Expected Council Action
In October, the Council is expected to hold a briefing on Mali, followed by consultations, with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Mahamat Saleh Annadif. The mandate of MINUSMA ends on 30 June 2021. The Mali sanctions measures—a travel ban and an assets freeze—expire on 31 August 2021, and the mandate of the Mali Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts expires on 30 September 2021.
Key Recent Developments
Starting in June, protests gripped the capital, Bamako. A coalition of opposition and civil society groups known as the June 5 Movement-Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP), led by Imam Mahmoud Dicko, demanded that President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta resign because of continued insecurity, poor governance and corruption. A Constitutional Court ruling in late April that benefitted Keita’s ruling party by overturning election results for 21 seats to the National Assembly triggered the demonstrations that took place on 5 and 19 June. Further protests on 11 and 12 July turned violent, with at least 11 protesters killed by security forces.
On 18 August, soldiers in the Kati barracks located about 15 kilometres outside Bamako mutinied. From Kati, the soldiers entered Bamako and arrested President Keïta and Prime Minister Boubou Cissé at Keita’s residence and detained other government officials, amid cheering crowds. In a televised address that night, Keïta announced his resignation and the dissolution of the government and National Assembly. Military officers who led the coup d’état then announced the formation of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), headed by special forces Colonel Assimi Goïta.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other multilateral organisations and governments quickly condemned the unfolding developments. ECOWAS suspended Mali from all decision-making bodies of the regional organisation, as it did after a 2012 coup, and announced sanctions, closing all land and air borders with Mali and stopping all trade and financial flows and transactions between its member states and Mali. The AU Peace and Security Council, following an emergency meeting on 19 August, announced Mali’s suspension from AU activities until constitutional order was restored. The Security Council issued a press statement that same day, ahead of its own emergency videoconference (VTC) session, demanding that all detained officials be released and reiterating Council members’ strong support of ECOWAS’ initiatives and mediation efforts.
Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, whom ECOWAS appointed in July as its mediator to resolve Mali’s political crisis, was in Mali from 22 to 24 August. Jonathan met with Keïta—who reportedly told the ECOWAS mediator that he was not interested in returning to power—and, among others, with CNSP leaders, who proposed a three-year transition for returning the country to constitutional order. On 28 August, ECOWAS convened an extraordinary summit by VTC, with a briefing by Jonathan. In a declaration, West African leaders called for the quick establishment of a transition government to oversee a one-year transition period leading to new presidential and parliamentary elections. At an ECOWAS summit on 7 September, West African leaders called for the appointment of the transition president and new prime minister by 15 September.
ECOWAS discussions with the CNSP have focused on the length of the transition—the sides appear to be settling on an 18-month time period—and the role of the military in the transition government. At a 15 September ECOWAS “mini-summit” held with the CNSP leadership, West African leaders insisted that the president and prime minister of the transition must be civilians, and committed to lifting the sanctions once they are appointed. The CNSP also launched a series of talks, including a “national consultation” conference from 10 to 12 September with Mali’s civilian opposition groups. The M5-RFP rejected the CNSP’s proposal at the conference’s conclusion, as the plan would allow the military to lead a transition period.
On 21 September, the CNSP announced the new interim president, Bah N’Daw. While currently a civilian, N’Daw is a retired colonel and former defence minister under Keïta. Colonel Goïta of the CNSP was named vice-president. Jonathan led a new ECOWAS mission from 23 to 25 September to Mali, meeting with N’Daw. A communiqué at the mission’s conclusion said that ECOWAS would lift sanctions once a civilian prime minister is appointed. On 28 September, N’Daw appointed Moctar Ouane as transitional prime minister. Ouane was foreign minister from 2004 to 2009, and before that was Mali’s permanent representative to the UN.
Meanwhile, Keïta was released from detention on 27 August, and on 5 September, it was reported that he had gone to the United Arab Emirates for medical treatment.
In August, the Council renewed the Mali sanctions regime, which was established in 2017 to pressure the government and northern Mali armed groups to implement the 2015 Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. Resolution 2541, which extended the sanctions for one year, reiterated the Council’s condemnation of the mutiny and its support for ECOWAS. It added that the Council was ready to “discuss this matter…in light of the potential implications of these recent developments on the implementation of the Agreement”.
