What's In Blue

Posted Thu 10 May 2012

Mali and Guinea-Bissau Consultations

On Friday (11 May), Said Djinnit, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), will brief Council members in consultations on Mali and Guinea-Bissau. Djinnit is expected to discuss the two situations from the vantage point of UNOWA, which is based in Dakar, Senegal. (UNOWA—established in 2002—addresses the impact of cross-border conflict in the region and was the first UN regional political office dedicated to conflict prevention, mediation and peacebuilding.) It is unlikely that there will be an outcome following tomorrow’s consultations – it seems members would prefer to wait until after the Council mission to West Africa, scheduled later in May, before taking further action.

It seems that Mali may well be the primary focus of tomorrow’s consultations given the Council’s briefing earlier in the week on Guinea-Bissau. Council members are likely to be interested in Djinnit’s assessment of recent events in Mali since 22 March, when elements of the armed forces abandoned their campaigns against Tuareg rebels in the north of the country and seized power. On 6 April, a Framework Agreement brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) resulted in the military officers’ agreement to give up power in return for an amnesty and the lifting of sanctions imposed by the West African regional body.

The army officers also agreed to a timetable for a return to constitutional rule in Mali and to hold elections within a year. (The speaker of parliament, Dioncounda Traoré, was made the new interim President under the deal, and is ruling with a transitional government, including the soldiers.) Under the Framework Agreement, the transition period of 40 days that would see the soldiers withdraw completely to the barracks ends on 15 May. In terms of developments on the ground, in late March the Tuareg rebels captured the three northern regions of Mali (Gao, Kidal, Timbuktu) and have reportedly exerted strict control over the areas.

Regarding Guinea-Bissau, on Tuesday, 8 May, the Council issued a press statement (SC/10640) after a briefing the previous day. The statement expressed “deep concern at reports of looting, and human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment during detention and violent repression of peaceful demonstrations” under the rule of the so-called Military Command. The press statement affirmed that that those responsible for such violations must be held accountable. The statement also expressed “deep concern at a possible increase in drug trafficking as a result of current instability.” The Council called on ECOWAS to pursue its efforts to implement its zero-tolerance policy against the “unconstitutional takeover of power”, in coordination with the UN, the AU and the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, and enable the restoration of the constitutional order.

It appears that some Council members were interested in the possibility of a resolution imposing targeted sanctions against the leaders of Guinea-Bissau’s Military Command earlier this week. However, it seems that this discussion may be postponed until after the Council returns from its visit to West Africa, assuming the status quo continues. There also seems to be interest among some members in receiving a clearer steer from the AU on the issue before the Council takes further action. (Earlier, on 21 April, the Council issued a presidential statement [S/PRST/2012/15] calling for the “immediate restoration of constitutional order as well as the reinstatement” of the overthrown civilian government of Guinea-Bissau.)

Djinnit last briefed the Council on 16 January. At the time, he indicated that the situation in the region remained tenuous. In particular, Djinnit noted that the humanitarian and security consequences of the Libyan crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa—notably Mali and Niger—were a major concern and were compounding the existing challenges in the region, such as drought and food security.

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