April 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 March 2015
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AFRICA

Mali

Expected Council Action

In April, the Council expects a briefing on the situation in Mali from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous. 

The mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) expires on 30 June 2015.

Key Recent Developments

At the beginning of 2015, and until the resumption of the fifth round of talks in Algiers in mid-February, there were multiple clashes on the ground between armed groups and pro-government militias. On 6 February, in response to violations of the 23 May 2014 ceasefire agreement and the 24 July 2014 cessation of hostilities agreement, the Council issued a presidential statement demanding that all parties, including non-signatories of the 2013 Ouagadougou Preliminary Agreement, cease all hostilities immediately and reject violence. The statement included for the first time a reference to the Council’s readiness to consider appropriate measures, including targeted sanctions, against those who resume hostilities and violate the ceasefire. On 19 February, within the framework of the inter-Malian peace process taking place in Algiers, the government signed a ceasefire agreement with the different armed groups, which are organised in two coalitions.

On 1 March, the government and a coalition of armed groups considered to be more closely aligned with the government—the Platform—initialled a peace agreement in Algiers. The other coalition of armed groups—the Coordination—requested more time to consult with its constituency before initialling the document. MINUSMA’s head Mongi Hamdi briefed Council members on these developments via video teleconference under “any other business” on 4 March. Council members subsequently agreed on elements to the press encouraging the Coordination to initial the agreement. On 15 March, after holding a series of consultative meetings in Kidal, the Coordination decided not to sign the agreement, claiming that the document “did not take into account the legitimate aspirations of the people of Azawad”, and requested more talks. (Divergences seem to arise from what the Coordination perceives as insufficient legal and political recognition for the northern territory, referred to as Azawad, as well as concern over security arrangements for the north.) The mediation team has stated its willingness to address the issues raised by the Coordination during the implementation of the agreement. On 18 March the government announced that it would not engage in further talks about the agreement.

MINUSMA and international actors (including NGOs), continue to be targeted by Al-Qaida affiliated terrorist groups which have increased their reach further south. (Four of these groups—the Mouvement pour l’Unification et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest, Ansar Eddine, Al-Mourabitoun and Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb are listed under the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida sanctions regime.) On 17 January, coordinated attacks against MINUSMA resulted in the death of a Chadian peacekeeper and injuries to several others.  On 7 March a masked individual opened fire in a restaurant in Bamako, killing five people (three nationals and two internationals working for the EU) and wounding seven others. On 8 March, a coordinated attack against a MINUSMA camp in Kidal resulted in the death of two children and a Chadian peacekeeper.

As of 15 December 2014, 76 percent of MINUSMA’s authorised military personnel had been deployed. Despite efforts to enhance MINUSMA’s capabilities in the face of increased asymmetric attacks, the December 2014 Secretary-General’s report acknowledges how “the operational capability of almost all former units of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali continues to be limited by the lack of self-sustainment capacity and contingent-owned equipment that meet UN standards”. In 2014, 28 MINUSMA peacekeepers were killed as a result of hostile acts, which is the highest number of fatalities in a single peacekeeping operation in a given year since the UN Operation in Somalia II in 1994.

MINUSMA has also been the target of popular discontent. During a demonstration against the mission in Gao on 27 January, three people were allegedly killed by MINUSMA forces. In response, the Secretary-General launched a fact-finding inquiry. The inquiry team spent eight days in Mali and at press time Council members were expecting the results by the end of March. (The demonstration followed a 20 January incident in which a MINUSMA helicopter gunship destroyed a Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad vehicle, after the mission’s forces came under fire from this armed group in the northern town of Tabankort.)

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the deteriorating security situation and the resumption of hostilities in January further hampered humanitarian access in northern Mali. This included incidents of violence against humanitarian personnel, assets and facilities.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The independent expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, Suliman Baldo, visited Mali from 1 to 10 March. At a press conference on 10 March in Bamako, he expressed serious concerns that all parties involved in the conflict continue to commit serious human rights violations, including violations of the right to life, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual violence and arbitrary detentions. He noted that in the absence of magistrates and other criminal justice officials, a climate of impunity exists in the north. Baldo also stressed the need to place victims at the centre of the peace and reconciliation process as well as the importance of women’s participation. The Human Rights Council considered Baldo’s report during its 28th session in March. On 20 March, the first joint public report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and MINUSMA was released.

