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, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, followed by consultations.
MINUSMA’s mandate expires on 30 June.
Key Recent Developments
Despite some progress in the implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, key challenges remain one year after its signing. The legal framework for the decentralisation process continues to develop. Following the establishment of two new regions in January—Taoudenni and Ménaka—the National Assembly adopted a law on 31 March modifying the territorial municipalities’ code. Along with other decisions, this process is expected to provide for the implementation of the transitional local and regional administrations in the north (which will be composed of representatives of the government and of the coalitions of armed groups). On 5 May, the constitutional court upheld the 31 March law, which had been challenged by opposition parties and it was promulgated on 10 May. However, the implementation of this legal framework, its acceptance by the opposition and the provision of basic services in the north remain challenging. The coalitions of armed groups had until then expressed the need to see advances on the decentralisation process by the government before moving ahead on the security provisions of the agreement—such as cantonment, the deployment of joint patrols and the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of armed combatants (DDR)—which were considered prerequisites by the government.
Briefing the Council on 5 April, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous said that despite the creation of new committees on integration and DDR and advances in the establishment of pre-cantonment sites, progress regarding the security forces remains too slow. Following advances on the decentralisation process, at the 18 May meeting of the Commission Technique de Sécurité—a follow-up mechanism to the agreement chaired by MINUSMA and focused on security-related issues—armed groups committed themselves to engage in confidence-building measures such as the deployment of joint patrols.
Efforts to advance on national reconciliation continue to drag. A peace forum, which was expected to convene representatives of armed groups and the government in Kidal, ended up hosting only representatives of the Coordination des Mouvements de l’Azawad coalition of armed groups. The work of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, which was first established in January 2014, has until now mostly focused on discussions over its commissioners, budgetary issues and internal structure instead of the substance of its work. A national reconciliation conference provided for in the peace agreement is one of the outstanding issues in its implementation.
Terrorism in Mali continues to be a threat to the stability of the country and the region. The mission continues to be a target: more than 60 MINUSMA peacekeepers have now died as a result of malicious acts against the mission since its establishment in 2013. In his 5 April briefing, Ladsous emphasised how “each day that passes without the peace agreement being implemented is a day gained for extremist and terrorist groups, which are betting on the failure of the peace process in Mali”. On 18 May, five Chadian peacekeepers were killed and three were seriously injured in an attack by unidentified assailants in the Kidal region. That day, in a previously scheduled meeting, MINUSMA’s force commander, Major General Michael Lollesgaard, briefed Council members on the importance of improving intelligence and situational awareness so as to ensure informed decision-making in a context with asymmetric threats. He particularly highlighted the added value of the All-Source-Information-Fusion-Unit established within MINUSMA, giving the mission an unprecedented capacity to gather and process actionable information on threats to civilians and UN personnel. Kidnappings have also been a serious security concern. In a recent development, three ICRC staff members who had been kidnapped on 16 April by the terrorist group Ansar Eddine were released on 22 April.
Insecurity is also fed by existing tensions, including intercommunal conflicts that continue to increase, especially in the areas of Gao and Mopti. MINUSMA has also been the target of popular discontent. On 18 April demonstrators clashed with MINUSMA forces at the Kidal airport. The violence resulted in the deaths of two demonstrators. An internal investigation concluded that there was no evidence to ascertain whether the deaths were as a result of MINUSMA’s actions. A second investigation is expected to take place.
Since March, the Department for Peacekeeping Operations has been leading 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. In a meeting with Council members during their March visit to 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. During a 16 May luncheon of Council members with the Secretary-General, some discussion took place about the early conclusions of the strategic review, including the need to increase the mission’s military personnel, the importance of enabling the extension of state authority in the north and implementing measures to bridge the current capacity gaps within the mission.
An overarching issue is the slow implementation of the agreement and the lack of progress in such areas as confidence-building measures, reconciliation and return of basic services to the north. Ensuring that cantonment and DDR 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 are also key issues.
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.
In the resolution renewing MINUSMA’s mandate the Council could:
- prioritise the tasks that can be achieved during the mandate cycle;
- increase the troop ceiling;
- adapt the force’s layout to address the increasing reach of terrorist groups and widespread banditry in places like Mopti in central Mali;
- call on troop- and police-contributing countries and, more widely, member states to supply key capacities that the mission is lacking, including armoured personnel carriers;
- call on the parties to act in good faith and with the spirit of compromise in the discussions regarding the implementation of the agreement and threaten to impose sanctions on spoilers;
- reiterate the Council’s support of MINUSMA’s good offices mandate to encourage and support the full implementation of the peace agreement; and
- request the Monitoring Team of the 1267/1989/2253 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh)/Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee to report on ways to curb the magnitude of the terrorist threat in Mali, including from non-listed groups such as the Macina Liberation Front.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members remain united in support of accelerating the implementation of the agreement. As a result of their visiting mission in March, Council members might be amenable to the recommendations of the MINUSMA strategic review regarding the need to match and adapt MINUSMA’s mandate to the needs currently identified on the ground. 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 a mission exit strategy. Despite calls by Malian stakeholders for a more robust mandate for the mission, Council members seem to be of the opinion that the mandate is already exceptionally robust and that the mission cannot engage in counter-terrorism activities.
Council members continue to be worried about attacks targeting MINUSMA in northern Mali. 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 Meeting Record|
|5 April 2016 S/PV.7665||This was a briefing on the latest MINUSMA report.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|19 May 2016 SC/12366||This press statement condemned the 18 May terrorist attack on a MINUSMA convoy that killed five Chadian peacekeepers and injured three others.|