Human Rights-Related Developments
Addressing the Human Rights Council (HRC) at the opening of its 45th session on 14 September, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet underscored that it was “vital” for human rights in Mali to be upheld, particularly during security operations, especially because of the “extreme fragility of the security situation.” Bachelet also emphasised that everyone who had been illegally detained during the coup d’état in August should be released and “all continuing discussions of transitional political arrangements should have the fundamental rights of all Malians at their core”. She noted her deep concern about the economic impact of the sanctions that ECOWAS had recently imposed, particularly in a context where “extreme poverty, conflicts and insecurity—and climate hazards such as floods and droughts—are creating great hardship and deteriorating humanitarian conditions”.
On 8 September, two UN human rights experts (Alioune Tine, the HRC’s independent expert on human rights in Mali, and Tomoya Obokata, the HRC’s Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery) called on Mali to “end slavery once and for all” after four men who were born into slavery were beaten to death and an 80-year-old woman and two other people were hospitalised with severe injuries on 1 September. “Nothing can justify the persistence of the practice of slavery”, said Tine in a press release on the appeal. Both experts called for “a prompt, transparent, impartial and thorough investigation” into the attack. These incidents “illustrate the failure of the Malian State to implement its international commitments to protect human rights. In some cases, traditional chiefs and State authorities clearly seem to be accomplices of the perpetrators”. Tine and Obokata called on Mali urgently to adopt a law explicitly criminalising slavery, following the example of states such as Niger and Mauritania, and to cooperate with human rights organisations to conduct a national campaign aimed at abolishing slavery.
In a 23 September press release, Tine called on coup leaders to immediately release all former government officials who were detained in August, saying that “[t]here is no legal basis” for the continued detentions. Of the 18 people arrested, at least 13 people are still being held at the Kati military camp, according to the press release.
Key Issues and Options
The establishment of a transition period for restoring constitutional order is a key issue. In planning for the transition and future elections, an important issue is accounting for the recurring problems of poor governance and corruption. Both have led to a lack of public confidence in the authorities and to the failure to stabilise Mali since the 2012 coup d’état despite sustained international attention and support during this period.
The risk that terrorist groups in northern and central Mali will exploit the political upheaval in Bamako is an additional concern. Furthermore, the situation distracts from efforts in implementing the already-slow moving Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement produced by the Algiers process. In announcing the CNSP’s formation, its spokesperson Major-Colonel Ismaël Wagué said that MINUSMA, the French regional counter-terrorism force Operation Barkhane, the Group of Five for the Sahel Joint Force and the European Task Force Takuba “remain partners for the restoration of stability” and that “[a]ll past agreements, including the Algiers process signed in 2015, will be respected”.
Council members have been monitoring the ECOWAS mediation process on establishing a transition government, and they may endorse any solution that emerges from those negotiations.
Council and Wider Dynamics
During its mediation efforts in June and July between the government and M5-RFP, ECOWAS was adamant that Keïta should not be forced to step down and that it could not accept any unconstitutional change in power. At Council members’ 19 August emergency VTC meeting, the Council’s three African members, known as the A3, took the position that Keïta must return to the presidency. Other Council members focused on the importance of quickly establishing a transition period, recognising that Keita would not be able to return to power given his unpopularity in the country. ECOWAS, also recognising this, shifted its efforts towards supporting a civilian-led political transition of limited duration. Council member Niger, which borders Mali, has been profoundly affected by Mali’s insecurity. Overall, Council members appear to be watching and prepared to support the outcome of ECOWAS’ negotiations.
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|
|31 August 2020S/RES/2541||This renewed the Mali sanctions regime for one year.|
|29 June 2020S/RES/2531||This renewed the mandate of MINUSMA until 30 June 2021.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|19 August 2020SC/14279||This press statement strongly condemned the mutiny which happened in Kati, Mali, on 18 August 2020, and subsequent arrest of the Mali’s president and other government officials.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|13 August 2020S/2020/785||This was the final report on the Mali Panel of Experts.|