October 2022 Monthly Forecast

Posted 2 October 2022
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AFRICA

Mali

Expected Council Action

In October, the Council will hold its quarterly briefing on Mali, followed by consultations. Special Representative and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) El-Ghassim Wane is expected to brief. The mandate of MINUSMA expires on 30 June 2023.

Key Recent Developments

Relations have grown increasingly strained between MINUSMA and Mali’s transitional authorities this year. When the Council adopted resolution 2640 on 30 June, renewing MINUSMA’s mandate, Mali’s UN ambassador said that Mali opposed MINUSMA’s freedom of movement in executing its human rights mandate. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix then visited Mali from 24 to 28 July for discussion with the authorities on the mandate and a planned strategic review of the mission. LaCroix’s visit took place after Mali had suspended all MINUSMA troop rotations on 14 July after arresting 49 soldiers from Côte d’Ivoire at Bamako on 10 July. Authorities said that the Ivorians arrived in Mali without permission; the incident also led to Mali’s expulsion of MINUSMA’s spokesperson Olivier Salgado on 20 July.

On 15 August, MINUSMA resumed troop rotations as discussions continued between Mali and the UN to update procedures for conducting and informing authorities about deployments of mission personnel. Togo has mediated between Mali and Côte d’Ivoire over releasing the detained Ivorian soldiers, who deployed to Mali to provide security for German national support personnel assisting Germany’s contingents in MINUSMA. On 3 September, Mali released three women Ivorian soldiers in what it described as a “humanitarian gesture”. Transitional president Assimi Goïta appeared to suggest that Côte d’Ivoire turn over Malian politicians living in political asylum in Côte d’Ivoire in exchange for releasing the other Ivorian soldiers in a 9 September speech. On 22 September, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) discussed the situation of the detained soldiers during an extraordinary summit in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly high-level week. ECOWAS denounced the detentions as “blackmail” by Malian authorities. It called for the soldiers’ unconditional release and announced that it would dispatch a high-level mission of the heads of states of Ghana, Senegal and Togo for this purpose. Mali’s interim Prime Minister Abdoulaye Maïga strongly criticised the leaders of Côte d’Ivoire and Niger, as well as the French government two days later during his General Assembly speech on 24 September. The UN Secretariat called for the urgent release of the Ivorian soldiers in a 26 September statement.

On 7 August, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) killed 42 Malian soldiers in Tessit, Gao region, according to Malian authorities, who added that 22 soldiers were wounded and 37 ISGS militants were killed in the fighting. It was the deadliest attack against the military since 2019. Since March, the northern regions of Menaka and Gao have been the scene of fighting between ISGS, the Al-Qaida-affiliated Group for the Support of Muslims (JNIM), and other armed groups, according to some estimates causing around 1,000 civilian deaths and displacing tens of thousands more. On 6 September, ISGS militants seized the town of Talataye, killing at least 30 civilians. On 18 September, Mali’s security forces and suspected mercenaries of the Russian private security company, the Wagner Group, reportedly killed 35 civilians, mostly ethnic Fulani, in the village of Gouni in the central Mopti region. Meanwhile, beginning in mid-July, JNIM-affiliated forces conducted several attacks near Bamako, including on the military garrison town of Kati, from which successful coups d’état were staged in 2012 and 2020. The attacks demonstrated the expanding reach of terrorist groups in the south and the growing threat to Mali’s capital.

On 15 August, France announced the withdrawal of its last remaining forces from Operation Barkhane in Mali. In February, France said it would end the regional counter-terrorism operation in Mali because of escalating tensions with Mali’s transitional authorities. Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop called for an emergency meeting of the Council in a 15 August letter to the Security Council presidency, accusing France of multiple violations of its airspace and providing intelligence and arms to terrorist groups.

During talks from 1 to 5 August between authorities and armed groups that had signed the 2015 Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, the sides agreed to integrate 26,000 ex-combatants into the defence forces and other state institutions. A high-level meeting of the Agreement Monitoring Committee (CSA) was held on 2 September; it was the first meeting of the CSA, which is meant to meet monthly, since October 2021.

