Expected Council Action
In August, the Council is expected to renew the Mali asset freeze and travel ban sanctions, which expire on 31 August, and the mandate of the Mali Panel of Experts, which expires on 30 September. Council members are further expected to consider the Secretary-General’s 15 July report with recommendations on the force level of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The mandate of MINUSMA expires on 30 June 2022.
Key Recent Developments
On 29 June, the Council adopted resolution 2584, which renewed the mandate of MINUSMA for one year. The new mandate updated MINUSMA’s primary strategic priority to include supporting Mali’s political transition to restore an elected government following two coups d’état in August 2020 and in May. The Council further called on all Malian stakeholders to facilitate the resumption and full realisation of the transition and handover of power to elected civilian authorities, reaffirming the need to respect the 18-month transition period and the 27 February 2022 date set for the presidential and legislative elections.
In light of the growing level of insecurity and physical violence against civilians in central Mali, resolution 2584 requested a Secretary-General’s report by 15 July on progress in implementing MINUSMA’s force adaptation plan and recommendations on force levels and the ceiling of MINUSMA’s uniformed personnel. The Secretary-General submitted his report on 15 July, proposing an increase in MINUSMA’s authorised force ceiling by 2,069 uniformed personnel—1,730 military personnel, 300 formed police unit personnel and 39 individual police officers. (The mission’s current ceiling is 13,289 military personnel and 1,920 police.)
The report said that the increase would enhance MINUSMA’s ability to protect civilians in central Mali and create further space for the peace process in the north. It said, however, that MINSUMA will not be able to make a sustained difference absent a strong and coherent vision on the part of the government and a reinforced presence of the Malian state. According to the report, an expansion in the mission’s authorised strength should be accompanied by a Malian-led, clearly articulated stabilisation vision and strategy to protect civilians.
Mali remains suspended from the AU and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) following its second coup d’état in a nine-month period when military officials ousted the country’s transitional authorities on 24 May. Colonel Assimi Göita, who led both coups and had been serving as transitional vice-president, was sworn in as Mali’s new transitional president on 7 June. That same day, in accordance with ECOWAS’ request, Göita appointed a civilian prime minister, Choguel Maïga. On 11 June, Maïga formed a new government comprising 28 members, with the military keeping the strategic ministries of defence, security and national reconciliation. In a potentially positive step, Maïga announced on 11 July that he supported the formation of a single electoral body, Organe unique de gestion des elections, to replace Mali’s discredited election architecture. Despite the calls for a more streamlined electoral management system, some political parties and civil society groups raised concerns that the new body could be used to extend the transition period or strengthen the military’s control over the electoral process.
On 20 July, Göita was the target of an assassination attempt during prayers at the Grand Mosque in Bamako for the holiday of Eid al-Adha. Göita was unhurt when a man lunged at Göita with a knife, according to an AFP journalist who witnessed the incident. On 25 July, the government reported that the man had died in custody.
On 28 June, France announced that after consultations with the transitional authorities and regional countries, it would resume joint military operations and advisory missions with Malian forces, which France suspended following the 24 May coup. Meanwhile, terrorist groups continue to launch attacks in northern and central Mali. On 25 June, 13 MINUSMA peacekeepers—12 from Germany and one from Belgium—were wounded, three seriously, in a car bomb attack targeting a temporary base set up by the peacekeepers in Mali’s northern Gao region. Also that day, six Malian soldiers were killed and one wounded in an attack on a military outpost in Boni in Mali’s central Mopti region. On 21 June, six French soldiers and four civilians were injured in a car bomb attack in the Timbuktu region.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In a 29 June statement, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed deep concern over the rise in human rights violations and abuses in Mali since August 2020. According to the statement, there were attacks over the previous six months by groups such as the Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), as well as violence across communal lines, all resulting in civilian casualties. MINUSMA’s Human Rights and Protection Division recorded 617 human rights abuses, including 165 killings by armed groups, from January to June, representing an increase of about 37 per cent compared to August to December 2020, the statement said.
The 2374 Committee met on 23 July to discuss the Mali Panel of Experts’ final report. Among its findings, the final report, which is not yet available publically, apparently sets out how the implementation of the 2015 Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement has been slowed by the political developments of the past year.
