October 2017 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 September 2017
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Expected Council Action

In October, the Council expects to receive a briefing from the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, followed by consultations.

MINUSMA’s mandate expires on 30 June 2018.

Key Recent Developments

Although the two-year interim period established by the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali has elapsed, key provisions remain unimplemented. The interim authorities of the five northern regions are not fully operational, and mixed patrols of combatants belonging to the Platform and Coordination coalitions of armed groups along with the Malian Defence and Security Forces (MDSF)—which have only deployed in Gao so far—are not able to carry out their functions regularly. Increased tensions between both coalitions have led to repeated ceasefire violations in the north. On 20 September, the two coalitions signed a definitive cessation of hostilities accord and committed to agree on a timeline for the full implementation of the 2015 agreement. Little progress has been accomplished on key areas such as reform of the security sector and the cantonment, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process of former insurgents.

Contributing to the polarisation of the political landscape, a proposal by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta to revise the constitution to strengthen the powers of the presidency was withdrawn in mid-August after weeks of protests. The constitution needs to be revised in order, among other things, to establish an upper legislative chamber and lay out a framework for institutional, security and justice reforms as stipulated in the 2015 agreement. As part of the forthcoming electoral cycle, Mali is expected to hold district, regional, legislative and presidential elections, as well as municipal by-elections.

On 29 June, the Council adopted resolution 2364 renewing the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The resolution did not substantively change the mandate of the mission, its posture or its troop ceiling. However, it incorporated some recommendations from the Secretary-General’s June report related to extending the good offices mandate of the Special Representative to support the electoral process and the constitutional referendum, as well as the establishment and operations of the international commission of inquiry, which was envisioned by the Ouagadougou Agreement in 2013 but has yet to be created. The resolution also specified the details of an already existing task related to MINUSMA’s support to the redeployment of the MDSF.

A ministerial meeting on Mali took place on 20 September, on the margins of the general debate of the UN General Assembly. Participants at the meeting, which included Secretary-General António Guterres, President Keïta and other high-level officials from member states and regional organisations, stressed the importance of sustained support by the international community for the implementation of the 2015 agreement and deplored the delays in its implementation, which negatively impact the regional security situation. (For more information regarding the operationalisation of the joint force of the G5 Sahel, please refer to the Sahel brief in this Forecast.)

On 5 September, the Council adopted resolution 2374 establishing a targeted sanctions regime on Mali. The resolution, which was adopted unanimously, imposes a travel ban and assets freeze on individuals and entities engaged in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security or stability of Mali (to be identified by the sanctions committee established under the resolution). This initiative is aimed at pressuring the parties to adhere to the letter and spirit of the 2015 agreement through the increased scrutiny that will result from the establishment of the Sanctions Committee and the Panel of Experts.

Terrorist groups that are now part of the coalition Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin have carried out attacks against MINUSMA and French and Malian forces in the centre, south and north of Mali. Since the mission was established in 2013, at least 83 peacekeepers have been killed as a result of hostile acts, including six since June.

Human Rights-Related Developments

In his opening statement at the Human Rights Council’s 36th session on 11 September, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein spoke about Mali: “Any effective strategy to combat violent extremism must seek to address underlying factors such as poverty, lack of basic services, corruption, marginalisation and discrimination, and human rights violations committed by institutions that are mandated to protect the population”. He also emphasised the need for all members of the joint force of the G5 Sahel to abide by human rights due-diligence principles.

Key Issues and Options

The Council has consistently expressed concern at the slow implementation of the agreement and the potential for a relapse into conflict. The Council could hold a frank and unscripted discussion, inviting the Secretariat, the mission leadership and Algeria, to garner support around a common political strategy.

Divisions within the armed groups and between the parties hamper the implementation process. During the visiting mission to the Sahel planned for October, which includes Mali, Council members could prioritise engaging with the CSA and, separately, with the parties, to convey a strong, unified message about the need to deliver in good faith on the commitments made in the agreement, as well as to explain the working methods of the 2374 Sanctions Committee.

The gap between MINUSMA’s current mandate and the mission’s insufficient capacities and resources continues. A Council debate on strategic force generation planned for October constitutes an opportunity for the Council to continue its engagement in support of the Secretariat on this front. (For more information on this debate, please refer to the strategic force generation brief in this issue of the Forecast.)

In order to tackle the terrorist threat, the Council could add terrorist groups operating in Mali, such as Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, to the list of the 1267/1989/2253 Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Article 54 of the peace agreement included language inviting the Security Council to adopt measures against those undermining the implementation of the agreement and the pursuit of its objectives. While the Council had repeatedly threatened to impose sanctions, it had failed to have a unified position until recently. Despite the penholder’s readiness to table such a resolution in early 2017, only after the government of Mali sent a letter to the Council on 9 August requesting the establishment of a sanctions regime did some Council members decide to support this endeavour. Eventually, the resolution was adopted unanimously. In explaining its vote, Russia expressed its support for the resolution, although it noted its concern about the usefulness of sanctions and the risk of antagonising the parties to the conflict.

France is the penholder on Mali. The chair of the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee is Sweden.

Security Council Resolutions
5 September 2017 S/RES/2374 This established a targeted sanctions regime on Mali.
29 June 2017 S/RES/2364 This was a resolution renewing MINUSMA’s mandate for an additional year.
Security Council Meeting Record
5 September 2017 S/PV.8040 This was the meeting at which resolution 2374 was adopted.
Security Council Press Statements
25 September 2017 SC/13006 This condemned the attack against a MINUSMA convoy in the region of Gao, which caused the death of three Bangladeshi peacekeepers and injured four others.
6 September 2017 SC/12980 This condemned an attack against MINUSMA near Aguelhoc, which killed two Chadian peacekeepers and injured two others.
14 August 2017 SC/12954 This was a statement on the terrorist attack against the MINUSMA camps in Douentza, Mali.