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.
Key Recent Developments
On 29 June, the Security Council adopted resolution 2640, extending the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) until 30 June 2023. Resolution 2640 maintained the mission’s strategic priorities to support the implementation of the 2015 Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, the political transition, and efforts to stabilise central Mali. It called for a cessation of all restrictions on MINUSMA’s freedom of movement and expressed serious concerns about repeated and increased allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the Malian defence and security forces.
Resolution 2640 further expressed support for the Secretary-General’s plan to conduct an internal review of MINUSMA. This should, according to the resolution, be submitted no later than 13 January 2023 and include analysis of the political and security challenges affecting the mission’s ability to implement its mandate; an assessment of cooperation with the host country authorities and movement restrictions; recommendations about the necessary conditions for MINUSMA to continue operating; and options for MINUSMA’s future configuration, force levels, and uniformed personnel ceiling.
For the first time, the Council adopted the resolution renewing MINUSMA’s mandate without unanimity as China and Russia abstained. They cited concerns over the resolution’s “intrusive language” on human rights and the excessive emphasis placed on MINUSMA’s human rights mandate. Malian Ambassador Issa Konfourou, speaking at the adoption, reiterated Mali’s “firm opposition to the freedom of movement of MINUSMA in the execution of its human rights mandate” and told the Council that “Mali does not intend to implement those provisions of the resolution”.
At a 3 July summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Accra, Ghana, West African leaders lifted the economic and financial sanctions on Mali that the regional bloc had imposed on 9 January. In taking this decision, ECOWAS cited the Malian authorities’ submission of a new timetable to hold elections to restore civilian rule by 29 March 2024. Asset freeze and travel ban sanctions that ECOWAS established in November 2021 on individual members of the transitional authorities remain in place.
On 10 July, Malian authorities arrested 49 soldiers from Côte d’Ivoire who had arrived at Mali’s international airport. Mali said the soldiers had arrived without permission and accused them of being mercenaries. Authorities also noted that some of the arrested soldiers’ passports indicated non-military professions and that they had been inconsistent in explaining why they had been deployed.
Côte d’Ivoire demanded the release of the soldiers in a 13 July statement. It said that the soldiers were deployed as part of a security and logistics support contract signed with MINUSMA in 2019 and that their mission order had been sent to airport authorities and the transitional government before their arrival. MINUSMA spokesperson Olivier Salgado supported Côte d’Ivoire’s version of events in a series of tweets on 11 July, indicating that they were part of a unit that provided routine logistical support to MINUSMA’s Ivorian military contingent.
On 14 July, Mali announced that it was suspending all MINUSMA troop rotations, including those already scheduled, for “national security” reasons. Since February, the authorities have blocked the rotations of seven West African contingents to MINUSMA in retaliation for the ECOWAS sanctions imposed in January. On 15 July, Egypt announced that it would suspend, starting on 15 August, the participation of its 1,035-member contingent to MINUSMA. Egypt cited the rising number of its casualties. Two Egyptian peacekeepers were killed and five were wounded in a 5 July attack in northern Mali, bringing the number of Egyptian peacekeepers killed in Mali since 2021 to seven.
On 20 July, Mali announced the expulsion of MINUSMA spokesperson Olivier Salgado, giving him 72 hours to leave the country because of his Twitter posts about the diplomatic incident with Côte d’Ivoire. According to media reports on 26 July, MINUSMA has acknowledged “dysfunctions” in the deployment of the Ivorian soldiers in a note verbale to Mali’s foreign ministry. These reports said that the Ivorian soldiers may have been contracted to provide security at a base for German “national support elements”, as opposed to MINUSMA’s Ivorian contingent. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean Pierre Lacroix visited Mali from 24 to 28 July.
On the security front, the Al-Qaida-linked group Katiba Macina claimed responsibility for an attack on 22 July on the Kati military base, which had been used to stage successful coups d’états in 2012 and 2020 and is located about 10 miles northwest of Bamako. According to the authorities, two suicide drivers attacked the base using explosive-laden vehicles. Two other insurgent attacks occurred near Bamako against a checkpoint and a police base on 15 and 21 July.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for Council members will be to assess and renew the Mali sanctions measures. The Council established the sanctions regime in 2017 to increase pressure on the signatory parties of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement to implement the accord. The peace process between the government and Tuareg separatist groups in the north remains stalled as attention has been diverted to restoring constitutional order. Amid the standstill and growing distrust between the parties—the Agreement Monitoring Committee, which is supposed to meet monthly, has not met since October 2021—the Panel of Experts has apparently raised concerns about the risk of the resumption of hostilities between the government and northern armed groups in its latest final report. (At the time of writing, the report had yet to be publicly released). Regarding the panel, its members were not appointed until January, about three-and-a-half months after the expiration of the panel’s previous mandate. This was due to a hold on the proposed expert candidates until mid-December. As a result, the panel was unable to submit a detailed mid-term report as is customary.
A related issue is the continuing need to raise awareness among Malian authorities and regional states regarding the individuals that are subject to the sanctions and to push for better enforcement. Eight individuals, all from the country’s north, have been designated. Five are subject to the travel ban and asset freeze measures, and three are subject only to the travel ban.
How to address the deteriorating relationship between MINUSMA and the authorities in the upcoming sanctions resolution is another potential issue.
The most likely option is for the Council to renew the sanctions regime for another year while updating the text of the sanctions resolution to reflect important recent developments. Given the late appointment of the panel, the resolution could also urge the timely appointment of the members of the panel. Moreover, Council members are likely to continue closely monitoring developments between MINUSMA and Mali’s authorities.
The 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee may also consider engaging in further outreach to Mali and the region to improve compliance with the sanctions. This may include encouraging relevant states to appoint focal points for the sanctions regime in capitals and organising with Mali and regional states a sanctions workshop to improve understanding and enforcement.
Council discussion on Mali has become increasingly polarised this year since the reported deployment of the Wagner Group, the Russian private security company, to the country. China and Russia have been supportive of Mali’s positions and views in the Council, pitting them against the US and European members on several issues, including reported human rights abuses by Mali’s security forces and the authorities’ restrictions on MINUSMA’s activities. The African Council members, known as the A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya), play an important role in Council negotiations on Mali. Despite tensions between ECOWAS and the transitional authorities over delays in restoring constitutional order, the A3 are cautious about criticising Mali, particularly about human rights, which they believe could prove counter-productive to MINUSMA’s efforts to induce cooperation.
Russia held up the approval of the Mali Panel of Experts as well as several other panels during the past year, citing, in the case of Mali, a lack of geographical balance among the panel’s members. There appears to be little appetite among Council members for new designations to the sanctions list, the last of which occurred in December 2019.
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 2022S/RES/2640||This renewed the mandate of MINUSMA until 30 June 2023.|
|30 August 2021S/RES/2590||This resolution renewed the Mali sanctions regime until 31 August 2022 and the mandate of the Mali Panel of Experts until 30 September 2022.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|29 June 2022S/PV.9082||This contained the explanation of votes at the adoption of resolution 2640 that extended the mandate of MINUSMA for one year.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|5 July 2022SC/14958||This press statement condemned in the strongest terms the attack earlier that day which killed two MINUSMA peacekeepers from Egypt and wounded five.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|4 April 2022SC/14851||This was a press release of the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee on a 16 March meeting with Mali, regional states and organisations on the implementation of the Mali sanctions measures.|
|28 February 2022S/2022/232||This was the mid-term report of the Mali Panel of Experts.|