January 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 23 December 2015
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AFRICA

Mali

Expected Council Action 

In January, the Council expects to receive a briefing from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous,  followed by consultations.

MINUSMA’s mandate expires on 30 June 2016.

Key Recent Developments 

On 6 October 2015, the Special Representative and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Mongi Hamdi, briefed the Council on major ceasefire violations by the Coordination and Platform coalitions of armed groups that had taken place since August 2015 in northern Mali, in places such as Anéfis and In-Khalil (Kidal region) and the Gao and Timbuktu regions. He also briefed the Council about his 23 September meeting in Bamako with the leadership of the two coalitions, which had led to several commitments to respect the ceasefire agreement that were holding at that moment. In press elements following the briefing, the Council president presented the priorities for MINUSMA in the next three months: guaranteeing security, supporting the implementation of the 20 June 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali; and sharing peace dividends through quick impact projects.

After three weeks of negotiations, rival leaders signed a series of intra- and inter-communal agreements in mid-October to end tribal conflicts in Anéfis. These included agreements among Touareg and Arab leaders as well as between leaders of the Platform and Coordination coalitions. On 16 October 2015, leaders of the Coordination and the Platform signed an agreement providing for a “strict and definitive” cessation of hostilities.

The Coordination and Platform resumed their participation in the follow-up mechanisms to the 20 June 2015 Agreement, namely the Comité de Suivi de l’Accord (CSA) and the Commission Technique de Sécurité (CTS). Despite the resumption of their participation in the CSA, which is chaired by Algeria, and its four sub-committees, issues regarding the membership and budget of the CSA hindered its work. The CTS—chaired by MINUSMA’s Force Commander, Major General Michael Lollesgaard—started working on the identification of sites for the cantonment of armed groups. The two coalitions are expected to deploy joint patrols to the north, but less progress has been made in this regard.

Terrorism in Mali continues to be a threat to the stability of the country and the region. A 12 November 2015 report on the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel said that: “terrorist groups have intensified asymmetric attacks in the north and have even moved southwards with attacks in the centre, including in the capital, Bamako, at the border with Burkina Faso and Mauritania, and in the south at the border region with Co╠éte d’Ivoire”. On 20 November, two gunmen carried out an attack against the Radisson hotel in Bamako. Of the 170 hostages that were taken, 22 were killed. Two terrorist groups—al-Murabitoun and the Massina Liberation Front—claimed responsibility for the attack.

The increased reach of terrorist groups in central and southern Mali has heightened the sense of alienation among some communities regarding a political process that only included the government and armed groups from the north. The appearance of protection threats in places like the town of Mopti, which hosted many people internally displaced by the conflict, are contributing to communal tensions, the formation of self-defence militias and a perception of disenfranchisement given the limited peace dividends so far.

MINUSMA, its contractors and other international actors (including NGOs) continue to be targeted by Al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist groups through improvised explosive devices, ambushes, suicide bombings and other attacks. On 28 November 2015, an attack against a MINUSMA camp in Kidal resulted in the deaths of two peacekeepers and a contractor. Although the mission has reached 94 percent of its full operational capacity, it is over-stretched to address new protection threats to civilians given the resources needed to ensure force protection and convoy escorts.

Security incidents have had a negative impact on the distribution of humanitarian assistance in the north and on the resumption of basic services. As of 8 December 2015, OCHA said 2.5 million people in Mali remain in need of humanitarian assistance and 200,000 remain displaced internally and across borders.

On 22 October 2015, a high-level international conference for the economic recovery and development of Mali was held in Paris. The Malian government presented a Specific Development Strategy for the northern regions of Mali and announced its own contribution of 450 million euros over the period 2016-2018. Despite the fact that the final communiqué welcomed the government’s commitment to inclusive territorial development, the implementation of the 20 June Agreement remains slow. Peace dividends are not perceived to be trickling down, and important provisions such as the ones providing for the establishment of transitional exceptional administrative measures remain unheeded.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The Human Rights Council’s independent expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, Suliman Baldo, visited the country from 10 to 19 October 2015. In a 19 October press release, Baldo highlighted several significant challenges facing the country. These include violations of the peace agreement and ceasefire; terrorist attacks targeting in particular security forces, MINUSMA and humanitarian actors; drug trafficking; continuing deterioration of living conditions; and a severe food crisis in several regions. He called on the international community to strengthen its technical cooperation and financial support in Mali and stressed the importance of the 22 October 2015 international conference for the development of Mali. 

Key Issues

An overarching issue is the slow implementation of the 20 June Agreement and the lack of progress in areas such as trust-building measures, reconciliation, return of basic services to the north and deconcentration of the administration. Strengthening MINUSMA’s leadership and good offices role in the implementation of the agreement is a related issue. (On 17 December 2015, Hamdi, who was appointed on 12 December 2014, announced that he would be leaving his post on 14 January 2016.)

Ensuring that disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants takes place within a broader context of security sector reform and accountability for human rights violations is an important issue.

The marked increase in terrorist attacks and their reach, the deliberate targeting of MINUSMA and the safety concerns of troop- and police-contributing countries are further key issues for the Council to address.

Options

The Council could issue a statement that:

   •      calls on the parties to act in good faith and with the spirit of compromise in the       discussions regarding the implementation of the Agreement;

   •      urges the Malian government to swiftly implement the provisions of the peace agreement within its purview;

   •      requests the Secretary-General to conduct an assessment of MINUSMA’s force projection in Mali in the light of the changing nature of the terrorist threat and the increasing resources used for force protection and the escorting of convoys; and

   •      reiterates the Council’s support of MINUSMA’s good offices mandate to encourage and support the full implementation of the peace agreement.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Council members remain united in support of the implementation of the 20 June 2015 Agreement in Mali. The Secretary-General suggested in his 11 June 2015 report that “the Council may wish to consider the introduction of sanctions against perpetrators of the ceasefire violations”, but this suggestion has found little echo among Council members. In press elements after the 6 October 2015 briefing, Council members just reiterated that the ceasefire must be fully respected.

At a  2-4 September 2015 AU meeting in Bamako focusing on security cooperation in the Sahelo-Saharan region, the AU said that establishing an intervention force brigade to combat terrorism in northern Mali should be further considered, but the AU has taken no action to assess this possibility.

Council members continue to be worried about attacks targeting MINUSMA in northern Mali. Despite improvements in the living conditions for troops deployed in the north, MINUSMA’s exceptionally high number of fatalities and casualties has led to tension between the troop contributors willing to deploy their forces in the most dangerous territory (whose troops are not necessarily those best equipped) and other, more risk-averse contributors. That tension reflects what is seen as an increasing divide between contributors from the developing and the developed world. Chad—which is the third-largest troop contributor to MINUSMA and has suffered a heavy toll as part of the mission and its predecessor, the African-led International Support Mission to Mali—left the Council on 31 December 2015. Senegal, which started its term on 1 January 2016, has 973 troops and police deployed in Mali.

France is the penholder on Mali.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution
29 June 2015 S/RES/2227 This was a resolution renewing MINUSMA.
Security Council Press Statements
22 December 2015 SC/12143 This statement condemned the attack against a MINUSMA camp in Kidal, in which two peacekeepers from Guinea and a contractor from Burkina Faso were killed and others injured.
20 November 2015 SC/12133 Condemned the terrorist attacks in Mali on 20 November 2015.
Secretary-General’s Report
12 November 2015 S/2015/866 This was the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the UN’s integrated Sahel strategy.
Security Council Meeting Record
6 October 2015 S/PV.7528 This was a briefing on the situation in Mali and the report of the Secretary-General.