Expected Council Action
In March, the Council expects to examine the progress achieved in the implementation of the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali on the basis of a Secretary-General’s report, in line with resolution 2423 of 28 June 2018. The Council is also expected to carry out a visiting mission to Mali and hold a ministerial meeting back in New York with Secretary-General António Guterres and the participation of Malian Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga.
The mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) expires on 30 June. The sanctions regime expires on 31 August, followed by the expiry of the mandate of the Panel of Experts on 30 September.
Key Recent Developments
March is a critical time for the Council’s consideration of the situation in Mali and the mandate of MINUSMA. In resolution 2423, the Council expressed its intent, in the absence of significant progress in the implementation of the peace agreement, to request the Secretary-General to provide options for a potentially significant modification of MINUSMA’s mandate when the current mandate expires. The areas in which the Council is expected to assess progress are:
- the holding of presidential elections, which took place in July and August 2018;
- the decentralisation of state administration;
- the operationalisation of the interim administrations in northern Mali;
- the cantonment and disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) processes, as well as an inclusive and consensual security sector reform;
- the full operationalisation of mixed patrols by government forces and armed groups in Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu;
- the socio-economic development of northern Mali; and
- the equal and meaningful political participation of women.
Briefing the Council on 16 January, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa Bintou Keita highlighted recent progress, including the launch of an accelerated DDR process and the establishment of ten district-level interim administrations in the north, and emphasised the importance of maintaining positive momentum. She also highlighted outstanding challenges, including lack of consensus regarding territorial reforms, the increased political polarisation since the July 2018 election that renewed the mandate of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, and the security situation in vast areas of the country. After the meeting, Council members issued a press statement expressing “a significant sense of impatience with parties over the persistent delays in the full implementation of key provisions of the Agreement.”
In addition to the dynamics in the north, the security situation in the centre of Mali remains critical. Inter-communal violence among ethnic groups—particularly Fulani, Bambara and Dogon—persists. Terrorist groups often take advantage of these tensions to increase recruitment and enhance their own legitimacy in their communities. Furthermore, the limited presence of the Malian state is manifested in the conduct of military operations but not through the provision of basic services. While MINUSMA is scaling up its presence in the centre, the situation there lacks an overall political framework, such as that outlined by the agreement for northern Mali.
The visiting mission may include meetings with the EU, which is a significant actor in Mali. In addition to the deployment of the EU Training Mission and the EU Capacity Building Mission in Mali (EUCAP Sahel Mali) and its financing of humanitarian and development activities there, the EU channels international voluntary contributions to reimburse MINUSMA for its support to the G5 Sahel Joint Force. Council members previously visited Mali in February 2014, March 2016 and October 2017. The regional dimension of the crisis is also expected to feature in Council discussions, particularly given the increased reach of terrorist organisations beyond the Sahel and into coastal West Africa.
MINUSMA continues to be targeted by terrorist organisations. In January, ten Chadian peacekeepers died after an attack on the MINUSMA camp in Aguelhok, and two Sri Lankan peacekeepers were killed in an attack on a convoy in Mopti. On 22 February, three Guinean peacekeepers were killed in an attack against the vehicle in which they were travelling near Siby (region of Bamako).
The humanitarian situation in Mali remains precarious, owing to intensified armed conflict, crime and severe flooding. Security incidents, both direct attacks against humanitarian actors and the presence of explosive devices along roads, have continued to constrain humanitarian access in the northern and central regions.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 12 February, the independent expert on human rights in Mali, Alioune Tine, said in a statement that the human rights situation in Mali “is a cause of grave concern as security and humanitarian conditions in central and northern areas continue to worsen”. Serious and recurrent violations and abuses of human rights, such as extrajudicial executions, abductions, torture, ill-treatment and illegal detention, are committed with impunity, including in areas which were not affected a few months ago, and Tine said there is “an urgent need for an effective military response, with well-equipped and well-trained men, acting in full compliance with human rights standards”. During its 40th session, the Human Rights Council is scheduled to hold an interactive dialogue on 19 March with Tine and to consider his report (A/HRC/40/77).
Key Issues and Options
The Council has raised the tone in expressing its frustration with the lack of implementation of the 2015 agreement. Ahead of the visiting mission, Council members could discuss how they can support the political process bilaterally and multilaterally in order to convey a unified message in their meetings with the parties in Mali. To do so, the Secretariat, the mission leadership and Algeria, which chairs the main follow-up mechanism to the agreement, could be invited to participate in an informal interactive dialogue. Despite its prominent political role, Algeria has participated only once in a Council meeting on Mali, in January 2017. Council members could encourage its participation in briefings under rule 37 of the provisional rules of procedure.
On 20 December 2018, the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee imposed a travel ban on three individuals associated with armed groups for their destabilising activities in Mali. The listings were proposed by France, based on information included in a confidential annex to the August 2018 report of the Panel of Experts. As Council members consider increasing political pressure on the parties, they could assess the impact of the three December 2018 designations and whether the use of sanctions is effective in targeting those hindering the implementation of the agreement while preserving the parties’ engagement in the process.
The north of the country remains the focus of the agreement and its implementation, but in their visiting mission Council members could also prioritise discussing the impact of the conflict dynamics in the centre of the country on Mali as a whole, as well as the broader region.
Council and Wider Dynamics
During the negotiations of resolution 2423 in June 2018, the US unsuccessfully pushed for a shorter renewal of MINUSMA’s mandate in order to pressure the parties to achieve results. The US has taken this approach with the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara and the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei, which have been renewed for six months at a time. All other Council members supported maintaining the regular 12-month renewal, but language was added requesting the March report—six months after the inauguration of President Keïta—to examine progress on the implementation of the agreement and holding out the possibility of a reconfiguration of the mission after the mandate’s expiry in June. While all Council members have expressed frustration at the pace of implementation, it is unclear which positions they will take on the prospect of a reconfiguration of the mission, particularly given the US focus on budgetary issues when discussing peace operations.
France is the penholder on Mali. and Ambassador José Singer Weisinger (Dominican Republic) chairs the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON MALI
|Security Council Resolutions|
|30 August 2018 S/RES/2432||The Council renewed the targeted sanctions regime on Mali—travel ban and assets freeze—and the mandate of the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts.|
|28 June 2018 S/RES/2423||This was a resolution renewing MINUSMA’s mandate for one year.|
|8 December 2017 S/RES/2391||This was a resolution on MINUSMA support to the G5 Sahel joint force.|
|28 December 2018 S/2018/1174||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Mali.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|16 January 2019 S/PV.8445||This was a briefing on the situation in Mali by Assistant Secretary-General for Africa Bintou Keita.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|23 February 2019 SC/13714||This condemned the attack in which three Guinean peacekeepers were killed near Siby (region of Bamako).|
|25 January 2019 SC/13678||Council members condemned the attack perpetrated against a MINUSMA convoy near Douentza (region of Mopti), which resulted in two peacekeepers from Sri Lanka killed and several others injured.|
|20 January 2019 SC/13672||Council members condemned an attack against the MINUSMA camp in Aguelhok, which resulted in 10 peacekeepers from Chad killed and several others injured.|
|16 January 2019 SC/13667||Council members issued a press statement on the progress of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali.|