Expected Council Action
In April, the Council will hold its quarterly briefing on Mali, followed by consultations. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is expected to brief. The mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) expires on 30 June 2021.
Key Recent Developments
Since the August 2020 coup d’état, Mali’s transitional institutions—which are to govern for 18 months before elections are held in March 2022 to restore a democratically elected government—have become fully operational. On 10 February, the interim parliament known as the National Transitional Council began its first session, and on 22 February, it approved the government action plan proposed by transitional prime minister Moctar Ouane. The action plan sets out six priority areas, including institutional reforms, moving forward with elections and openness to dialogue with extremist groups.
The Monitoring and Support Group for the Transition in Mali, co-chaired by the UN, the AU and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), held its second meeting on 8 March in Lomé, Togo. A communiqué issued following the meeting “took note with satisfaction of the progress” made since the support group’s inaugural meeting in November 2020, while recalling the need for dialogue between Malian stakeholders. The military has maintained a strong role in the transition, and tensions continue between the interim authorities and political groups and civil society.
On 11 February, the Monitoring Committee of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement between the Malian government and signatory armed groups met in Kidal, its first meeting held outside of Bamako since the agreement was signed in 2015. Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum chaired the meeting, which brought together six Malian ministers, the leadership of the signatory armed groups and international mediators. In a press release, the Secretary-General welcomed this “new momentum and the growing trust among the signatory parties” and “encourage[d] the signatory parties to build upon this positive dynamic by translating the agreed commitments into actions”.
Terrorist attacks continue in central Mali. On 15 March, at least 33 Malian soldiers were killed and 14 wounded in an attack on their convoy near the town of Tessit, located in the Gao region; the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara claimed responsibility. It was the deadliest attack against Malian forces since the August 2020 coup.
Six MINUSMA peacekeepers have been killed in attacks since January. Four peacekeepers from Côte d’Ivoire were killed and five injured in a 13 January attack in the Timbuktu region. Two days later, one Egyptian peacekeeper was killed and another seriously injured near Tessalit in Kidal region. On 10 February, assailants reportedly drove an explosives-laden vehicle into a MINUSMA base near Douentza, then opened fire with mortars and automatic weapons before peacekeepers repelled the attack. One peacekeeper from Togo was killed and 27 were injured.
On 15 March, the UN announced the appointment of El-Ghassim Wane of Mauritania as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of MINUSMA. Wane succeeds Mahamat Saleh Annadif, who headed the mission for the last five years. (On 26 March, the UN announced Annadif’s appointment as the head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel.)
In mid-March, a Malian court ended the trial of Amadou Sanogo, leader of a 2012 coup d’état against President Amadou Toumani Touré, who was accused of involvement in killing 21 paratroopers during a failed counter-coup. It also ended proceedings against 15 other defendants. In making the decision, the court cited a 2019 reconciliation law offering amnesty or pardon for specific crimes committed during the 2012 crisis.
Regionally, a summit of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), to which Mali belongs, was held from 15 to 16 February in N’Djamena, Chad. There has been speculation that France may start withdrawing troops from Operation Barkhane, its 5,100-strong counter-terrorism force in the Sahel. However, French President Emmanuel Macron, participating virtually, announced at the summit that France would not be downsizing, called for a “civilian surge” to complement military efforts and continued to oppose dialogue with jihadist leaders.
Mali’s neighbours continue to face violence from terrorist groups that have also provoked inter-communal conflict. Niger experienced several lethal attacks near its border with Mali during March: assailants killed at least 58 civilians on 15 March in Banibangou in the Tillabéri region and attacked a series of villages on 21 March in the Tahou region, leaving at least 137 people dead.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 46th session, the Human Rights Council held an interactive dialogue on 22 March with the independent expert on Mali, Alioune Tine, and considered his report (A/HRC/46/68). Tine said the situation “remained concerning in the north and centre of Mali, where civilians continued to be attacked by violent extremist groups as well as armed community self-defence groups, despite the presence of international and national security forces”. He recommended that MINUSMA respond proactively to threats against civilians.
