Expected Council Action
In June, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The Council also expects to receive a briefing from the Special Representative and head of MINUSMA, Mongi Hamdi, followed by consultations. MINUSMA’s mandate expires on 30 June.
Separately, the Council will be briefed in June on peacekeeping, including by MINUSMA’s force commander.
Key Recent Developments
In April and May there were multiple clashes between the parties to the conflict, including the Malian Defence and Security Forces (MDSF), and different armed groups. These included the occupation on 27 April of Ménaka by the Groupe Autodéfense Touareg Imghad et Alliés and others from the coalition of armed groups closely aligned with the government known as the Platform, and attacks on Goundam and Leré in the following days by the Coordination—another coalition of armed groups seeking autonomy for the north—which left several MDSF soldiers and at least one child dead. On 1 May, Council members issued a press statement condemning the attacks and stressing that they violated the ceasefire. Despite statements by the parties that they are committed to respecting the ceasefire, clashes have continued, including in Ménaka, which, despite a proposal by MINUSMA to take control of the town, at press time remained under control of the Platform.
Against this backdrop, the government and the Platform signed a partial peace agreement in Bamako on 15 May. The Coordination had initialled the agreement a day earlier but refused to participate in the signing, reiterating its position that the document did not take into account the legitimate aspirations of the people of Azawad and highlighting concerns it wanted addressed prior to signing the agreement.
Beginning on 1 March, the Algerian-led mediation team worked for a month and a half to persuade the Coordination to initial and then sign the agreement. On 4 March the Council issued press elements encouraging the Coordination to initial the agreement, and a 10 April press statement welcomed the agreement, which Council members considered “balanced and comprehensive”. Briefing Council members under “any other business” on 7 May, peacekeeping head Hervé Ladsous presented the conditions for the Secretariat to support a partial signature of the peace agreement: the agreement had to remain open to subsequent signatures of remaining parties, dialogue with them must continue, the ceasefire must be respected and implementation of the main provisions by the signatories must begin as soon as possible. On 28 May, Ladsous briefed again under “any other business” to update Council members on his recent visit to Mali to attend the 15 May signing of the partial peace agreement.
MINUSMA, its contractors and other international actors (including NGOs), continue to be targeted by Al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist groups through improvised explosive devices, ambushes and other attacks. (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.) The assaults included a 15 April attack on a MINUSMA camp in Ansongo by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device in which two civilians were killed and nine peacekeepers were wounded. The group Al-Mourabitoun, which claimed responsibility for the attack and recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, announced on 18 May that it was holding a Romanian hostage. On 26 May, a Bangladeshi peacekeeper was killed in what seemed to be the second attack in days against MINUSMA in Bamako, Mali.
As of 30 April, 82 percent of MINUSMA’s authorised uniformed personnel had been deployed. According to the 27 March Secretary-General’s report, outstanding deployments “continued to hamper the force’s ability to fulfil its mandate and protect convoy movements”. Given the significant changes to the political and security environment in Mali since the establishment of MINUSMA, the mission concept and the concepts of operations of related components are being reviewed ahead of its mandate renewal.
A fact-finding inquiry was launched by the Secretary-General after three people were killed by MINUSMA forces during a demonstration against the mission in Gao on 27 January. Ladsous briefed Council members on 2 April under “any other business” on the results of the inquiry, which concluded that Rwandan members of a formed police unit had used unauthorised and excessive force on civilians, resulting in the death by gunfire of three protesters and the wounding of four others. As a response to the results of this inquiry, Rwanda decided to withdraw most of its police contribution to MINUSMA.
On 4 May, OCHA highlighted how insecurity has hampered humanitarian access and the delivery of humanitarian assistance. OCHA has recorded significant access constraints in northern Mali linked to violence against humanitarian personnel, assets or facilities as well as to the conduct of hostilities or military operations.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on technical assistance and capacity-building for Mali in the field of human rights on 27 March (A/HRC/RES/28/31). The resolution strongly condemns the abuses and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that have been committed against civilians, including women and children, and the recruitment of the latter; extends the mandate of the independent expert on Mali for one year; and asks the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide technical assistance to the government of Mali, in particular to the Commission for Dialogue, Truth, Justice and Reconciliation.
