February 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 January 2013
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Expected Council Action

In February, the Council is expecting a report from the AU on the deployment and activities of the Africanā€led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), in line with resolution 2085 of 20 December 2012. It will also likely be following a range of issues relating to the fast-developing situation in Mali, including the deployment of a multidisciplinary UN presence in the country.

AFISMA’s authorisation expires on 20 December 2013.

Key Recent Developments

On 10 January, the rebel group Ansar Dine and Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) seized Konna, barely 56 kilometres from the strategic town of Sévaré (which has the only other airport in Mali, apart from that in Bamako, capable of handling military cargo planes and is an easy gateway to the south of the country). That same day, Council members met in consultations to discuss a request by Mali’s interim government for French assistance and issued a press statement expressing grave concern over the movements and attacks by terrorist and extremist groups in the northern Mali as constituting a threat to international peace and security (SC/10878). On 11 January, France launched Opération Serval attacking the rebels’ positions.  Council members met again in consultations on 14 January to get an update on situation from Jeffrey Feltman, head of the Department of Political Affairs.

On 17 January, the EU established a Common Security and Defence Policy mission, headed by Brig. Gen. François Lecointre (France), which is expected to be deployed in Mali by mid-February to support the training and reorganisation of Mali’s military. On that same day, Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in West Africa and head of the UN Office for West Africa, met in Bamako with interim President Dioncounda Traoré and emphasised the importance of the political process.

On 19 January, ECOWAS, which is providing the core of AFISMA’s forces, held an extraordinary summit in Côte d’Ivoire to agree on options for an accelerated deployment of West African troops in light of “Opération Serval”. The initial plan was for AFISMA’s forces to be in place by September 2013, but Nigeria began deploying its air force in Mali on 17 January. The next day, troops and headquarters staff officers began to arrive, and by 20 January, 855 troops from Benin, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo had been deployed, along with a full battalion of troops from Niger to the border with Mali. (France had already sent several hundred troops to Mali and was planning to have at least 2,500 troops there.) Chad, which is not a member of ECOWAS, pledged 2,000 troops to the operation. Originally, AFISMA was envisaged as a force of 3,300 personnel, including 2,990 troops, 30 individual police officers and two formed police units of 280 personnel in total, but Feltman told Council members that it is now generally agreed that the number needs to increase. The ECOWAS summit endorsed the appointment of AFISMA’s military command: Maj. Gen. Shehu Abdelkadir (Nigeria) as force commander and Brig. Gen. Yaye Garba (Niger) as deputy commander. Both arrived in Mali on 12 January. The summit requested immediate funding and logistical support from the UN, noting that the unfolding situation in Mali had necessitated the accelerated deployment of AFISMA.

On 20 January, Nigerian troops deploying to Mali were attacked in northern Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram, which is believed to be an affiliate of the Islamist forces in northern Mali. Three soldiers were killed.

The accelerated military activity has led to a speeding-up of efforts to establish a UN presence in Bamako that would, among other things, assist in the deployment of AFISMA. An advance team from the Department of Political Affairs and personnel from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations arrived in Mali on 20 January to establish a UN office in Bamako. (Resolution 2085 adopted on 20 December 2012 requested the establishment of a UN presence in Mali to provide support to the ongoing political and security processes in the country and regular and detailed reporting. João Honwana—the head of DPA’s Africa II Division is in charge of this UN team.)

On 22 January, Feltman provided the Council with a detailed update on the latest developments in Mali and said that while the French operations were commendable, the capabilities of the armed groups occupying northern Mali have proven to be stronger than expected. Also, of key interest during the Council’s 22 January consultations on Mali was the Secretary-General’s letter detailing funding and logistical support options for AFISMA (S/2013/37). The three options set out by the Secretary-General are similar to those included in his 13 December letter to the Council (S/2012/926). 

The first option would be for bilateral channels to provide all logistics support to AFISMA. Under the second option, the UN would provide, through assessed contributions, a logistics support package to AFISMA in all phases of its operations. However, because a finalised concept of operations for AFISMA is under development, the Secretary-General said it is currently not possible to produce a detailed plan for such a support package. The third option calls for bilateral partners to provide logistics support to AFISMA during the combat phase of operations and for the UN to provide support to the mission during the deployment and stabilisation phases. 