On 30 March, MINUSMA’s Human Rights Division released a report concluding that a 3 January airstrike by Operation Barkhane killed at least 19 civilians at a wedding party in the town of Bounti in central Mali. The French military had previously asserted that the strike had killed around 30 jihadists. According to the report, five armed individuals belonging to terrorist group Katiba Serma attended the wedding, three of whom were killed. In a statement, France’s ministry of defense said that it “reaffirms strongly” that the airstrike targeted an “armed terrorist group” and indicated that it had “numerous reservations about the methodology used” in the report.
On 9 February, the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee met via videoconference to consider the midterm report of the Mali Panel of Experts. A committee press release noted that the midterm report highlights the main political and security developments concerning the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali and its signatory parties between September 2020 and January 2021 and provides an update on the implementation of the sanctions regime.
Key Issues and Options
Mali’s political transition is a key issue. In this regard, having the Council emphasise the importance of stakeholders’ upholding their obligations in the transition charter and making progress in envisioned reforms, especially related to the electoral process, may be useful.
Recurring issues that continue to require the Council’s attention include: progress in implementing the 2015 peace agreement, the stabilisation of central Mali and protection of civilians, and the overall security situation. When it renewed MINUSMA’s mandate last June through resolution 2531, the Council updated the 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.
Next month, Council members will also be considering a Secretary-General’s letter on a long-term road map that sets out the conditions for a possible exit strategy requested in resolution 2531. Received by members on 26 March, the letter focuses on the objectives to achieve by the end of the political transition, and notes that it is “premature” to envisage any drawdown or transfer of MINUSMA’s security responsibilities to national forces immediately following the elections. Another issue is MINUSMA’s support for the G5 Sahel Joint Force (FC-G5S), which comprises operational assistance, such as the provision of rations and fuel, and some logistical support. The Secretariat’s assessment of this support is expected to be included in the Secretary-General’s May report on the FC-G5S.
An option for the Council, leading up to MINUSMA’s mandate renewal in June, is to conduct a “virtual” mission to Mali to engage interlocutors in the country. The Council last visited Mali in March 2019 and had to cancel plans for an April 2020 mission due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
Following last year’s coup d’état, the Council has been united in supporting the mediation efforts of ECOWAS and backing any agreement it concluded to restore a civilian government. When Malian stakeholders agreed to the ECOWAS-brokered political transition in October 2020, the Council welcomed the new arrangements in a presidential statement and set out its expectations that the new authorities would complete the transition in 18 months while continuing to implement the 2015 peace agreement and carry out efforts to stabilise central Mali and combat terrorism.
France is the penholder on Mali. Ambassador Juan Ramón de la Fuente Ramírez (Mexico) chairs the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON MALI
|Security Council Resolution|
|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.|
|28 December 2020S/2020/1281||This was a Secretary-General’s report on Mali.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|17 February 2021S/2021/151||This was the mid-term report of the Mali Panel of Experts.|
|Security Council Letter|
|23 December 2020S/2020/1282||This is a Secretary-General’s letter on MINUSMA operations, including security challenges, and transitional planning.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|12 February 2021SC/14436||This press statement condemned the 10 February attack against MINUSMA near Douentza, in which one peacekeeper from Togo was killed and 27 peacekeepers injured.|
|18 January 2021SC/14414||This press statement condemned the attack on 15 January against MINUSMA near Tessalit in Kidal region, which killed one peacekeeper from Egypt, and seriously injured another.|
|14 January 2021SC/14411||This press statement condemned the attack perpetrated on 13 January 2021 against MINUSMA to the north of the town of Bambara-Maoudé, in Timbuktu region, which resulted in four peacekeepers from Côte d’Ivoire killed and five others injured.|