October 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2013
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AFRICA

Mali

Expected Council Action

In October, the Council is expected to receive a briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Albert Gerard Koenders. The briefing will be followed by consultations.

MINUSMA’s mandate expires on 30 June 2014.

Key Recent Developments

Even though there has been important progress in the return of state authority to the north and in the overall security environment in Mali, the situation in the north remains tense. There have been reports of intra-communal violence in the north as well as sporadic skirmishes between the Malian Defence and Security Forces (MDSF) and supporters of the Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA). The ill-equipped cantonments where the members of the MNLA and the Haut Conseil pour l’Unité de l’Azawad are supposed to be resettled and the lack of operational capabilities of MINUSMA are having a negative impact on the implementation of the 18 June Ouagadougou Agreement (Preliminary Agreement to the Presidential Election and Inclusive Peace Talks in Mali). Furthermore, the threat of terrorist attacks remains as reflected in the Council’s 16 July presidential statement that it “continues to be gravely concerned about the activities in the Sahel region of terrorist organisations” (S/PRST/2013/10). On 22 August, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the leader of the terrorist group Al-Mulathamoun announced a merger with the Mouvement pour l’Unicité et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest to form a new group called Al-Mourabitoun. To address concerns over terrorist attacks in the Sahel, the Monitoring Team assisting the 1267 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, which was given responsibility in resolution 2100 to work closely with MINUSMA on threat assessment, has recently visited Nigeria and Niger.

The signing of the Ouagadougou Agreement on 18 June was instrumental to the peaceful presidential elections on 28 July and 11 August and the return of state authority in Kidal. The agreement called for the deployment of the MDSF in Kidal along with French and MINUSMA troops and the establishment of two mechanisms—a Follow-up and Evaluation Committee and a Joint Technical Security Commission, chaired by Koenders and the MINUSMA force commander respectively—to work on the implementation of the accord and make arrangements for the ceasefire and other security matters. The agreement also established a 60-day deadline after the establishment of the new government for the second phase of the political process to start. The Mouvement Arabe de l’Azawad and the Coordination des Forces Patriotiques de Résistance subsequently joined as signatories of the agreement. (At press time, it was reported that the three main signatories pulled out of the agreement claiming the lack of its implementation by the government.) 

The first round of the presidential elections took place on 28 July. Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keїta, the leader of Rassemblement pour le Mali, and former Finance Minister Soumaïla Cissé, the candidate of the Union pour la République et la Démocratie, got 40 percent and 20 percent of the votes respectively. Turnout amounted to 49 percent of the registered voters, 10 percentage points more than in the presidential elections of 2007. After an 11 August run-off election, Keїta was proclaimed president with 77 percent of the votes. In a 16 August press statement the Council commended the electoral process (SC/11096). (Some local and international NGOs have noted that few voter cards were distributed to refugees in neighbouring countries and that the list of registered voters was based on a 2009 census, therefore excluding those who have come of age since then.)

Keїta was sworn in on 4 September and appointed Oumar Tatam Ly as prime minister on 5 September. Ly introduced a 34-member cabinet on 8 September. On 18 September, the government decided that the first round of legislative elections will take place on 24 November and the second round on 15 December.

MINUSMA has faced considerable challenges to achieve its full operational capability. On 10 September, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous said there are shortfalls in operational capacity, which is expected to be fully reached by the end of 2013, six months after deployment.

Despite pledges, key gaps remain, mainly due to the lack of critical force enablers, such as logistics, engineering and transport units. Initial assessments found that before their re-hatting to MINUSMA, battalions of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali did not include the required enabling units, such as contingent-owned equipment and sufficient military aviation capabilities. The pace of deployment of civilian staff (such as human rights and other protection staff) is also being affected by the lack of operational capacity. The grace period of four months set by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations for the force to reach the required UN standards through national, bilateral or multilateral assistance ends on 31 October. In addition to other challenges, Nigeria decided in July to withdraw its troops from MINUSMA, and in mid-September, a group of 160 peacekeepers from Chad stationed in Gao deserted in a dispute over pay. Also in September, MINUSMA received allegations of serious misconduct by its peacekeeping troops, including an alleged incident of sexual abuse.

As of 26 August, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said there were 1.4 million people in need of immediate food assistance, 342,033 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 175,282 refugees in neighbouring countries. Even if access has generally improved, other challenges remain: only 37 percent of the $477 million pledged as a result of the Consolidated Appeal Process has been received, and the spontaneous return of IDPs and refugees to northern Mali (around 137,000 people so far) is putting people in a situation of further vulnerability due to damaged social infrastructure, limited delivery of basic services, the presence of unexploded ordnance, the destruction caused by military operations.

Key Issues

A key overarching issue is to stabilise the security situation in northern Mali.

A key issue will be the effective implementation of the Ouagadougou Agreement without further deferring the peace talks with communities in the north.

Ensuring that citizens in the remote areas of the north, IDPs, refugees and people who came of age since 2009 are allowed to vote in the upcoming legislative elections is an immediate key issue.

Ensuring that MINUSMA’s mandate is not compromised and the mission is provided with appropriate equipment and key force enablers is a pressing issue.

Ensuring that all MINUSMA troops meet the UN’s human rights standards is a further related issue.

Options

The Council could receive the briefing and take no action, or it could issue a statement:

  • recalling the need for inclusive and credible peace talks open to all communities in northern Mali in the time frame set out by the Ouagadougou Agreement;
  • looking forward to the upcoming legislative elections;
  • encouraging the government to deepen its commitment to the reform of the MSDF;
  • urging the government to establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate international crimes as per the Ouagadougou Agreement;
  • reaffirming the need for MINUSMA to reach its full operational capacity as quickly as possible, asking member states to contribute key force enablers and troops; and
  • establishing an expert group to identify those involved in transnational organised crime in Mali and the Sahel, with the possibility of imposing targeted sanctions, as recommended in the Secretary-General’s report (S/2013/189).
Council Dynamics

Despite the challenges that Mali still faces, Council members were pleasantly surprised with the conduct of the presidential elections. However, some Council members have expressed concern over the sluggish deployment of MINUSMA, the lack of key force enablers and the limited capacity to effectively carry out its mandate.

One of the controversial issues during the negotiations on resolution 2100, which established MINUSMA, was the definition of “robust” peacekeeping. The language finally agreed in the mandate—“to deter threats and take active steps to prevent the return of armed elements to those areas”—seems to be understood by Council members in different ways. Although most Council members agree that the security situation is much better than expected, future developments that might require MINUSMA to be more aggressive might divide the Council again about the kind of operations MINUSMA is mandated to undertake.

France is the penholder on Mali.

UN Documents on Mali

Security Council Resolution
25 April 2013 S/RES/2100 This resolution established the mandate for MINUSMA.
Security Council Presidential Statement
16 July 2013 S/PRST/2013/10 This presidential statement reaffirmed the Council’s concern about the alarming situation in the region as well as the complex security and political challenges interlinked with humanitarian and developmental issues.
Security Council Press Statement
16 August 2013 SC/11096 This press statement took note of the provisional results of the presidential runoff elections in Mail.
Secretary-General’s Report
10 June 2013 S/2013/338 This contained an assessment of the security situation in Mali.
Security Council Meeting Record
25 June 2013 S/PV.6985 This meeting was on the situation in Mali and was the first briefing by the new head of MINUSMA.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General
Albert Gerard Koenders (Netherlands)

MINUSMA Duration
25 April 2013 to present