Key Issues

The possibility of a return to violence by the warring parties is an imminent issue of concern for the Council.

An overarching issue is the deadlock in the political process over the initialling of the peace agreement.

The marked increase in terrorist attacks and the deliberate targeting of MINUSMA are further key issues for the Council. Ensuring that the safety concerns of troop- and police-contributing countries are addressed is an ongoing issue.

Preventing terrorist groups from taking advantage of the current stalemate in the political process is a related issue for the Council.

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

Options

If a peace agreement is not reached, the Council could;

  • call on all parties to respect the ceasefire and engage in a good faith effort to finalise the Algeria-led political process;
  • establish a sanctions regime to impose measures on spoilers violating the ceasefire or undermining the political process whether directly or through proxies;
  • establish an expert group to identify those involved in transnational organised crime in Mali and the Sahel, with a view to the possibility of imposing targeted sanctions, as recommended by the Secretary-General in 2013; and
  • reiterate the request to the Secretary-General, included in resolution 2164, to urgently establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate international crimes.

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

Council and Wider Dynamics

Council members are concerned with the stalemate in the political process. So far Council members support the mediation in trying to find a solution to the current impasse in the political process. Following the reference to imposing further measures in the 6 February presidential statement, France has stated in public its readiness to consider sanctions. Briefing the Council on several occasions, the Secretariat has cautioned against rushing to an agreement at any cost without addressing the grievances of the parties or providing for a sustainable solution. In this context, for some Council members, it is unclear if sanctions at this stage might push armed groups’ leadership towards an agreement that would hold or further alienate them from their supporters within the community, potentially increasing instability.

Council members are worried about the continuous attacks targeting MINUSMA in northern Mali. Given the historic numbers of fatalities in MINUSMA and despite improvements in the living conditions of troops deployed in the north, the tension between the troop contributors willing to deploy their forces in the most dangerous territory (and who are not necessarily the best equipped) and other, more risk-averse contributors reflects what is seen as an increasing gap between contributors from the developing and the developed world.

On 2 January, Council members received a letter from the Secretary-General outlining some lessons learned following the re-hatting processes in Mali and the Central African Republic. The letter highlighted the need to enhance the capabilities of AU re-hatted contingents that were (and remain) below UN standards. Also, the letter acknowledged how concerns regarding the human rights record of some of these troops were only partially addressed. At press time, Council members were expecting a Secretary-General’s report on the partnerships with the AU and the EU on peacekeeping, and some Council members seem interested in taking up this issue in the Council. 

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
6 February 2015 S/PRST/2015/5 This was a presidential statement ahead of the start of the fifth round of the inter-Malian negotiation process in Algiers scheduled for 8 February.
Secretary-General’s Report
23 December 2014 S/2014/943 This was the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Mali.
Security Council Press Statements
17 March 2015 SC/11820 This was a statement that expressed regret at the death of two Dutch MINUSMA peacekeepers in a helicopter accident.
8 March 2015 SC/11812 This was a statement that condemned the attacks against MINUSMA in Kidal, which resulted in the death of two children and a Chadian peacekeeper.
7 March 2015 SC/11811 This was a statement that condemned the terrorist attack in Bamako that resulted in the death of five civilians.
17 January 2015 SC/11739 This was a press statement condemning the coordinated attacks against MINUSMA, where one Chadian peacekeeper was killed and others were injured.
Security Council Meeting Record
6 January 2015 S/PV.7355 This was a briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous presenting the Secretary-General’s report on MINUSMA.
Security Council Letters
16 March 2015 S/2015/187 This was a report on operational support provided by French forces to MINUSMA.
4 March 2015 S/2015/166 This was a letter from Secretary-general on the appointment of Major General Michael Lollesgaard as MINUSMA Force Commander.
2 January 2015 S/2015/3 This was a letter that outlined some lessons learned on re-hatting processes in Mali and the Central African Republic.
Human Rights Council Document
9 January 2015 A/HRC/28/83 This was a report that highlighted how the May 2014 incidents in Kidal called into question the strengthening of state authority in the north.