Expected Council Action
In January 2023, the Council will hold a briefing and consultations on Mali. Special Representative and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) El-Ghassim Wane is expected to brief. In addition to the Secretary-General’s quarterly report on Mali, Council members expect to receive his internal review of MINUSMA by 13 January. The mandate of MINUSMA expires on 30 June 2023.
Key Recent Developments
In November 2022, important troop-contributing countries (TCCs) to MINUSMA announced that they would end their participation in the peacekeeping operation. On 11 November, Côte d’Ivoire informed the UN that it would gradually withdraw its contingent, which numbers about 900 soldiers and police, by August 2023. Its decision comes as Mali’s transitional authorities continue to detain 46 Ivorian soldiers, whom they have held since July 2022. On 14 November, the UK announced that its 260-member contingent would be withdrawn “earlier than planned”. The UK said it made the decision based on the transitional authorities’ decision to partner with the Wagner Group, a Russian private security company, and the Malian government’s interference with MINUSMA’s work. On 22 November, Germany also announced that it planned to leave MINUSMA by mid-2024.
The overall security situation in Mali remains dire. The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) has continued the offensive it began in March 2022 in the Gao and Ménaka regions, fighting against Tuareg armed groups and local Al-Qaida affiliated groups. The offensive has displaced tens of thousands of people. During several days of heavy fighting in early December, dozens of civilians were killed and hundreds displaced in Ansongo, Gao region, according to news reports that cited community leaders. Speaking of the situation in Gao and Ménaka at the Council’s 18 October 2022 briefing on Mali, Wane said, “We have to acknowledge that the needs on the ground far outweigh MINUSMA’s abilities with its current resources”, adding that the situation “underscores the need for greater coordination between MINUSMA and the Malian forces”.
On 17 October 2022, an explosive device killed three Chadian peacekeepers near Tessalit in the Kidal region; a fourth peacekeeper succumbed to his injuries the next day. An attack on a MINUSMA police patrol on 16 December in Timbuktu killed two Nigerian peacekeepers, including one woman, and injured four others. In other incidents, six peacekeepers were injured when their vehicles hit explosive devices in Douentza in the Mopti region on 7 November 2022, and three peacekeepers were injured, one seriously, when a MINUSMA convoy hit a mine near the same area on 21 November 2022. On 20 November, suspected Islamist militants abducted a German priest in Bamako, the first kidnapping of a Westerner in the capital during the decade-long crisis in Mali.
During his 18 October briefing, Wane highlighted “significant progress” in preparations for elections following the July 2022 agreement between Malian authorities and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to complete Mali’s political transition by 29 March 2024. He cited the establishment of a new, single electoral body and the recent appointment of its 15 members, who are tasked with making the body’s national, regional and local structures operational. Wane noted that a draft constitution was presented to transitional President Assimi Goïta on 12 October 2022. The next step is for Mali’s Council of Ministers to adopt the draft constitution in the lead-up to a constitutional referendum in March 2023. The steering committee to monitor political and electoral reforms—composed of Malian stakeholders, ECOWAS, the AU and MINUSMA—was also meeting regularly, according to Wane.
In a 9 December 2022 communiqué, the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), an alliance of northern armed groups, “denounce[d]” the state of implementation of Mali’s 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, following a meeting of its executive bureau in Kidal. The CMA said, “It is regrettable to admit after seven years” that “the peace agreement undoubtedly suffers from the obvious lack” of commitment to its implementation by the Malian government, by Algeria—which chairs the international mediation team overseeing the peace process—and by the international community. In a 10 December letter addressed to Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra of Algeria, the CMA requested an emergency meeting to conduct “a decisive examination of the viability of the agreement”.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 9 November 2022, MINUSMA issued its quarterly note on trends in and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Mali for the period 1 July to 30 September. According to the report, terrorist groups were responsible for 163, or 43 percent, of violations and abuses during the third quarter of 2022. Malian defence and security forces and “foreign” military personnel—an apparent reference to the Wagner Group—committed 162 documented violations and abuses, which represented a 33 percent increase from the previous quarter. Elaborating on such abuses, the report said that during military operations “conducted exclusively by foreign military personnel”, MINUSMA documented serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including summary executions, rape and other forms of conflict-related sexual violence against women, disappearances, forced arrests, and arbitrary detentions.
