March 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2013
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Expected Council Action

In March, the Council is expected to be briefed in consultations by Under-Secretary-General of Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, and will discuss the upcoming report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 2085 of 20 December 2012.

The report will likely focus on UN support for the political and security efforts to address the crisis in Mali as well as the deployment and activities of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA). It is also likely to include recommendations of a technical assessment mission to Mali scheduled for mid-March.

The Council is expected to start discussing a possible transition from AFISMA to a full-fledged peacekeeping operation in March and a new resolution establishing such an operation is possible in the coming months.

AFISMA’s authorisation expires on 20 December.

Key Recent Developments

On 29 January, the National Assembly unanimously approved the roadmap for a transition presented by the interim government. This roadmap established the three main priorities for the authorities in the transition process: the restoration of the territorial integrity of Mali; the establishment of a dialogue with groups that respect this territorial integrity and reject armed struggle; and the holding of free and fair elections. On 14 February, the interim government announced that presidential elections would be held on 7 July and legislative elections on 21 July, along with a presidential run-off if required.

French President François Hollande visited Mali and met with interim President Dioncounda Traoré on 2 February. In Timbuktu, which was liberated on 27 January, Hollande declared that military efforts under Opération Serval were ongoing, as there were still areas in the north controlled by terrorist groups, but that the objective was to pass the baton to AFISMA when the situation on the ground allows it.

On 5 February in Brussels, the Support and Follow-up Group on the Situation in Mali held its third meeting. The meeting was hosted by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, and was co-chaired by the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ramtane Lamamra; Feltman; and the President of ECOWAS, Kadré Désiré Ouedraogo. The AU High Representative for Mali and the Sahel, Pierre Buyoya, and three ministers representing the interim government in Mali, also attended the meeting. The group’s conclusions commended France, Mali and AFISMA for the “remarkable progress made on the ground” and welcomed positive developments, such as the adoption of the roadmap for a political transition, the decision of the government to establish a dialogue and reconciliation commission and the deployment of an EU training mission to build the capacity of the Malian Defence and Security Forces (MDSF). Also, the conclusions of the group pointed to some of the challenges Mali is facing, such as the existence of terrorism and other criminal networks, the dire humanitarian situation, weak border-control mechanisms, reported acts of retaliation and other abuses in the recovered areas, as well as underlying problems such as governance deficit and poverty.

Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayé-Brook Zerihoun briefed Council members on 6 February in consultations on political developments on the ground and the progress in setting up a UN office in Bamako. This “multidimensional UN presence” (which an advance UN team began to set up after it arrived in Mali on 19 January) will support the ongoing political process and assist in the planning, deployment and operations of AFISMA. France provided an update on Opération Serval and there were some initial discussions about the idea of a future UN peacekeeping mission in Mali. Some Council members raised the need to put in place human rights observers, given the increasing allegations of violations of human rights in the country. (As a result of these requests the Secretariat boosted the human rights capacity of the UN presence in Bamako with the deployment of a mobile team.)

On 8 February, an advance team of 70 EU military instructors arrived in Mali. This mission, which will ultimately comprise 500 personnel, is meant to build the capacity of the MDSF in military training, human rights issues and protection of civilians.

In spite of the important military gains in Mali, the security situation still presents serious challenges. Almost 250,000 internally displaced persons and more than 165,000 refugees have fled to neighbouring countries. The terrorist threat continues in northern Mali, where there were reports of several suicide attacks in February. Furthermore, there have been reports of violent clashes among different units of the army, mainly between the Presidential Guard loyal to former President Amadou Toumani Touré (red beret) and those loyal to the current unelected government (green beret).

On 20 February, a meeting involving Malian officials as well as senior officials of the AU and ECOWAS, the EU military advisers in Mali, and UN military and civilian planners, concluded the revision of the harmonised joint concept of operations for AFISMA. The objective of this discussion was integrating a more robust military component with substantial police and civilian components. (The latter will include political affairs, human rights, humanitarian affairs, gender advisers and public information units.)

A letter from Traoré, dated 12 February, addressed to the Secretary-General was circulated among Council members on 26 February. It requested rapid deployment of AFISMA to restore state authority and sovereignty prior to AFISMA’s possible transformation into a UN stabilisation and peacekeeping operation. It also said that a high-level delegation from Mali will be travelling to New York for meetings with the Secretary-General and Security Council members.

