among Council members that the situation in Mali is intolerable and should be reversed. Council members are unanimous in their condemnation of the 22 March coup, in insisting on the re-establishment of constitutionality and in rejecting the secessionist pretensions of the northern rebels. The Council, however, has not given serious consideration around an approach towards resolving the complex issues relating to the north of the country, though the presence of radical Islamists there and their activities, including kidnappings of westerners and other terrorist acts, are of particular interest. It appears that France, which is leading on this issue in the Council, is in principle interested in supporting actions that would curb the problem, including deployment of the ECOWAS stabilisation force. Togo, the only ECOWAS member on the Council, has a strong interest in getting a Council resolution on the troop deployment in Mali as well. But Council support for such an action will depend largely on a number of factors, including a specific request from the transitional authorities in Mali and the provision of a credible military plan by ECOWAS.
|Security Council Resolution|
|5 JULY 2012
|Was a resolution expressing the Council’s full support for the joint efforts of ECOWAS, the AU and the transitional authorities in Mali trying to re-establish constitutionality and territorial integrity.|
|26 MARCH 2012
|Expressed concern about the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in the region.|
|Security Council Letters|
|20 JUNE 2012
|Transmitted the conclusions of the first meeting of the AU’s Support and Follow-up Group on the Situation in Mali.|
|13 JUNE 2012
|Was from President Boni Yaya of Benin, Chairman of the AU, on the situation in Mali.|
|13 JUNE 2012
|Was from Ambassador Baso Sangqu (South Africa) containing the joint communiqué issued after the sixth consultative meeting between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council.|
|Latest Secretary General’s Report|
|29 JUNE 2012
|Was on UNOWA|
|18 JUNE 2012
|Was on ECOWAS’ request to the Council to authorise the deployment of a “stabilisation force” in Mali.|
|22 MARCH 2012
|Was on the “forcible seizure” of power in Mali and called for the restoration of the constitutional order.|