DPA Briefing on Emerging Issues
Tomorrow morning (10 February) Council members will receive their monthly briefing on emerging issues by the head of the Department of Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe. It seems Pascoe is likely to focus on Mali, Maldives and Guinea-Bissau.
It is likely in discussing the situation in Mali, Pascoe will focus on the recent attacks by Tuareg rebels on towns in the north. The Secretary-General on 8 February urged an end to the fighting and for the rebels to start a dialogue with the government to resolve their grievances. He also expressed concern about civilian casualties and those displaced by the fighting. The ICRC has said that at least 30,000 people have been displaced within Mali and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has reported that 10,000 people have fled from Mali to Mauritania.
Council members have been watching the impact of the Libyan crisis on the Sahel region. They are likely to be particularly interested in the connection between the unrest in Mali and the return of hundreds of Tuareg fighters from Libya where they fought with troops loyal to former Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi. Some reports indicate that the Tuareg rebels are in possession of arms from Libya.
It seems that another reason for the Council to pay attention to the situation is the possibility of increasing Tuareg attacks leading up to the April elections in Mali. There are concerns that this could eventually morph into civil war. (The Mali situation may arise again when the Council holds an open debate on the impact of transnational organised crime on peace, security and stability in West Africa and the Sahel region on 21 February.)
On the Maldives, Pascoe is likely to provide more information to Council members on the situation following President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation on Tuesday (7 February) after three weeks of anti-government demonstrations sparked by Nasheed’s orders to arrest a senior judge. A political mission, headed by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernández Taranco, arrived in the Maldives today and is scheduled to hold talks with government and opposition leaders. (The political mission was already scheduled to go to the Maldives to advise the government on judicial reform and its transition to democracy and the visit is being seen by the UN as particularly timely given the crisis.) The Secretary-General has called on Maldivians to “refrain from violence and engage constructively” in handling the challenges facing the country.
In talking about Guinea-Bissau, Pascoe is expected to update the Council on the situation in the country following the death of President Malam Bacai Sanhá on 9 January. On 13 January, the Secretary-General encouraged the government, political parties and people of Guinea-Bissau to respect the country’s legal institutions during the transition and ensure peaceful, timely and fair presidential elections. It seems Council members are likely to be particularly interested in information on the 18 March presidential elections which Prime Minister Carlos Gomez, the candidate for the ruling party, is favoured to win.
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