January 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 23 December 2014
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AFRICA

Mali

Expected Council Action

In January 2015, the Council expects a briefing from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous on the situation in Mali and the work of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

MINUSMA’s mandate expires on 30 June 2015.

Key Recent Developments

Briefing the Council on 8 October 2014, Ladsous stated that MINUSMA is no longer operating in a peacekeeping environment and on 9 October, MINUSMA Force Commander Major General Jean Bosco Kazura told the Council that “MINUSMA is in a terrorist-fighting situation without an anti-terrorist mandate or adequate training, equipment, logistics or intelligence to deal with such a situation.” As of 30 November 2014, 27 out of the 38 peacekeepers who had been killed in 2014 in the field were deployed in Mali.

On 10 November 2014, Council members held a brainstorming session on Mali, meeting in an informal interactive dialogue format with Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Ameerah Haq and UN Deputy Military Adviser Major General Adrian Foster. The discussion focused on the relevance of MINUSMA’s mandate in the current context of increasing asymmetrical threats. While the mandate was assessed to be sufficiently robust and Council members emphasised the importance of its full implementation, different issues were raised to improve the operational capabilities in the mission. Council members expressed appreciation for the efforts regarding the establishment of a Sector North Force headquarters in Kidal (which was inaugurated on 3 December), completing the deployment of MINUSMA’s rapid deployment capability (already provided for in the concept of operations of the mission) and improving MINUSMA’s capacities to counter improvised explosive devices. At press time, an update on the implementation of the efforts to enhance MINUSMA’s capabilities was expected to feature in the December Secretary-General’s report.

So far, three rounds of the inter-Malian negotiation process have been convened—in July, September and November 2014—by Algeria with the support of MINUSMA, as well as regional organisations and governments. Armed groups continue to negotiate as two rebel coalitions. The “Coordination” coalition comprises the Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad, the Haut Conseil pour l’Unité de l’Azawad and the Mouvement Arabe de l’Azawad (MAA). The “Platform” coalition—which is perceived to be close to the government—comprises the Coordination des Mouvements et Fronts Patriotiques de Résistance, the Coalition du Peuple pour l’Azawad and another MAA faction. The two-track nature of the political process continues to be a key issue for the advancement of the negotiations. Despite the 24 July 2014 roadmap and a declaration of cessation of hostilities signed separately by the government with the two rebel coalitions, some violations of the ceasefire have continued. Discussions regarding the territorial structure of Mali, how to refer to the territory that some call “Azawad” and new security arrangements in the north remain outstanding issues. The talks are expected to resume in January 2015.

The security situation in the north continues to be negatively affected by the absence of the Malian Defence and Security Forces and the end of Opération Serval. In July 2014, French forces launched Opération Barkhane, which has a regional scope as opposed to Serval’s exclusive focus on Mali. Counter-terrorism operations in the north of Mali continue to be carried out by Barkhane, including a 10 December operation in which a leader of al-Mourabitoun terrorist group, Ahmed al-Tilemsi, was killed. The persistence of structural factors—such as the absence of state authority, the porous nature of the borders, the availability of weapons, the profitability of kidnapping for ransom, synergies with transnational organised crime and the exploitation of existing political grievances in the north—make terrorist groups an ongoing threat to stability in Mali. On 9 December, Serge Lazarevic, a French citizen who had been held hostage by Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, was freed in exchange for the release of four jihadists detained in Malian prisons. 

As of 31 October 2014, MINUSMA had reached 73 percent of its planned deployment and was working on enhancing its force projection throughout the north and in rural areas. In addition to security and weather conditions, operational challenges such as the absence of some force enablers or essential contingent-owned equipment continue to hinder the implementation of its mandate.  The Secretary-General has also noted the budgetary constraints to expand MINUSMA’s outreach beyond the main population centres.

On 12 December 2014, Tunisian Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi was appointed as the new Special Representative and head of MINUSMA after the departure of Albert Koenders. Force Commander Kazura finished his tour of duty on 14 December and the appointment of his replacement by the Secretary-General is pending.

