Expected Council Action
In August, the Council is due to renew the Mali sanctions regime, which expires on 31 August, as well as the mandate of the Panel of Experts, which expires on 30 September. Ahead of the sanctions renewal, the Council is expected to receive the Mali Panel of Experts’ final report.
The mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) expires on 30 June 2021.
Key Recent Developments
Since June, Mali has seen a fresh sociopolitical crisis, with tens of thousands of people protesting in Bamako against the government. A coalition of opposition and civil society groups known as the June 5 Movement-Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP) and led by Imam Mahmoud Dicko organised mass protests on 5 and 19 June, calling for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita because of continued insecurity, the struggling economy, corruption, and the Constitutional Court’s decision to annul 5.2-percent of the votes cast in the long-delayed legislative elections held this spring. The court’s ruling on 30 April, a key trigger for the demonstrations, overturned provisional results for 31 seats (out of 147), which increased the parliamentary representation of Keita’s party by ten seats.
From 18 to 20 June, a high-level delegation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)—including the Nigérien and Nigerian foreign ministers, Kalla Ankourao and Geoffrey Onyeama, respectively, and the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou—were in Mali to mediate the dispute. The ministerial mission called for the formation of a unity government and rerunning the elections for the disputed legislative seats.
On 11 and 12 July, at least 11 protesters were killed and 150 people were injured in Bamako. Security forces fired live ammunition at protesters who looted the parliament, besieged the national broadcaster’s office, and attacked the offices of the ruling party. In a 12 July joint statement, MINUSMA, the AU, ECOWAS and the EU condemned “any form of violence as a means of crisis resolution” and also condemned the authorities’ “use of lethal force” to maintain order. The joint statement encouraged the government to release protest leaders who had been arrested and expressed support for ECOWAS’ proposals to end the crisis. That same day, Keita announced that he had dissolved the constitutional court and said that he was willing to consider re-doing the contested legislative elections. Amid the unrest, Mali continues to face terrorist attacks in its centre and north as well as inter-communal violence.
A second ECOWAS mission was in Mali from 15 to 19 July, led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. The M5-RFP rejected the ECOWAS reform proposals because they did not call for Keita to resign. Conversely, the ECOWAS communiqué on the mission made clear that Keita’s resignation was a red line for the regional bloc, stating that it would “not tolerate” any unconstitutional ascension to power.
Several days later, on 23 July, the presidents of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal went to Bamako to meet with President Keita and Dicko. On 27 July, ECOWAS held an extraordinary summit on the crisis, conducted virtually, where the heads of state reported on their mission. In its recommendations following the summit, ECOWAS proposed that the 31 MPs whose electoral results were contested resign and that new elections be held. It again recommended the formation of a unity government that includes the opposition. ECOWAS said its plan should be implemented within ten days and recommended sanctions against those who impede it. That same day, Council members held a closed videoconference, requested by Russia, on the situation. In press elements, members expressed strong support for ECOWAS’ mediation and took note of the summit recommendations.
In July, French and Estonian troops deployed to Mali as the first units of the newly launched Task Force Takuba. The French-led special-forces operation, which will include contingents from other European countries, will support Malian forces fighting the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) in the Liptako-Gourma border region with Burkina Faso and Niger.
On 29 June, the Council renewed the mandate of MINUSMA for one year. The new mandate updated last year’s benchmarks—referred to as priority measures in the text—for implementing the 2015 Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement between the government and armed groups in the north on security sector reform, constitutional and other institutional reforms, the development of the north, and the participation of women. It also established benchmarks for the Malian government to meet in central Mali over the next year for re-establishing state presence and state authority and for fighting impunity.
In a 28 July presidential statement on West Africa and the Sahel, the Council urged Malian stakeholders to prioritise the use of dialogue to resolve the situation, without delay, based on ECOWAS’ recommendations from 19 July; to refrain from any action likely to fuel further tensions; and to work inclusively and constructively to preserve the rule of law.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In a 17 July press briefing note, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Liz Throssell, said that there was particular concern about the events in Bamako from 10 to 12 July when special forces (the Force spéciale antiterroriste, or Forsat) were reported to have fired lethal ammunition during clashes with demonstrators. The Human Rights and Protection Division of MINUSMA confirmed that at least 14 protesters—including one woman and two boys—were killed and 154 others injured. Throssell said that it was essential that “all alleged human rights violations and acts of violence committed during the demonstrations are the subject of prompt, thorough, transparent and independent investigations and that those responsible are held accountable”.
The note also mentioned that the MINUSMA Human Rights and Protection Division, in line with its mandate, had launched a fact-finding mission to “examine allegations of serious human rights violations perpetrated in connection with the protests”. Throssell reported that the Malian National Human Rights Commission said on 13 July that it had been denied access to the demonstrators in custody. OHCHR had reminded the authorities “of their obligations to support, and not impede, the work of the national human rights institution and civil society organisations which play an important role regarding the promotion and protection of the human rights of everyone in Mali”, she said.
On 22 June, the Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted without a vote resolution 43/38 on “technical assistance and capacity-building for Mali in the field of human rights”. The resolution underscored that Security Council resolution 2374 of 2017 “establishes a regime of targeted sanctions against, in particular…those who plan, direct or conduct human rights violations or abuses or violations of international humanitarian law”. The HRC resolution also noted the subsequent imposition of Council sanctions on eight individuals in December 2018 and July 2019.
Key Issues and Options
The recent political crisis and protests pose a new issue of concern, with potential repercussions for implementing the peace agreement and addressing the ongoing major security threats in Mali’s north and centre.
A key issue for August will be assessing the impact of the Mali sanctions—an assets freeze and travel ban—established in 2017 for individuals or entities threatening the peace, security and stability of Mali. Sanctions remain an important Council tool to pressure the signatory parties of the 2015 peace agreement to advance the accord’s implementation, for which there have been signs of greater progress this year. A criticism of the sanctions’ application is that current sanctioned individuals are all from the north, including the one parliamentarian who is listed by the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee. One issue is how to be more balanced in also targeting the government for hindering the agreement’s implementation. Members could further consider how the sanctions regime may be used to support efforts to stabilise the situation in central Mali. The 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee is expected to discuss the Panel of Experts’ final report in early August ahead of the expected renewal of the sanctions regime later in the month.
On sanctions, the P3, among other Council members, support their use against those obstructing the peace agreement. Russia is the most sceptical about sanctions, at times raising concerns about whether new designations may further alienate spoilers, as opposed to the intended effect of changing their behaviour.
On the current political crisis, the A3 have championed ECOWAS’ positions and efforts, which members appear to support. Overall, Council members remain concerned about the security situation and consider implementation of the peace agreement as crucial for achieving broader stability in the Sahel. Niger has been profoundly affected by Mali’s insecurity, with spillover from terrorist groups. The US has questioned the effectiveness of MINUSMA, at times pitting its positions on Mali against other Council members that consider the mission’s role to be crucial. The June mandate renewal for MINUSMA, however, proceeded more smoothly than members thought might be the case in light of the US’ views on the mission, its cost, and frustration over the peace accord’s faulty implementation.
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 June 2020S/RES/2531||This renewed the mandate of MINUSMA until 30 June 2021.|
|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.|
|Security Council Letter|
|16 June 2020S/2020/541||This contained the records of the briefings and statements made during the 11 June 2020 Council VTC meeting on Mali.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|14 June 2020SC/14213||This was a press statement, condemning an attack on a MINSUMA convoy that killed two peacekeepers from Egypt.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|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.|
|28 February 2020S/2020/158||This is the mid-term report of the Mali Panel of Experts.|