Women, Peace and Security
On 17 June, the Women’s Observatory for Political Participation, Peace and Reconciliation in Mali (Observatoire des femmes pour la participation politique, la paix et la réconciliation au Mali) was launched in Bamako. The observatory is aimed at strengthening women’s participation in the Malian political process as well as in the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement.
The launch was attended by women from the Agreement Monitoring Committee, the National Transition Council and the Cadre de Concertation des Femmes des Partis Politiques. Also in attendance were UN officials, including Special Representative for Mali and head of MINUSMA El-Ghassim Wane, and members of civil society organisations. Among the key proposals agreed during the meeting was the inclusion of missions to monitor the peace agreement’s implementation in the Malian regions within the mandate of the observatory.
In his 1 June report on Mali, the Secretary-General had urged the government and the armed groups who signed the peace agreement to “increase ownership of the peace process, including by taking further steps to enhance the participation of women”. The observatory emerged from the recommendations of a January 2020 national workshop on women’s participation in the implementation of the peace agreement, in which 200 women participated from the ten regions of Mali and the Bamako district. The workshop was facilitated by MINUSMA and UN Women.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for Council members will be to assess and renew the Mali sanctions measures established in 2017 to increase pressure on the signatory parties of the 2015 Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement to speed up its implementation. Another key issue for Council members during August will be to consider the Secretary-General’s report on MINUSMA’s force levels in light of the deteriorating security situation in central Mali. Progress in Mali’s political transition remains an underlying concern as it has diverted attention from implementing the peace agreement and tackling the country’s security challenges.
In renewing the Mali sanctions, the resolution could address issues that the Panel of Experts final report reportedly raises, such as child labour in artisanal gold mines, sexual violence and the possible designation of entities owned or partly owned by sanctioned individuals. Consideration could be given to expanding the designation criteria to include obstruction of the political transition.
Council members may begin discussions on authorising the Secretary-General’s proposed increase in the force ceiling, which could include approving up to 2,069 new personnel. If the Council authorises additional peacekeepers, it may further reiterate the need for Malian authorities to develop and follow through with a comprehensive strategy to stabilise the centre and protect civilians.
During Council negotiations to renew MINUSMA, France proposed increasing the mission’s force levels by 2,069 personnel. It noted that when the Council directed MINUSMA to support efforts to stabilise central Mali as the mission’s “second strategic priority” in 2019, it did so without increasing the troop ceiling. Council members, however, were not prepared to support the idea absent a formal proposal from the Secretary-General, and therefore the Council requested the Secretary-General’s report on the mission’s force level. Some members also seemed concerned that France’s proposal came just as it announced that it would drawdown Operation Barkhane, its regional counter-terrorism force in the Sahel. China expressed the greatest reluctance, using its explanation of vote at resolution 2584’s adoption to highlight that the most recent Secretary-General’s report, dated 1 June, did not mention raising the troop ceiling, and, in their view, a new report on the issue by mid-July was unwarranted.
On sanctions, the P3, among other Council members, have supported their use against those obstructing the peace agreement. Russia has been the most sceptical about sanctions, at times raising concerns about whether new designations may alienate spoilers, as opposed to the intended effect of changing their behaviour.
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 Resolutions|
|29 June 2021S/RES/2584||This resolution renewed the mandate of MINUSMA until 30 June 2022.|
|31 August 2020S/RES/2541||This renewed the Mali sanctions regime for one year.|
|16 July 2021S/2021/657||This Secretary-General’s report recommended increasing MINUSMA’s force ceiling by 2,069 uniformed personnel.|
|Security Council Letter|
|6 July 2021S/2021/628||This letter contained the communiqué of the 43rd session of the Follow-up Committee on the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali emanating from the Algiers process, held in Bamako on 29 June 2021.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|29 June 2021S/PV.8809||This contained explanations of vote by Niger (on behalf of the “A3 plus 1”), the US, India, the UK and China at the adoption of the MINUSMA mandate renewal.|
|14 June 2021S/PV.8794||This was a briefing on Mali.|