January 2020 Monthly Forecast

Posted 23 December 2019
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Expected Council Action

In January, the Council expects to receive a briefing on the Secretary-General’s quarterly report on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the Secretary-General’s bi-annual letter on the security situation, MINUSMA’s performance, and transition planning. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is likely to brief. Both the report and the letter are due in late December 2019.

The mandate of MINUSMA expires on 30 June 2020.

Key Recent Developments

Terrorist groups have inflicted heavy casualties on the Malian armed forces in the north and central regions of Mali over recent months while continuing to fuel intercommunal violence in the centre. Meanwhile, implementation of the 2015 Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement has remained limited.

On 30 September and 1 October 2019, attacks claimed by the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) against the base of a Malian battalion of the regional counterterrorism Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (FC-G5S) in Boulkessi and a Malian army base in Mondoro in central Mali killed at least 25 soldiers and left around 60 missing, according to the government. The Islamic State claimed a 1 November 2019 attack in north-eastern Mali in which 53 Malian soldiers and one civilian were killed. On 18 November 2019, 24 Malian soldiers were killed and 29 wounded in another attack in north-eastern Mali near the border with Niger, in which 17 militants were also killed, according to a Malian military spokesperson.

On 25 November 2019, 13 French soldiers were killed when two French helicopters collided during a joint operation against armed elements in Mali in the Liptako-Gourma area, the tri-border region with Burkina Faso and Niger. It was the largest single-day loss for France since intervening in Mali in 2013 and since establishing Operation Barkhane—a 4,500-strong counter-terrorism force that operates across the Sahel—in 2014.

The deteriorating security situation triggered protests in October and November 2019 in several cities, including the capital, Bamako, with demonstrators criticising the government, calling for more support for the military, and demanding that foreign forces, particularly French and MINUSMA troops, leave the country. France will host a summit in early 2020 with G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) to assess Operation Barkhane and counter-terrorism strategies in the region. The summit was called following the deaths of the 13 French soldiers, and postponed to January following an Islamic State-claimed attack in Niger on 10 December 2019 that killed 71 Nigerien soldiers.

Implementation of the 2015 peace agreement continues to be slow. The ongoing “inclusive national dialogue”, launched in September 2019 to reach consensual decisions on the major challenges facing Mali and on political reforms, has held up progress on issues such as the revision of the constitution and legislation on decentralisation. An agreement was reached on 28 November 2019 by the Technical Security Commission (created by the peace agreement to deal with security measures) to deploy around 1,300 former combatants of armed groups that have been trained and integrated into the Malian military to bases in the north. At press time, the Agreement Monitoring Committee still had not met since the cancellation of its planned meeting in September.

Following the Council’s decision in June 2019 to lift restrictions that had limited the provision of life consumables support to joint force units operating in Mali, in October 2019 MINUSMA received its first request from the G5 Sahel for such support for all FC-G5S contingents. During a 20 November Council briefing on the FC-G5S, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa Bintou Keita reported that MINUSMA had approved and begun fulfilling the request for 429,000 litres of fuel and oil and 35,000 rations, having applied the UN’s human rights due-diligence policy.

Sanctions-Related Developments

During the Council’s meeting on Mali on 8 October 2019, Ambassador José Singer Weisinger (Dominican Republic), chair of the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee, briefed on the committee’s activities during the previous nine months. From 16 to 18 October, Singer Weisinger led a committee delegation to Bamako. According to a press release, the delegation met with a range of interlocutors, including the High Representative for the implementation of the Peace Agreement, facilitators of the national inclusive dialogue, individuals listed on the 2374 sanctions list, representatives of signatory and non-signatory armed groups, civil society, MINUSMA and other international actors in Mali. While the delegation met with representatives from the Malian government, it was unable to meet with ministerial-level government officials. On 27 November, the Sanctions Committee met to discuss the Chair’s visit. On 19 December, the Committee approved the application of an assets freeze on the five individuals on whom the Committee imposed a travel ban in July 2019.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Mali, Alioune Tine, visited the country from 19 to 28 November 2019, following the killing on 1 November 2019 of 53 soldiers and one civilian, and attacks on the army bases in late September and early October 2019 in Boulkessi and Mondoro. He will present a report to the Human Rights Council during its 43rd regular session in March 2020. In a 2 December 2019 statement, Tine said that he is “gravely concerned at the continuing deterioration of the overall security situation, which has now reached a critical threshold”. He also highlighted worsening levels of violence, robbery, rape and kidnapping in Timbuktu, and said a resurgence of transnational crime was threatening social cohesion and was going unpunished. “It is time to recognise the inadequacy of the current security responses so Mali can move to more appropriate alternatives as soon as possible”, he said.

