Expected Council Action
In December, the Council is expected to consider the Secretary-General’s report providing recommendations regarding the deployment of an international military force in Mali, including means and modalities of the envisaged deployment, in line with resolution 2071. The Secretary-General is likely to brief the Council, and representatives from the AU and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are expected to make statements.
A resolution authorising an international stabilisation force is expected in December.
Key Recent Developments
Resolution 2071 adopted on 12 October gave considerable momentum to the efforts of various international and African regional actors to agree on an actionable plan for a military stabilisation force in Mali. The resolution requested the Secretary-General to “immediately provide military and security planners” to assist ECOWAS and the AU, in close consultation with the authorities in Mali and the neighbouring countries, on the plan. On 28 November, the Secretary-General submitted a report to the Council detailing the concept of operations, strength and financial basis for an African-led international support mission in Mali. The report consolidates ideas for the mission from AU, ECOWAS and EU.
On 11 November, ECOWAS announced its plan to deploy 3,300 soldiers to support the mission in Mali. The troops will come from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo. That same day, news reports stated that between 200 to 400 EU special-forces troops would be sent to Mali with French Defence Minister Jean‐Yves Le Drian stating that while neither France nor the EU would be sending troops into combat in Mali, they would be in a position to provide intelligence as well as training for local troops and ECOWAS forces.
On 14 November, the AU issued a communiqué (PSC/PR/COMM.2[CCCXLI]) endorsing a harmonised concept of operations fashioned by the AU and ECOWAS for the planned deployment of an African‐led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA). The force, the communiqué noted, would assist the Malian authorities to “regain the occupied regions in the north of the country, dismantle the terrorist and criminal networks and restore effectively the authority of the state over the entire national territory.” It noted “with satisfaction” the decision of ECOWAS to maintain its standby brigade in advanced readiness for an imminent deployment and also the agreement that other African countries, including the neighbours of Mali, would be canvassed to support the mission in terms of intelligence, logistics and troops.
The 13-page strategic concept to address the crises emphasises Malian leadership and stresses “coordinated and sustained support by the UN.” It sets out seven short- and medium-term objectives for AFISMA, such as an inclusive democratic process in Mali, restoration of the country’s unity and territorial integrity, reform of its defence and security sectors and addressing the structural challenges facing the wider Sahel.
The Secretary-General’s office received the strategic concept from the AU Commission on 13 November, the Secretary-General’s 28 November report says, noting that the AU communiqué urged Security Council’s authorisation for AFISMA with a Chapter VII resolution. The report endorses key aspects of the AU strategic concept, including that the AU would provide political and strategic leadership for AFISMA, and that the military and police components of AFISMA would be generated from the ECOWAS Standby Force as well as contributions from other countries. It noted, however, that pledges from ECOWAS’ countries are still required in the form of air support assets and personnel, engineers, military intelligence, and counter-improvised explosive device equipment and training. It also recommends that the military operational command of AFISMA should be through separate commanders for the Malian and international force, reporting to the Malian Joint Chief of Staff and an AU-appointed Special Representative for AFISMA. The report also recommends the establishment of “joint coordination mechanism” comprising the defence ministers of Mali, ECOWAS troop contributing countries, Algeria, Mauretania and Niger, to support the office of the Special Representative.
On the critical issue of funding for the military operations, the report notes that this should be gotten largely through voluntary and bilateral contributions, and notes that a donors’ conference at which “respective roles and responsibilities could be further defined and pledges garnered for funding and in-kind contributions” would be convened.
The report notes that on 19 November, the EU Foreign Affairs Council considered a crisis management concept under which military training and advice would be provided to the Malian authorities. Prior to that, on 16 November, defence strategists from France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain met and endorsed the AU-ECOWAS plan. The UN, the report says, “could continue to support AFISMA and the Malian authorities with planning and preparations for an intervention in the north [of Mali], as well as in critical areas that will be required to accompany or follow any operation with respect to the extension of State authority” in the country.