The Secretary-General stated his preference for this last option, as it would “significantly reduce some of the risks to the UN and the personnel that are associated with the second option.” A UN support package to AFISMA, in any case, could be similar in level and type of support to the AU Mission in Somalia, he said, and it would exclude the provision of “critical military enablers” like military aviation assets.

The letter has an annex containing the terms of reference for a UN trust fund for AFISMA. The fund will be managed by the UN office in Mali, which will coordinate all aspects of the UN’s work in the country. A donors’ conference aimed at raising funds for AFISMA—in line with the Secretary-General’s recommendation with respect to voluntary contributions for the mission—was held on 29 January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It raised $455 million.

On 25 January, Djinnit briefed the Council on recent developments in West Africa, focusing on Mali. The overall terrorism threat in the region has heightened, Djinnit said, adding that the international community must enhance counterterrorism support for neighbouring countries. He also mentioned refugee flows from Mali as a humanitarian as well as a potential security issue. The latest estimate by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees states that more than 150,000 people have fled to neighbouring Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso, while an additional 230,000 have been internally displaced.

Human Rights-Related Developments

In January, the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report on the situation in Mali, as requested by the Human Rights Council in resolution 21/25 of 28 September 2012. The report is based on a mission from 11-20 November 2012 to Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger and covers human rights violations committed since January 2012. The report documents summary executions, rape, torture, the recruitment of children and arbitrary detention perpetrated by the rebel or terrorist groups in northern Mali, including Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad, AQIM, Ansar Dine and Mouvement pour l’Unicité et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest. The report states that civilians in the north have been victims of degrading treatment by these groups based on an extreme interpretation of Sharia, including sexual violence and amputations. The report also documents human rights violations committed in areas controlled by the government, including extra-judicial killings. It documents the killing of 16 pilgrims as well as cases of forced disappearances, arbitrary detention and torture perpetrated against members of the police and the military suspected of supporting a failed coup on 30 April 2012.

On 17 January, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened investigations into war crimes in Mali. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights welcomed the announcement.

Responding to questions about reports of human rights violations committed against civilians in the course of military operations in the north, the Secretary-General’s spokesman stressed on 24 January that the UN office in Mali will conduct human rights monitoring to ensure accountability and that impunity will be firmly opposed. 

Key Issues

Supporting AFISMA’s logistical and funding requirement is a key issue.

Addressing the various dimensions of the ongoing operations in Mali, including the new UN office in the country, is a related issue.

The massive humanitarian crisis resulting from the raids of the Islamists and the ongoing military operations against them is another key issue. 


Options for the Council include:

  • authorising funding and logistical support for AFISMA through UN assessed contributions;
  • accepting the Secretary-General’s preference for only voluntary contributions for the combat phase of the operations and UN support for the stabilisation phase;
  • transforming AFISMA into a full-scale UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, an unlikely option at this stage; and
  • establishing a sanctions regime in an effort to further isolate the Islamist and insurgent forces operating in northern Mali (also unlikely).
Council Dynamics

Opération Serval appears to have the unanimous support of all Council members. There are, however, emerging differences of opinion among Council members about the way forward. Most support providing logistical, funding and diplomatic support to AFISMA, but the US appears to be wary of endorsing any support that would extend to the interim government that issued from the 22 March 2012 coup.

The US is especially concerned about providing further support for the army, which it had trained and armed in the past, only to see some of the army personnel defect to the Islamists while others staged the 22 March coup.

France leads on this issue in the Council.

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UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions  
20 December 2012 S/RES/2085 This resolution authorised the deployment of AFISMA for an initial period of one year.
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 January 2013 SC/10878 This press statement expressed grave concern over attacks by terrorist and extremist groups in northern Mali.
Security Council Letters  
20 January 2013 S/2013/37 This was the Secretary-General’s letter on funding and logistical support options for AFISMA.
18 January 2013 S/2013/35 This letter was a request from ECOWAS for urgent funding and logistical support for AFISMA.
13 December 2012 S/2012/926 This letter from the Secretary-General set out funding options for AFISMA.
Secretary-General’s Reports  
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 to Mali (AFISMA).
Security Council Meeting Records  
25 January 2013 S/PV.6911 This was a meeting on UNOWA.
22 January 2013 S/PV.6905 This meeting was on the situation in Mali.

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