Women, Peace and Security

During the 20 November 2019 meeting on the FC-G5S, Council members received a briefing by Assitan Diallo, president of the Association of African Women for Research and Development. She argued that “it is women and young people who pay the highest price when it comes to war” and that “there can be no peace or development in Mali without gender equality”. Diallo said that gender-based violence in Mali encompasses sexual slavery, gang rape, and early and forced marriage. She charged that the legal requirement of 30 percent female representation in institutions and processes that are supporting the implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali was “far from being respected”. Diallo also noted that women were underrepresented in the security and defence structures of the G-5 Sahel, preventing the full contribution of women to regional peace and security. In the same vein, she stressed that the gender unit in the FC-G5S must have the capability to defend women’s rights robustly. Diallo called upon the Council to hold both MINUSMA and the FC-G5S accountable for gender mainstreaming in their operations.

In a 21 November 2019 press statement on the FC-G5S, Council members reiterated their call for the “full, effective and meaningful participation” of women in the implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali.

Key Issues and Options

A key issue remains implementing the 2015 peace agreement, particularly in the five priority areas specified by the Council in resolution 2480 when it renewed the mandate of MINUSMA in June 2019: constitutional reform, decentralisation, security sector reform, development of the north, and the full, effective and meaningful participation of women.

Other key issues will be the security situation, MINUSMA’s performance, and transition planning, all of which will be covered in a Secretary-General’s letter that the Council requested in resolution 2480 be submitted every six months, in addition to his quarterly reports. Specifically, the Council requested that this letter detail:

  • information on security challenges in Mali, progress in mission operations, troop performance and rotations, as well as an update on discussions in the Instance de Coordination au Mali—which includes all the security presences—on the coordination of security responsibilities; and
  • the implementation of the UN integrated strategic framework developed in early 2018, including a transition plan with a view to hand over relevant tasks to the UN Country Team.

Connected to this is assessing the impact on MINUSMA of the Council’s adding a second strategic priority for MINUSMA. In resolution 2480, the Council mandated MINUSMA, within its existing resources, to support the government in addressing the deteriorating situation in central Mali while continuing to devote close attention to the north. In practice, these tasks were to be performed without any troops added and with fewer resources than those originally proposed by the Secretary-General to the Fifth Committee. The Council may want to focus on how the expansion of tasks within existing resources has worked on the ground.

Sanctions are a key tool for the Council. The sanctions committee may consider additional designations, while also engaging in outreach activities to increase understanding of the sanctions regime. A lack of understanding of the sanctions among Malian actors was one of the committee’s observations during its visiting mission. In a possible press statement, often issued following Council meetings on Mali, members could recall their willingness to impose sanctions on individuals and entities obstructing the peace agreement’s implementation, including on the government and signatory and non-signatory groups.

Council Dynamics 

Members have been frustrated by the slow implementation of the peace agreement, which is why in resolution 2480 the Council specified priority areas in which it expects to see progress. The US is the most vocal among members in underscoring that the parties are not doing enough to implement the agreement. The deteriorating security situation in Mali and the region more broadly is of growing concern for members, reflected by the upcoming summit France will host with G5 Sahel heads of state.

Niger, which is being profoundly affected by the instability in neighbouring Mali and incurred what is reportedly the deadliest incident in its military’s history in the 10 December attack, will replace Côte d’Ivoire on the Council in January 2020. Estonia, which is also an incoming Council member, recently approved an increase in the military personnel it contributes to Operation Barkhane. France is the penholder on Mali.

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Security Council Resolutions
28 June 2019S/RES/2480 The Council renewed the mandate of MINUSMA until 30 June 2020.
Security Council Meeting Records
20 November 2019S/PV.8670 This was a briefing on the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel.
8 October 2019S/PV.8636 This was a briefing on Mali by Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the Special Representative and head of MINUSMA, and Ambassador José Singer (Dominican Republic) as chair of the Mali 2374 Sanctions Committee.
Security Council Press Statements
9 October 2019SC/13981 This press statement was on the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali and the overall security situation.
Sanctions Committee Documents
19 December 2019SC/14064 This was a press release announcing the 2374 Sanctions Committee’s approval of additional measures (an assets freeze) to five individual on its sanctions list.
7 November 2019SC/14018 This was a press release on the 2374 Sanctions Committee mission to Mali.

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