Expected Council Action
Even though no meetings are scheduled in September, Council members are expected to follow the situation in Mali closely in view of the ceasefire violations that took place in mid-August.
The mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) expires on 30 June 2016.
Key Recent Developments
On 20 June, the Coordination, a coalition of armed groups seeking autonomy for the north, signed the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, brokered by Algeria. Briefing the Council on 23 June, Special Representative for Mali Mongi Hamdi stated that “the Agreement is not peace itself, as peace cannot be decreed, but it establishes the conditions for building peace and lays out the best way to get there”.
On 29 June, the Council adopted resolution 2227 mandating MINUSMA to support the implementation of the Agreement as well as to support, monitor and supervise the implementation of the ceasefire arrangements and confidence-building measures, and to report to the Council on any violations of the ceasefire. The task of supporting the return of state authority throughout the country—which had been part of MINUSMA’s mandate since 2013 in spite of concerns that in the absence of a peace agreement it was in conflict with MINUSMA’s good offices role—became part of the mandate to support the implementation of the Agreement. Following the recommendation of the Secretary-General, the resolution increased the authorised troop ceiling by 40 military personnel to 11,240, including, for the first time, at least 40 military observers in order to adequately monitor and supervise the ceasefire.
Even though the 11 June Secretary-General’s report said that “the Council may wish to consider the introduction of sanctions against perpetrators of the ceasefire violations”, the resolution fell short of establishing a sanctions regime and instead expressed the Council’s readiness “to consider targeted sanctions against those who take actions to obstruct or threaten the implementation of the Agreement, those who resume hostilities and violate the ceasefire, as well as those who attack and take actions to threaten MINUSMA”.
Despite the threat to impose sanctions, the first major ceasefire violations occurred in mid-August when the Groupe Autodéfense Touareg Imghad et Alliés (GATIA)—a member of the Platform coalition of armed groups closely aligned with the government—established new forward positions in areas of the Kidal region which under the ceasefire arrangements were under the control of the Coordination coalition of armed groups. This resulted in deadly clashes with Coordination forces and GATIA’s takeover of the town of Anéfis. At the request of France, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed Council members on 19 August under “any other business” on the ceasefire violations, describing the deployment of a joint observation and verification team to the north and the establishment of a security zone by MINUSMA around Kidal to prevent further ceasefire violations. In elements to the press issued after the meeting, Council members underscored their preparedness to adopt targeted sanctions against those who violate the ceasefire or threaten the implementation of the peace agreement. (For almost two months, and also in violation of existing ceasefire arrangements, GATIA had held the town of Ménaka, which it finally abandoned on 19 June, paving the way for the signing of the Agreement by the Coordination, which had made this withdrawal a precondition for its signing.)
The implementation of other provisions of the Agreement has been hindered by difficuties in reaching agreement on the formation, membership and scope of mission of the Comité de Suivi de l’Accord, the main follow-up mechanism to the Agreement headed by Algeria, and its sub-committees. (One of the commitments made by the mediation team to the Coordination, which refused to initial and sign the Agreement for over two months, was to address the Coordination’s concerns in the implementation phase.) On 23 August, the Coordination announced the suspension of its participation in the Comité until GATIA withdraws from Anéfis.
MINUSMA, its contractors and other international actors (including NGOs), continue to be targeted by Al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist groups through improvised explosive devices (IED), ambushes, suicide bombings 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.) A terrorist attack on 2 July against MINUSMA in the region of Timbuktu left six Burkinabe peacekeepers dead and others injured. Attacks on 7 and 8 August in the Byblos hotel in Sévaré in central Mali resulted in 13 deaths, including four employees of a MINUSMA contractor, and left several injured.
The issue of asymmetric attacks suffered by peace operations has featured repeatedly in Council discussions. On 17 June, shortly before the Council renewed MINUSMA’s mandate, members were briefed on the asymmetrical challenges facing MINUSMA by its force commander, Major General Michael Lollesgaard, during the annual briefing to the Council by force commanders. Lollesgaard emphasised how effective intelligence gathering and communication with the population constitute critical tasks for the success of the mission and called for enhanced training, especially counter-IED training, and improved logistics in hostile areas. On 31 July, the Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations discussed the operational, political and financial implications of conducting a peace operation in Mali in a counter-terrorism environment; the discussion was held at the initiative of Chad, the chair of the Working Group and MINUSMA’s third largest troop contributor.
