April 2020 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 March 2020
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Expected Council Action

In April, the Council is due to hold its quarterly briefing on Mali, followed by consultations. The mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) expires on 30 June 2020.

Key Recent Developments

There has been some improvement in implementing the 2015 Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, while at the same time the security situation remains dire in central Mali and parts of the north.

On 19 January, a ministerial-level meeting of the Agreement Monitoring Committee (CSA) was held. This was its first meeting since the government cancelled a planned CSA meeting in September 2019 after the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, declared that signatory parties in the north were colluding with terrorist groups.

In a major step in the implementation of the peace agreement, the first mixed unit of the reconstituted army—composed of national troops and integrated forces from the north—arrived in Kidal city on 13 February, which marked the Malian army’s first return to Kidal since fighting with rebel groups forced its retreat in May 2014. Reconstituted units have also deployed to Gao, Timbuktu and Menaka. From 4 to 7 March, Prime Minister Boubou Cissé visited the northern cities and towns of Kidal, Tessalit, Aguelhok and Menaka. His visit to Kidal also had symbolic significance, as it had been former Prime Minister Moussa Mara’s visit there that precipitated the May 2014 battle; it was also reportedly the first visit of a Malian prime minister to Aguelhok since independence.

The first round of legislative elections, initially scheduled for November 2018, was held on 29 March, despite security challenges and concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. On 25 March, just days before the election, gunmen kidnapped main opposition leader Soumaila Cissé along with other members from his team while they campaigned in central Mali; Cissé has yet to be freed. A second round of the legislative elections is scheduled for 19 April.

Meanwhile, attacks by terrorist groups and intercommunal violence has continued. On 14 February, ethnic Dogon militiamen attacked the Fulani village of Ogossagou in the Mopti region. At least 35 people were killed and 19 went missing. Ogossagou is the village where 157 civilians were killed in a March 2019 attack. In an 18 March statement on a MINUSMA and OHCHR investigation into the February attack, Special Representative and head of MINUSMA Mahamat Saleh Annadif expressed concern about the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators. On 19 March, militants killed 29 Malian soldiers in Tarkint, Gao Region. Fighting reported between terrorist groups has further complicated the situation.

Insecurity in Mali and the broader Sahel was the focus of a 13 January summit in Pau, France, with Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta; other presidents of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel, consisting of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger); and French President Emmanuel Macron. According to a joint statement, France and G5 Sahel countries agreed to a new political, strategic and operational framework called the Coalition for the Sahel that is open to other partners. It will combine efforts to combat terrorist groups, strengthen state capacities, and encourage development assistance. This includes concentrating military efforts on the Mali-Niger-Burkina Faso border region under the joint command of France’s regional counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane, and the G5 Sahel Joint Force (FC-G5S), targeting the Islamic State of the Greater Sahara (ISGS) as a priority. In early February, France announced that it would deploy 600 troops to reinforce the 4,500 soldiers already serving in Operation Barkhane.

On 10 February, President Keïta said the government was open to dialogue with the jihadist groups Katiba Macina and Ansar Dine. This policy shift has not been extended to ISGS.

The Council last met on Mali on 14 January. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix presented the Secretary-General’s adaptation plan for MINUSMA, developed in light of its new, second strategic priority mandated in resolution 2480 of June 2019 to support the government in addressing the deteriorating situation in central Mali while continuing to devote close attention to the north. Lacroix said, “It is not feasible for MINUSMA to implement its additional strategic priority in the centre without additional resources”, which “has resulted in dangerous gaps in areas in northern Mali”. Lacroix explained that the plan maintains authorised troop and police levels but seeks to “make MINUSMA more agile, flexible and mobile, with tailored units, enhanced capabilities and, most importantly, with additional air mobility”.

A 17 January Council press statement noted some progress in the peace agreement’s implementation but expressed serious concern about delays in many of its substantive provisions. It further welcomed the Secretary-General’s plan to adapt MINUSMA “by increasing its protected mobility, agility and flexibility”.

Sanctions-Related Developments

On 12 February, the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee met on the mid-term report of the Panel of Experts on Mali, and on 3 March, the committee met with regional states to discuss implementation of the sanctions regime. Among its findings, the Panel of Experts’ mid-term report said that signatory group the Coordination of Movements of Azawad (CMA) has colluded with terrorist groups both in northern and central Mali. The report also mentions the involvement in the drug trade by the CMA, and the Platform, mainly the Imghad Tuareg Self-Defense Group and Allies (GATIA) and the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA). According to media reports, GATIA rejected the accusations, and the CMA formed a committee to analyse the report. The CMA continued its military expansionist strategy in the north, in violation of the ceasefire and at the expense of the Platform, according to the report.