In a press briefing on 14 April, the spokeswoman for the High Commissioner for Human Rights deplored the continued targeting of UN personnel and humanitarian workers in the country and called on government forces to ensure that counter-terrorism operations are conducted in line with international human rights standards. The Office of the High Commissioner is following up closely with the Malian authorities on allegations of human rights violations and abuses that may have been committed during such operations.
Preventing further escalation of 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 signing of the peace agreement and how to maintain the impartiality of MINUSMA in the context of a peace agreement that is not signed by all parties.
The marked increase in terrorist attacks and the deliberate targeting of MINUSMA, and addressing the safety concerns of troop- and police-contributing countries are further key issues for the Council.
Preventing terrorist groups from taking advantage of the current stalemate in the political process is a related issue.
If the agreement is signed by all parties before the current MINUSMA mandate ends, the Council could adopt a resolution modifying the mandate to ensure the implementation of the agreement in matters such as security arrangements, decentralisation of government and transitional justice.
If the agreement is not signed by all parties, the Council could adopt a resolution:
- calling on all parties to act with restraint and refrain from any further violence;
- reiterating its support for the work of Hamdi and of MINUSMA;
- establishing a sanctions regime to impose measures on those violating the ceasefire, whether directly or through proxies; and
- prioritising the good offices mandate of MINUSMA to bring about an inclusive agreement and the monitoring of the ceasefire, while conditioning other tasks— such as the support to the return of state authority to the north—to the signing of the agreement by all.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Discussions on MINUSMA’s mandate may be divisive, given the differences in approach that Council members might favour regarding MINUSMA’s actions in the absence of a peace agreement signed by all. In this context, the need for a more robust mandate for the mission, or the establishment of a regional force as requested by Mali, might feature in the discussions.
Council members are concerned about the deadlock over the signing of the agreement and the impact that the stalemate in the political process is having on the security situation in the north. After the repeated violations of the ceasefire, Council members reiterated in a 1 May press statement the reference to imposing further measures and expressed its intention “to evaluate next steps in light of these violations and events on the ground”. It seems that the discussion regarding sanctions is for now focused on violations of the ceasefire and not broader designation criteria, such as “undermining the political transition”.
Even though the Secretariat had in the past cautioned against rushing to an agreement at any cost without addressing the grievances of the parties or providing for a sustainable solution, both the Council and the Secretary-General have given public support to the agreement. A 15 May statement by the Secretary-General characterised the agreement as “a strong basis on which to build a just and lasting peace in Mali”.
MINUSMA’s relations with the host government have never been easy. Most recently, during the signing ceremony in Bamako, Ladsous delivered a statement on behalf of the Secretary-General warning against the utilisation of the partial signature as a pretext for the resumption of military operations against non-signatory groups and President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta reacted by accusing MINUSMA of partiality.
Council members are worried about the continuous attacks targeting MINUSMA in northern Mali. Given the exceptionally high numbers of fatalities and casualties in MINUSMA, and despite improvements in the living conditions for troops deployed in the north, the tension between the troop-contributors willing to deploy their forces in the most dangerous territory (whose troops 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. These issues are expected to be addressed more broadly in the annual Council briefing by force commanders, which is also scheduled for June.
France is the penholder on Mali.
UN DOCUMENTS ON MALI
|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.|
|27 March 2015 S/2015/219||This was the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Mali.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|29 May 2015 SC/11914||This press statement deplored the shooting incident during which a Bangladeshi peacekeeper was killed and reiterated the Council’s full support to MINUSMA.|
|1 May 2015 SC/11879||This press statement expressed deep concern at the outbreak of violence in Mali since 27 April.|
|10 April 2015 SC/11855||This was a press statement welcoming the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation initialed by representatives of the Malian government and one of the coalitions of armed groups.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|9 April 2015 S/PV.7425||This was a briefing by Herve Ladsous on the report on MINUSMA and on conversations in Algiers between the Algeria-led mediation team and the coalition of armed groups known as the Coordination.|