Since its establishment, MINUSMA’s delay in reaching its full operational capability has been a source of concern to Council members, and resolution 2227 highlighted how MINUSMA’s slow pace of deployment of personnel and equipment has seriously hindered its ability to fully implement its mandate. As of 31 July, 91 percent of MINUSMA’s authorised uniformed personnel had been deployed. Council members have also discussed the limited capabilities of some of the battalions already deployed. According to the 11 June report, MINUSMA has put together temporary “survivability packages” to improve the operational status of some contingents until the unit requirements are met. In the longer term, the non-performing units are expected to be reviewed and replaced.
As a result of the relative improvement in the security situation in June and July, before major ceasefire violations, OCHA reported on the continued return home of internally displaced persons in the north and centre of the country, particularly Timbuktu and Mopti. As of 5 August, only 33 percent of Mali’s $377 million humanitarian appeal had been funded.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In a statement released on 30 July, MINUSMA noted with concern that allegations of grave human rights violations and abuses attributable to elements of armed groups that have signed the Agreement have been recorded in several locations, in particular in the north. MINUSMA’s human rights division has deployed missions on the ground to establish the facts and responsibility regarding violations, according to the statement.
On 11 August, the spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani, issued a statement expressing concern at the reported release on 16 July of detainees who were suspected of involvement in, or already formally charged with, serious crimes, including war crimes, terrorist acts and gross human rights violations. The statement also voiced concerns that further releases may be imminent. Any measure that would de facto amount to an amnesty would be contrary to international law, the statement argued, and in violation of the commitments by the parties to the Agreement. The statement also condemned the attacks in Sevaré. The statement pointed out that such attacks, which appear designed to provoke a state of terror and to intimidate, are in violation of national and international law, and it called on the international community and neighbouring states to give all possible assistance to Mali in its ongoing efforts to restore peace, security and the full respect for human rights.
Preventing further escalation of violence by the warring parties and establishing accountability mechanisms for those violating the ceasefire is an imminent issue of concern for the Council.
An overarching issue is the slow and difficult implementation of the Agreement.
The marked increase in terrorist attacks and the deliberate targeting of MINUSMA, and thus addressing the safety concerns of troop- and police-contributing countries, are further key issues for the Council. The recent release from detention of alleged perpetrators of these attacks is a related concern.
The Council could issue a statement that:
- calls on all parties to respect the ceasefire agreement, act with restraint and refrain from any further violence;
- urges the parties to act in good faith and with the spirit of compromise in the discussions regarding the implementation of the Agreement;
- urges Malian authorities to ensure accountability for armed attacks against civilians;
- requests the Secretary-General to share the results of the investigation over the recent ceasefire violations; and
- reiterates the Council’s support of Hamdi and MINUSMA’s good offices mandate to encourage and support the full implementation of the Agreement
The Council could also establish a sanctions regime to impose measures on those violating the ceasefire, whether directly or through proxies.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members’ different perspectives over the appropriateness of imposing sanctions immediately after the signing of the Agreement by all parties framed the discussions over resolution 2227. Despite the Secretary-General’s suggestion, the first draft circulated by France to all Council members did not include language establishing a new sanctions regime. Also divisive was a reference to the impact of the stabilising effect of MINUSMA and the international presence in Mali in reducing the smuggling of migrants. Although MINUSMA’s mandate does not include tackling organised crime, it seems some Council members were supportive of connecting a more stable environment created by MINUSMA to a reduction in the smuggling of migrants. Other Council members were opposed to making such a linkage, and in the end these references were deleted.
Council members continue to be worried about the 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 divide between contributors from the developing and the developed world.
France is the penholder on Mali.
UN DOCUMENTS ON MALI
|Security Council Resolution|
|29 June 2015 S/RES/2227||This was a resolution renewing MINUSMA.|
|11 June 2015 S/2015/426||This was the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Mali.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|2 July 2015 SC/11959||This was a statement that condemned the terrorist attack against MINUSMA convoy in region of Timbuktu, killing six Burkinabe peacekeepers.|
|18 June 2015 SC/11934||This was a press statement reiterating support to the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali and looking forward to its signing by the Coordination armed groups.|
|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.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|23 June 2015 S/PV.7468||This was a briefing by Special Representative Mongi Hamdi on the Secretary-General’s MINUSMA report and the 20 June signing of the peace agreement by the Coordination, thereby completing the signing process.|
|17 June 2015 S/PV.7464||This was a briefing by Herve Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and the heads of military components of peacekeeping operations.|