Key Issues and Options
The security situation, progress in the political transition, and the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement remain key issues. MINUSMA’s ability to protect civilians, the human rights situation, and the overall humanitarian situation are also recurring key issues. Relations between Mali and MINUSMA over the past year—including restrictions placed by Malian authorities on UN ground patrols and flights—is another critical issue and raises serious questions about the viability of the mission’s future. Decisions by TCCs to leave the mission come as MINUSMA has struggled to acquire enabling capacities as part of its December 2019 adaptation plan to make the operation more mobile and as it faces new demands following the departure of French counter-terrorism forces from Mali, which was completed in August 2022.
The UN’s internal review of MINUSMA, which is being conducted pursuant to resolution 2640 of 29 June 2022, which last renewed the mission’s mandate, is an important upcoming report in the context of these issues. The review is expected to include analysis of the political and security challenges affecting MINUSMA’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.
Options for the mission’s future include reinforcing MINUSMA, given the capacity gaps created by the departure of France’s counter-terrorism forces. This would however appear to require a recommitment by Malian authorities to cooperate with the UN. Alternatively, other options could be a consolidation or possible drawdown and exit of MINUSMA. The review is likely to inform future Council decisions on Mali and its submission in January 2023 will allow Council members to begin considering potential changes to the mission well in advance of MINUSMA’s mandate renewal in June.
China and Russia have been supportive of the positions and views of Mali’s transitional authorities, often pitting them against the US and European members on several issues, including over reported human rights abuses by Mali’s security forces and restrictions on MINUSMA’s activities. US and European members are critical of Mali’s decision to partner with the Wagner Group. The three African members (A3), which will be represented by Gabon, Ghana and Mozambique in 2023, play an important role in Council negotiations on Mali. Despite the tensions between ECOWAS and the transitional authorities over delays in restoring constitutional order, the A3 are often cautious about criticising Mali, particularly over human rights, which they believe could prove counter-productive to MINUSMA’s cooperation with the government.
Members are concerned about the potential vacuum in Mali and in the region that MINUSMA’s departure could create. Still, the P3 (France, the UK and the US) and other European members have highlighted that the internal review should consider all options for the mission’s future. At the 18 October briefing, the A3 asserted that MINUSMA’s continued presence is an important stabilising factor in Mali. China said during the session that it would like the review to include proposals for streamlining and optimising the mission’s mandate and for providing a rational arrangement of personnel and resources.
France is the penholder on Mali. In renewing the Mali sanctions regime in August 2022, France served as co-penholder with Mexico, whose permanent representative, Ambassador Juan Ramón de la Fuente Ramírez, chaired the 2374 Sanctions Committee. At the time of writing, Council members had still not announced which member would assume the sanctions committee chairmanship from Mexico, whose two-year term as an elected member will end on 31 December 2022.
UN DOCUMENTS ON MALI
|Security Council Resolution|
|29 June 2022S/RES/2640||This renewed the mandate of MINUSMA until 30 June 2023.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|23 November 2022S/PV.9200||This was a briefing by Ambassador Juan Ramón de la Fuente Ramírez (Mexico) as chair of the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee.|
|18 October 2022S/PV.9154||This was a Council briefing on Mali.|
|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 Statements|
|16 December 2022SC/15145||This press statement condemned the attack against MINUSMA on 16 December in Timbuktu, which killed two peacekeepers from Nigeria and one member of the Malian defence and security forces.|
|17 October 2022SC/15065||This press statement condemned a 17 October attack on MINUSMA, using an explosive device, that killed three Chadian peacekeepers.|