January 2021 Monthly Forecast

AFRICA

Mali

Expected Council Action

In January, the Council is expected to hold a briefing, followed by consultations, 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. The report and the letter are due in late December 2020. The mandate of MINUSMA expires on 30 June 2021.

Key Recent Developments

Following the 18 August 2020 coup d’état that ousted Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) led negotiations with the new military authorities to establish a civilian-led political transition. This resulted in the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP)—created by officers involved in the coup—appointing former Colonel and Defence Minister Bah N’Daou as transitional president on 21 September 2020. Colonel Assimi Goïta, the head of the CNSP, was named transitional vice-president. On 28 September, Moctar Ouane, a former foreign minister and diplomat, was appointed as transitional prime minister.

On 1 October 2020, the CNSP published the transitional charter, setting out an 18-month period to organise new elections and implement reforms. The final version of the charter dropped a reference, at ECOWAS’ insistence, to the possibility that the vice-president could replace the president and limited the vice-president’s responsibilities to security and defence. A new 25-member government was announced on 5 October. On 3 December 2020, Transitional President N’daw appointed by decree the 121 members of the National Transitional Council to serve as an interim parliament, which will be responsible for voting on reforms and legislative changes.

ECOWAS, following the charter’s publication and appointment of the transition’s leadership, lifted on 6 October 2020 the sanctions it had imposed on Mali after the coup. In lifting sanctions, ECOWAS reiterated its demands that the new authorities dissolve the CNSP and release all military and civilian personnel who had been detained during the coup. (On 8 October, the government announced the release of the remaining 12 individuals arrested during the coup d’état.)

While the transitional institutions have been put in place, the military has sought to keep a strong hold on power. This is despite the push by ECOWAS and the June 5 Movement-Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP)—a coalition of civil society and political parties that held mass protests calling for Keïta’s resignation before the coup d’état—for the transition to be civilian-led. Army colonels were appointed to lead four government ministries: the important portfolios of defence, security, territorial administration, and national reconciliation. The military was allocated 22 seats on the National Transitional Council, the largest block of any group, and on 5 December 2020, the transitional legislature elected as its president Colonel Malick Diaw, one of the organisers of the coup. Of 17 newly appointed governors, 11 are from the military, bringing the total number of regions governed by military or police officers to 13 out of 20. The military has also yet to disband the CNSP.

The developments in Bamako overshadowed efforts to implement the 2015 Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement between the government and signatory armed groups in the north. In a positive sign, however, representatives of the signatory movements were appointed to the new government for the first time since the agreement. During an 8 October 2020 Council briefing, Special Representative and head of MINUSMA Mahamat Saleh Annadif described the development as “highly symbolic and significant.”

Terrorist attacks continue in Mali’s centre and north while intercommunal violence, often fuelled by terrorist groups, plagues central Mali. On 8 October 2020, Malian authorities announced the release of four hostages being detained by the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM), including Malian politician Soumaïla Cissé, who was kidnapped in March 2020, and French aid worker Sophie Petronin, who had been held for nearly four years. In exchange, the government reportedly released 200 prisoners. (Cissé, a likely top presidential candidate for the 2022 election, died on 25 December 2020 from coronavirus, according to his family.) On 13 November 2020, France announced that senior JNIM leader Bah ag Moussa had been killed three days earlier in Mali’s Menaka region during an operation by the French regional counter-terrorism force Operation Barkhane. Ag Moussa was a former Malian colonel who had been sanctioned by the Security Council under the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida sanctions regime.

Following the 8 October 2020 briefing on Mali, on 15 October the Security Council adopted a presidential statement that welcomed the new transitional arrangements.  The statement underlined that the transition should lead to constitutional order and elections in Mali within 18 months, called for the dissolution of the CNSP, and recognised the importance of political, institutional, electoral, administrative, and security sector reforms as set out in the Transition Charter and the Transition Roadmap. It further reiterated the importance of the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement; called on the authorities to expedite action to protect civilians, reduce intercommunal violence and restore peaceful relations between communities in central Mali; and reaffirmed the importance of fighting terrorism.

Key Issues and Options

Mali’s political transition is a key issue. This includes military-civil relations and the extent to which the military is ceding power to civilian leadership, stakeholders’ upholding the transition charter and progress in advancing envisioned reforms, especially those concerning the electoral process.

Recurring issues related to the Council’s consideration of Mali remain important: progress in implementing the 2015 peace agreement, the stabilisation of central Mali and protection of civilians, and the overall security situation. When renewing MINUSMA’s mandate last June, the Council updated benchmarks for assessing progress on the implementation of the peace agreement (security sector reform, constitutional and decentralisation reforms, the development of the north, and the participation of women). The mandate renewal also created two benchmarks for the situation in Mali’s centre: on restoring the Malian state presence and on fighting impunity.

Sanctions, which were established in 2017 to pressure the peace agreement’s signatory parties to speed up its implementation, remain a Council tool. Members could consider how the sanctions regime might be used in support of the political transition.

Council Dynamics

Since the coup d’état, the Council has sought to support ECOWAS’s mediation efforts and back whatever agreement it concluded (even before the coup, amid the major protests against President Keïta, Council members deferred to ECOWAS’s mediation efforts to resolve that crisis). Following the ECOWAS-brokered transition, the Council acted to support the agreement by welcoming the new arrangements and further setting out its expectations that the new authorities should complete the transition in 18 months while continuing to implement the 2015 peace agreement and carrying out efforts to stabilise central Mali and to combat terrorism.

France is the penholder on Mali. At the time of writing, it had not been announced who would assume the chairmanship of the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee from Ambassador José Singer Weisinger of the Dominican Republic, which is concluding its Council term.

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 Presidential Statement
15 October 2020S/PRST/2020/10 This presidential statement welcomed the new transitional arrangements in Mali following the 18 August coup d’état and outlined expectations of the way forward.
Security Council Meeting Record
8 October 2020S/PV.8765 This was a briefing on Mali with Special Representative and head of MINUSMA Mahamat Saleh Annadif.
Security Council Press Statements
16 October 2020SC/14330 This press statement condemned in the strongest terms the 15 October attack against MINUSMA in Kidal region, which killed one peacekeeper from Egypt and seriously injured one other, as well as the attack against a MINUSMA integrated camp in Timbuktu, which injured at least one peacekeeper from Burkina Faso.
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.