On the ground, the radical Islamists continue to consolidate their hold on northern Mali. The area was initially seized by separatist Tuareg rebels, under the banner of the Mouvement national pour la libération de l’Azawad (MNLA), shortly after the 22 March coup in Bamako. Soon after, however, Islamist militants belonging to AQIM and its ally, Ansar Eddine, which had been allied to the MNLA, took effective control and sidelined the MNLA. Another Islamist group that had been part of the separatist uprising, the Mouvement pour l’unité et le jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO), which has been kidnapping Western hostages and holding them for ransom, seized the strategically important town of Douentza in September and crossed into the central part of Mali, closer to the government-held south-west. On 19 November, the group announced that it had captured the town of Menaka, close to the Niger border, in clashes that left many MNLA fighters dead or wounded.
There are also reports of a looming humanitarian catastrophe in northern Mali, including famine. The health system has reportedly collapsed and hundreds of thousands of persons have been forced to flee their homes.
The key issue for the Council is to assist Mali in restoring its territorial integrity and to stamp out the growing spread of terrorist groups and activities in the region.
An closely related issue is playing a coordinating role for the efforts of AU, ECOWAS and the EU in helping Mali’s military recapture the north of the country from the Islamists.
Options for the Council include:
- adopting a Chapter VII resolution authorising the deployment of international troops in support of Malian forces; or
- taking no action at this point.
It appears that consensus on this issue is likely, though the debate about authorising the international stabilisation mission is expected to be robust. France has been most active in support of military assistance to the authorities in Bamako, but among the other P5 members, the UK and the US appear to be staunchly supportive. All the European Council members and the US see the radical Islamist threats in northern Mali as a direct security threat that needs to be dealt with without delay. China and Russia have not questioned the rationale for a stabilisation mission and were supportive of resolution 2071 that outlined the different steps that would lead to it.
South Africa and Togo, the two AU members on the Council, have been key players, representing the views of the AU and ECOWAS respectively. Morocco, which does not belong to the African regional organisations but has a vested interest in events in the region where it is situated, has been supportive, though it has stressed the need for a clear attempt at negotiation with some of the elements in the north. It also favours the development of a strategy that deals with the issues relating to the wider Sahel, instead of limiting the focus to Mali.
Some Council members, however, appear sceptical about the idea of international military assistance, since they think that such assistance might take on forms that were not intended. These Council members are particularly sensitive in light of the situation in Libya, whose apparent fallout contributed to the new situation in Mali.
UN Documents on Mali
|Security Council Resolutions|
|12 October 2012 S/RES/2071||This resolution expressed the Council’s readiness to respond positively to a request from Mali regarding an intervention force to assist the Malian armed forces to reclaim the northern half of the country pending a report from the Secretary-General.|
|5 July 2012 S/RES/2056||This resolution expressed 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.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|4 April 2012 S/PRST/2012/9||This presidential statement was adopted in response to a spreading Tuareg rebellion in the north and called for the immediate restoration of constitutional rule and demanded an end to all hostilities in the north. It also condemned the seizure of territory by rebels in the north, particularly expressing alarm over the presence of Al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists in the north of the country and in the wider Sahel region.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|10 August 2012 SC/10741||This press statement followed statements by the Secretary-General, representatives of ECOWAS and the AU, and the Permanent Representative of Mali.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|8 August 2012 S/PV.6820||This was a meeting on Peace and security in Africa focusing on Mali.|
|Security Council Letters|
|13 June 2012 S/2012/444||This letter 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.|
|29 November 2012 S/2012/894||This Secretary-General’s report on Mali, detailed the concept of operations, strength and financial basis for an African-led international support mission in Mali.|
|29 June 2012 S/2012/510||This was a Secretary-General report on West Africa.|
|17 January 2012 S/2012/42||This transmitted the report of the assessment mission on the impact of the Libyan crisis on the Sahel region|