On 30 August, the Security Council adopted resolution 2649, renewing the Mali asset freeze and travel ban sanctions until 31 August 2023 and extending the mandate of the Mali Panel of Experts until 30 September 2023. The Council established the sanctions regime in 2017 to increase pressure on the parties to the 2015 peace agreement to implement the accord.

Human Rights-Related Developments

In a 15 August statement, the independent expert on the human rights situation in Mali, Alioune Tine, expressed grave concern over the deterioration of the security and human rights situation following a 10-day visit to the country. The statement noted “dramatic increases” in human rights violations, with MINUSMA documenting 1,304 violations and abuses from 1 January to 30 June, a 47.17 percent increase from the previous six-month period. While violent extremist groups continue to be the main alleged perpetrators, in some cases, there were credible reports of violations committed by Malian defence and security forces, along with foreign military personnel described as Russian military officials.

On 31 August, MINUSMA issued its quarterly human rights report, covering the period 1 April to 30 June. It documented 467 violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, a decrease of 42 percent compared to the previous quarter. The report found that JNIM, ISGS and similar groups were responsible for 64 percent of human rights abuses. Malian defence and security forces also committed serious violations, including executions, torture and arbitrary arrests. The report noted a significant decrease in violations attributable to Malian forces, however, from 320 during the first quarter of 2022 to 122 in the second quarter.

Key Issues and Options

Strained relations between MINUSMA and transitional authorities is a key issue, calling into question MINUSMA’s ability to carry out its mandate. The UN is conducting a strategic review of MINUSMA, pursuant to resolution 2640, which is to be submitted by 13 January 2023. The review should 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.

The deteriorating security situation remains a critical issue. This includes the expanding threat posed by terrorist groups, who increasingly appear to threaten Bamako and southern Mali. Related to this are issues regarding the protection of civilians in the face of continuing terrorist attacks and intercommunal violence, as well as reported human rights violations and abuses by security forces during counter-terrorism operations. The forthcoming strategic review of MINUSMA is expected to inform Council decisions on MINUSMA.

Mali’s political transition to restore constitutional order is an ongoing key issue. The new timetable for completing the transition is set for 26 March 2024. Likewise, making progress in the long-stalled 2015 peace agreement between the government and northern armed groups remains a key issue. The Council could invite ECOWAS, which has led efforts to promote Mali’s transition, to brief. As recommended by the Mali Panel of Experts, members could also encourage ECOWAS to pay equal attention to the implementation of the peace agreement in its engagement with Mali. The 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee may continue outreach activities to improve sanctions compliance by Mali and regional states.

Council Dynamics

Council discussion on Mali has become increasingly polarised this year. In the vote on MINUSMA’s mandate renewal, China and Russia abstained, marking the first time the mandate was adopted without consensus. China and Russia have been supportive of transitional authorities’ positions and views, pitting them against the US and European members on several issues, including reported human rights abuses by Mali’s security forces and restrictions on MINUSMA’s activities. US and European members are also critical of Mali’s decision to partner with the Wagner Group, which contributed to the decision by France and other Western countries to end their counter-terrorism operations in Mali. The three African members (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 over human rights, which they believe could prove counter-productive to MINUSMA’s efforts to induce cooperation.

France is the penholder on Mali. Ambassador Juan Ramón de la Fuente Ramírez (Mexico) chairs the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee. France and Mexico served as co-penholders on resolution 2649 renewing the sanctions regime.

UN DOCUMENTS ON MALI

Security Council Resolutions
30 August 2022S/RES/2649 This resolution renewed the Mali sanctions measure until 31 August 2023 and the mandate of the Mali Panel of Experts until 30 September 2023.
29 June 2022S/RES/2640 This renewed the mandate of MINUSMA until 30 June 2023.
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.

 

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