Expected Council Action
In April, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous will brief the Council on the work of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). MINUSMA’s mandate expires on 30 June 2016.
Key Recent Developments
Council members conducted a visiting mission to West Africa in early March, including Mali from 4 to 6 March, followed by Guinea-Bissau and UNOWAS in Dakar. During the Mali leg, led by Senegal and France, they urged the government of Mali and the Platform and Coordination coalitions of armed groups to accelerate the implementation of the 20 June 2015 peace agreement. While acknowledging progress, Council members emphasised in their meetings with Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and Prime Minister Modibo Keïta the need to make political and institutional advances that can provide concrete peace dividends to the population, such as national reconciliation and decentralisation. Both the president and prime minister expressed the government’s commitment to the full implementation of the agreement.
In a joint meeting with Council members, the coalitions of armed groups expressed the need to advance the decentralisation process before moving ahead on the security provisions of the agreement, such as cantonment and the deployment of mixed patrols, as well as the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of armed combatants.
On 9 and 10 March, the main follow-up mechanism for the implementation of the agreement, the Comité de Suivi de l’Accord, held its seventh meeting. In addition to assessing progress and settling long-standing issues, such as adopting a budget and agreeing on representation of certain armed groups, participants agreed on prioritising the establishment of interim administrations for the northern regions and setting up mixed patrols in the coming weeks. They also welcomed the holding of a Peace Forum in Kidal in late March to discuss the situation in the north. (The forum, which was expected to include the armed groups and the government, started on 28 March without the presence of government representatives.)
From 13 to 20 March, Assistant Secretary-General of Peacekeeping Operations El-Ghassim Wane led a strategic review of MINUSMA. The review is expected to provide guidance on such issues as prioritisation of the mission’s good offices mandate, increasing the troop ceiling, and whether to change the posture of the mission and its force layout. During a meeting with Council members in Bamako, Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop elaborated on the need for MINUSMA to prepare its exit strategy. Diop proposed establishing benchmarks to assess performance and provide for an exit for the mission once commonly agreed objectives have been attained.
Terrorism in Mali continues to be a threat to the stability of the country and the region, and to the mission: some 52 MINUSMA peacekeepers have died as a result of malicious acts against the mission since its establishment in 2013. Briefing the Council on 16 March, French Ambassador François Delattre stated that during the mission “the Council offered its support to the Malian forces that are at the front line of the fight against terrorism, particularly in central Mali, which has been destabilised by an increase in terrorist attacks since early 2015”. He highlighted how all stakeholders in Mali “loudly called for MINUSMA to be strengthened so that it can meet the asymmetric challenges it is facing”. On 21 March, a terrorist attack against the Bamako headquarters of the EU Training Mission in Mali was repelled.
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 considered. In November 2015, the Group of Five for the Sahel (or the Sahel G5: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) proposed to deploy a joint regional force with the same objective. A joint UN-AU technical assessment mission to assess the feasibility of such an AU force was conducted in late March.
On 22 March, the Department of Political Affairs held an informal briefing for Council members on UN support to regional response and coordination regarding counter-terrorism in West Africa and the Sahel. On youth radicalisation, at the first meeting of the 2242 Informal Experts Group on women, peace and security in late February, Council members were informed that many of the recruitment messages reaching disenfranchised youth in the north specifically used anti-gender equality and anti-women’s rights language to lay the groundwork for recruitment and radicalisation.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The Human Rights Council considered the report of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Mali (A/HRC/31/76) during its 31st session in March. The report, covering May to December 2015, found that armed and extremist groups in the north of Mali continue to be involved in human rights violations, including violations of the right to life; abductions; cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; unlawful detention; the recruitment and use of children; and looting. The report also expressed concern about the increasing number of inter- and intra-communal conflicts, the lack of progress in combating impunity and the need to reform the National Human Rights Commission. On 2 March, New Zealand and Uruguay co-hosted an Arria-formula meeting of Council members with the heads of human rights components of five UN peace operations, including MINUSMA.
An overarching issue is the slow implementation of the agreement and the lack of progress in such areas as confidence-building measures, reconciliation, return of basic services to the north and decentralisation. Ensuring that cantonment, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration take place within a broader context of security sector reform and accountability for human rights violations is an important issue. Addressing the grievances and frustrations of different communities that are not seeing the impact of the peace dividends in their daily lives, including youth at risk of being recruited by violent groups, is a related issue. The limited mobility of MINUSMA and its insufficient capacities and resources to fulfil its mandate in the current context is a key 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.
The Council could engage in early brainstorming on the recommendations of the strategic review ahead of the June renewal of MINUSMA’s mandate, including in consultations with troop contributors. The Council could also 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, such as the establishment of interim administrations for the northern regions; 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 accelerating the implementation of the agreement, and this was the main message conveyed during their visiting mission to Mali. As a result of the mission, Council members might be amenable to recommendations of the strategic review of MINUSMA regarding the need to match and adapt MINUSMA’s mandate to the needs currently identified on the ground. It seems that these might include increasing MINUSMA’s troop ceiling, adapting the force’s layout to address the increasing reach of terrorist groups and widespread banditry in places like Mopti in central Mali, and clarifying the posture or prioritising the mandated tasks of the mission. It remains unclear, however, how these recommendations might be perceived given some Council members’ concern at rising peacekeeping costs and in light of the government’s call for the mission’s exit strategy. Despite calls by Malian stakeholders for a more robust mandate for the mission, most Council members seem to be of the opinion that the mandate is already exceptionally robust. The AU and Sahel G5 proposed initiatives to combat terrorism in northern Mali have raised questions regarding the possibility of them operating effectively alongside French forces, MINUSMA and the Malian Defence and Security Forces.
Council members continue to be worried about attacks targeting MINUSMA in northern Mali. During the visiting mission, Council members were briefed on MINUSMA’s shortfalls in operational capacity. For example, given the security situation and the risks of improvised explosive devices, the limited number of armoured personal carriers remains a key limiting factor for the mission. MINUSMA’s exceptionally high number of fatalities and casualties has led to an increasing divide between the troop contributors willing to deploy their forces in the most dangerous territory and other, more risk-averse contributors. 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.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|12 February 2016 SC/12240||This was a press statement condemning a complex terrorist attack against MINUSMA in Kidal, during which seven peacekeepers from Guinea were killed.|
|Security Council Letter|
|3 March 2016 S/2016/215||This was a letter containing the terms of reference of the visiting mission to West Africa in early March 2016 to Mali, Guinea-Bissau and UNOWAS in Dakar.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|16 March 2016 S/PV.7647||This was a briefing on the visiting mission to West Africa in early March 2016 to Mali, Guinea-Bissau and UNOWAS in Dakar.|
|11 January 2016 S/PV.7600||Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations HervÃ© Ladsous briefed the Council on the latest MINUSMA report (S/2015/1030).|