According to the World Health Organization’s 17 December situation report, Mali has had seven confirmed Ebola cases, including six deaths. On 6 December, the quarantine of 23 MINUSMA personnel who had unknowingly been treated at the same clinic as a Guinean national who had Ebola was lifted.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The independent expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, Suliman Baldo, visited Mali from 8 to 17 October 2014. In a press conference in Bamako on 17 October, Baldo said emergency relief measures to alleviate the suffering of people in the north should be adopted to facilitate humanitarian access and ensure their right to safety, health, education and access to safe drinking water. He also called on the international community to strengthen the capacity of MINUSMA and the government of Mali to secure the north of the country and stop the proliferation of weapons, militias and other vigilante groups. Baldo is expected to present a report to the Human Rights Council in March 2015.

Key Issues

An overarching issue is the slow progress of the political process and the divisions among armed groups. The entrenchment of the parties in their positions further complicates the political process.

The marked increase in terrorist groups’ activities and the deliberate targeting of MINUSMA is an immediate issue for the Council. Given these deadly attacks, ensuring that the concerns of troop and police-contributing countries are addressed is an ongoing issue.

Ensuring accountability for the crimes committed since 2012 while pursuing a political settlement is a key issue. A closely related issue is the timely establishment of an international commission of inquiry called for in resolution 2164, which is still pending.

The return of state authority to most of the north is a further related issue.

Options

The Council could adopt a statement:

  • calling on all parties to respect the ceasefire and engage in the Algeria-led political process in good faith;
  • threatening to impose sanctions on spoilers violating the ceasefire or undermining the political process;
  • welcoming the holding of hearings with civil society on the negotiation process;
  • asking the Secretary-General to establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate international crimes, including the 16-17 May violence in Kidal, as called for in resolution 2164; 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 by the Secretary-General.

If a peace agreement is reached, the Council could adopt a resolution adapting MINUSMA’s mandate to ensure the implementation of the agreement in areas such as security arrangements, transitional justice and institutional capacity-building.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Council members are increasingly worried about the slow progress in the political process and the continuous attacks targeting MINUSMA in northern Mali. The challenges of transnational terrorism and the presence of jihadist groups in Algeria, Mali and Libya that have benefited from political instability in northern Mali continue to be of concern to Council members. However, some Council members and the Secretariat have warned against a rushed agreement that does not address the grievances of the parties or provide for a sustainable solution.

After the 10 November 2014 informal interactive dialogue, the idea of a more robust mandate for MINUSMA seems to have fallen off the table. Along the same lines, the conclusions of a 5 November meeting of African troop contributors to MINUSMA held in Niamey, Niger failed to endorse the Malian request for a peace enforcement mandate for the mission.

Since 1 July 2013, 33 MINUSMA peacekeepers have been killed and more than a hundred have been injured as a result of hostile acts; at least 22 of these peacekeepers have been killed since 2 September 2014. The tension between those troop contributors ready to be deployed in the most dangerous territory (which are not necessarily the best equipped) and other more risk-adverse contributors poses the threat of further increasing the gap between contributors from the developing and the developed world.

Some Council members have questioned the way the re-hatting process from the African-led International Support Mission to Mali into MINUSMA was conducted, and a lessons-learned exercise on the processes in Mali and the Central African Republic was expected to be finalised by the Secretariat at press time.

France is the penholder on Mali.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution
25 June 2014 S/RES/2164 This resolution established benchmarks for MINUSMA, renewed the mission for a year, and granted the Special Representative greater political authority.
Security Council Presidential Statement
28 July 2014 S/PRST/2014/15 This presidential statement welcomed the commencement on 16 July of the inter-Malian negotiation process in Algiers.
Security Council Press Statement
17 October 2014 SC/11604 This was a press statement welcoming the scheduled resumption on 19 October of the inter-Malian negotiation process in Algiers, to achieve a comprehensive and inclusive peace agreement to end the crisis in Mali.
Security Council Meeting Records
9 October 2014 S/PV.7275 This was a briefing on peacekeeping operations by force commanders from MONUSCO, MINUSMA and UNDOF.
8 October 2014 S/PV.7274 This was a meeting on the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Mali.