At press time, Council members were expecting a briefing by Feltman on 27 February in consultations. France was also expected to provide an update on the security situation in the north and Council members were likely to hold initial discussions about the establishment of a peacekeeping operation.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 1 February, Adama Dieng, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the prevention of genocide, warned of the risk of reprisal attacks against ethnic Tuareg and Arab civilians. He mentioned instances of allegations of serious human rights violations committed by the Malian army against these communities. On 15 February, a spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that three human rights experts were already in Bamako to support the human rights activities undertaken by the UN Office in Mali. She added that a four-person team will be deployed to Mali on 17 February for a two-week fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of human rights abuses, including allegations of retaliatory violence. The findings of this mission and of the first mission deployed last November will be presented by the High Commissioner to the Human Rights Council (HRC) at its 22nd session. During this session, the HRC will also consider the January report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in the north of Mali.

Key Issues

A key overarching issue is to stabilise the security situation in the north in order to minimise the threats to a future peacekeeping operation.

A related issue for the Council—in case a counterinsurgency effort is still required— will be to define if such operations will fall under the mandate of any future UN peacekeeping mission.

Ensuring AFISMA has the basic financial and logistical support to fulfill its mandate in any transition towards a UN peacekeeping operation is another key issue. A closely related issue is the need for donors to quickly honour their pledges made in support of Mali, AFISMA and its troop-contributing countries at the 29 January Addis Ababa donor conference.

Emerging issues for the Council as it begins its discussions on a UN peacekeeping mission may be:

  • considering a role for the mission to address both the divisions within the government and the MDSF in parallel with the need to facilitate a wider negotiation process with minority groups; and
  • addressing the difficulty of providing sufficient capacity in a timely manner to support elections currently anticipated for July.

Addressing the potentially destabilising spillover effects from Mali to an already fragile regional will be an ongoing issue.


If the Council is to adopt a new peacekeeping resolution in the coming months it will need to continue to take into account recent developments in order to respond to the quickly changing situation on the ground.

Immediate options for the Council include:

  • asking the Secretary-General to provide in his upcoming report on Mali options regarding the transition from AFISMA to a UN peacekeeping operation;
  • adding some of the terrorist groups and individuals operating in Mali to the list of the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee; and
  • reiterating its call to the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy to finalise as soon as possible the UN integrated strategy for the Sahel region, encompassing governance, security, humanitarian, human rights and developmental issues, as requested by resolution 2056 of 5 July 2012.

Future options for the Council include:

  • establishing a full-fledged peacekeeping operation in the north of Mali aimed at ensuring the stability and security of the recovered areas in the north (AFISMA forces, as well as a reduced French presence, could be re-hatted and remain in the country under a UN chain of command);
  • assigning the French forces to conduct counterterrorism operations, under a chain of command separate from the UN (as in Opération Licorne in Côte d’Ivoire, where they support the UN peacekeeping mission but are not a part of it); or
  • assigning the French and other rapid reaction forces to support peacekeepers by conducting counterterrorism operations in Mali while based in any of the neighbouring West African countries.

Another future option for the Council when discussing the set-up of such a peacekeeping operation would be to include in its mandate a role in facilitating the political process in the whole of the country, including dialogue with minorities as well as supporting the development of electoral management capacities.

Council Dynamics

The Council appears to be unified regarding the need for a peacekeeping operation to ensure the stability of northern Mali. The idea of a hybrid military operation seems to have been discarded by both the Council and the Secretariat. The widespread assumption seems to be that a mission under the UN flag would be more predictable and would rely on a clearer set of resources from the beginning. The US has a strong preference for this option, being wary of directly funding AFISMA or the MDSF. However, there are divergences regarding the timing as well as the assessment of the security situation on the ground.

Among Council members, views also differ regarding the establishment of part of the future mission in Bamako or focusing mainly on securing the north. Some members are sympathetic to the interim government’s unwillingness to have a heavier UN presence in Bamako and its concerns regarding the UN’s potential impact on the political process in the country.

France is the lead country on Mali.

UN Documents on Mali

Security Council Resolutions  
20 December 2012 S/RES/2085 This resolution authorised the deployment of AFISMA for an initial period of one year.
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 January 2013 SC/10878 This press statement expressed grave concern over attacks by terrorist and extremist groups in northern Mali.
Security Council Letters  
25 February 2013 S/2013/113 This letter from the interim President of Mali requested the rapid deployment of AFISMA.
20 January 2013 S/2013/37 This was the Secretary-General’s letter on funding and logistical support 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).
7 January 2013 A/HRC/22/33 This was the latest report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in Mali.