Earlier, on 4 February, the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee imposed an assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo on Amadou Koufa, the leader of Katiba Macina, the main al-Qaeda affiliated group in central Mali. On 10 February, Mahri Sidi Amar Ben Daha, alias Yoro Ould Daha, who is sanctioned under the Mali sanctions regime, was killed in northern Mali.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 21 February, the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, Alioune Tine, released a statement expressing concern over the increasing violence and impunity in the central region of the country, saying that the “Malian Armed Forces and MINUSMA have failed to provide adequate security for the civilians of the region”. The statement also highlighted the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, reporting that the number of internally displaced persons increased from 99,000 to 207,751 from March to December 2019.

During its 43rd session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) was scheduled to hold an interactive dialogue on 17 March with Tine and to consider his report (A/HRC/43/76). Given the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, however, the HRC suspended its 43rd session on 13 March. The report, covering 1 April 2019 to 20 November 2019, concludes that Mali and the Sahel face “enormous and multifaceted challenges in terms of security, governance and development” and that “Mali and the entire subregion are facing danger such as they have never known before”. The report emphasises the need for the Malian state, the FC-G5S and MINUSMA to increase the protection of civilians in areas at risk.

Key Issues and Options

Implementation of the 2015 peace agreement remains a key issue, particularly in the five priority areas set out in resolution 2480: constitutional reform, decentralisation, security sector reform, development of the north, and participation of women. The legislative elections are an important step to advance constitutional reform. The COVID-19 pandemic presents new issues, including Mali’s limited medical infrastructure, concerns over the safety of peacekeepers and MINUSMA troop rotations, and its potential impact on the peace agreement’s implementation.  In this context, the CSA meeting set for March was cancelled due to the pandemic. Mali confirmed its first two cases of COVID-19 on 23 March.

The security situation is critical. Related to this is the MINUSMA adaptation plan. Council members requested in their 17 January press statement that the Secretary-General’s next quarterly report include a detailed update on the implementation of the plan and its effects on improving coordination between MINUSMA’s civil, military and police components. The UN’s ability to generate the new capabilities required for the plan and the financial implications, which the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee is expected to consider in May, are important issues.

The Council had been planning a visiting mission in April to the Sahel, including Mali, to contribute to its consideration of the next mandate renewal on MINUSMA. The mission has been postponed, however, because of concerns over COVID-19.

Sanctions remain a tool to pressure those obstructing the 2015 peace agreement. Current sanctioned individuals are all from the north, including the one designated parliamentarian, and one issue is how to be more balanced in also targeting the government for hindering the agreement’s implementation.

Council Dynamics

Members have been frustrated by the peace agreement’s slow implementation, which is why in resolution 2480 the Council specified priority areas in which it expects to see progress. The US is the most vocal critic of the parties in this regard, and suggested at the 14 January briefing that the Council consider deprioritising MINUSMA’s support in implementing the agreement and instead focus the mission on protecting civilians if there has not been more progress by the time of MINUSMA’s June mandate renewal.  As demonstrated by their 17 January press statement, members support the MINUSMA adaptation plan, though it seems that the US might object to changes that would increase the mission’s budget. On sanctions, the P3, among other Council members, support their use against those hindering the peace agreement while Russia is the most likely to question their use. Members share concerns about the security situation. Niger, a Council member since 1 January, has been profoundly affected by the spillover of violence.

France is the penholder on Mali. Ambassador José Singer Weisinger (Dominican Republic) chairs the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee.

Security Council Resolution
28 June 2019S/RES/2480 The Council renewed the mandate of MINUSMA until 30 June 2020.
Secretary-General’s Report
20 March 2020S/2020/223 This was a quarterly report on Mali.
Security Council Meeting Record
15 January 2020S/PV.8703 This was a briefing on Mali with Under-Secretary-General Pierre Lacroix and Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali Tiébilé Dramé.
Security Council Press Statement
17 January 2020SC/14083 This press statement noted some progress in the implementation of the 2015 Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement but expressed serious concern about the delays in the implementation of many of its substantive provisions.
Sanctions Committee Documents
12 March 2020SC/14144 This was a 2374 Sanctions Committee press release on the Panel of Experts’ mid-term report.
28 February 2020S/2020/158 This is the mid-term report of the Mali Panel of Experts.
Human Rights Council Document
15 January 2020A/HRC/43/76 This was a report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, covering the period from 1 April to 20 November 2019.

Additional Useful Resource

Mali: Army, UN Fail to Stop Massacre. Human Rights Watch. 18 March 2020.