Expected Council Action
In June, the Council is due to renew the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) before its 30 June expiry. Prior to this, a high-level videoconference (VTC) on Mali will be held with France’s Foreign Minister participating. There will also be a meeting with MINUSMA troop-contributing countries.
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
Mali continues to experience violence in its north and centre in the form of terrorist assaults and inter-communal conflict, alongside a deteriorating security situation across the Sahel region. Despite this, there have been some signs of improved implementation of the 23 June 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement.
On 19 April, the second round of legislative elections was held, marked not only by an insecure environment but also concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, both of which contributed to low voter turnout. The ruling party Rally for Mali (Rassemblement pour le Mali) finished first, winning 51 of 147 seats in parliament. Ahead of the first round of elections on 29 March, leading opposition politician Soumaïla Cissé was kidnapped in the Timbuktu region and at press time remained in captivity.
Recent months saw an upsurge in fighting between terrorist groups Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara as the latter sought to extend its area of influence, increasing competition for recruits and territory. Three MINUSMA peacekeepers from Chad were killed and four others injured on 10 May in an attack against a UN convoy in Aguelhoc using an improvised explosive device.
MINUSMA’s human rights division released a report on 30 April on trends in violations and abuses of international humanitarian and human rights laws in Mali during the first quarter of 2020. It included observations on the increased involvement of the Malian Defense and Security Forces (MDSF) in human rights violations. MDSF personnel were responsible, among other abuses, for 101 extrajudicial executions from 1 January to 31 March.
At the last Council meeting on Mali, by VTC on 6 April, Special Representative and head of MINUSMA Mahamat Saleh Annadif noted “some positive steps” in the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement. Particularly significant was the deployment since February of the first reconstituted units of the Malian defence and security forces—composed of national troops and integrated forces from northern armed groups—to Gao, Timbuktu, Kidal, and Ménaka. Annadif also addressed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Secretary-General’s decision to suspend the rotation of uniformed contingents in peace operations until 30 June. Exceptions to the policy would be made on a case-by-case basis.
In press elements following the meeting, members called on the government and the UN to continue working together to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and for MINUSMA to continue delivering on its mandate despite the pandemic while ensuring the safety and security of its staff and peacekeepers. MINUSMA has had over 50 COVID-19 cases among mission personnel, two-thirds of whom at the time of this writing have already recovered.
On 2 March, the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee held informal consultations to hear statements by Mali and regional states. According to a committee press release, Mali recalled that it requested the regime’s establishment as an additional instrument to accelerate the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement. Algeria, the chief mediator of the accord, suggested that the sanctions regime be firmly attached to the primary objective of promoting the implementation of the agreement.
Key Issues and Options
Assessing progress in implementing the 2015 peace agreement, MINUSMA’s primary strategic priority, is a key issue. This includes progress in the five priority areas or benchmarks set out in resolution 2480, which renewed MINUSMA’s mandate last year: constitutional reform, decentralisation, security sector reform, development of the north, and participation of women in the agreement’s implementation.
Another key issue is MINUSMA’s support to the government to stabilise the country’s centre and to protect civilians, which resolution 2480 established as the mission’s second strategic priority. This includes generating the resources and forces required for the Secretary-General’s December 2019 adaptation plan to provide MINUSMA with more specialised capacities, including air assets, to facilitate MINUSMA’s presence in two major areas, northern Mali and central Mali. During May, the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee began considering the plan’s financial implications. While it does not increase MINUSMA’s troop ceiling, the plan increases the mission’s budget by 5 percent from its 2019/2020 level, according to the Secretary-General’s 23 March report on Mali.
MINUSMA’s support for the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (FC-G5S), formed by Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger to combat terrorist groups and organised crime in the Sahel, is another key issue. MINUSMA is mandated to support the FC-G5S with life consumables, such as rations and fuel, and also to provide medical evacuation capacities and engineering support for FC-G5S units operating in Mali, for which MINUSMA is reimbursed through an agreement with the EU. Findings and recommendations of an assessment of MINUSMA’s support for the FC-G5S, requested in resolution 2480, will be included in the upcoming Secretary-General’s report on Mali.
Security trends in Mali and the wider region, human rights violations and combatting impunity, and transition-planning for the eventual reconfiguration of MINUSMA and transfer of tasks to the UN country team, Malian authorities and other stakeholders are among other issues. Also important is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, both on MINUSMA and on the implementation of the peace agreement.
For MINUSMA’s mandate renewal, the Council may consider setting out new benchmarks for the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement. It may also establish benchmarks to assess progress in addressing the situation in central Mali, which could include elements on accountability and restoring the Malian state’s presence. The Council may further express support for the adaptation plan and encourage member states to contribute the required capacities. On MINUSMA’s support for the G5 Sahel, the resolution could address limitations that have impeded the arrangement’s effectiveness, based on the findings of the Secretariat’s assessment. (For more on the FC-G5S, see the brief on the G5 Sahel Joint Force in this month’s Forecast.)
Members frequently highlight the importance of the 2015 peace agreement to the long-term stability of the Sahel, and they agreed on benchmarks last year in resolution 2480 to place greater pressure on the Malian parties to implement the accord. There are different views, however, on the effectiveness of MINUSMA. France, among other members, considers the mission’s role as very important to supporting the peace agreement’s implementation. The US is the most vocal in expressing frustration about delays in the peace process. It suggested at a January briefing that the Council deprioritise MINUSMA’s support in implementing the agreement and focus more on protecting civilians if there has not been more progress by the June renewal. During the April VTC, it said that the Council must assess what the mission can realistically accomplish. The US proposed a reduction in the troop ceiling in last year’s negotiations and has apparently objected to changes that would increase the mission’s budget. Niger, which is part of the G5 Sahel, has been profoundly affected by spillover from Mali’s instability.
France is the penholder on Mali. Ambassador José Singer Weisinger (Dominican Republic) chairs the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON MALI
|Security Council Resolutions|
|29 August 2019S/RES/2484||This resolution renewed the Mali sanctions measures (travel ban and asset freeze) until 31 August 2020 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts until 30 September 2020.|
|28 June 2019S/RES/2480||This renewed the mandate of MINUSMA until 30 June 2020, and included establishing as a second strategic priority that MINUSMA support government efforts to stabilise central Mali, and expanded the provision of MINUSMA life support consumables to all contingents in the G5 Sahel joint force.|
|Security Council Letter|
|9 April 2020S/2020/286||This contained the records of the briefings and statements made during the open part of the 7 April 2020 Council VTC meeting 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 Statements|
|11 May 2020SC/14181||This press statement condemned the 10 May attack against a MINUSMA convoy in Aguelhoc, in which three peacekeepers from Chad were killed and four others injured.|
|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 Document|
|3 April 2020SC/14156||This was a 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee press release on its 2 March meeting with Mali and regional states on the sanctions regime.|