What's In Blue

Posted Tue 7 Aug 2012

Mali Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (8 August), the Security Council will receive a briefing on the situation in Mali from the Secretary-General, as well as from a representative of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). It is also likely that a representative of the AU will make a statement. This briefing is set to be followed by consultations among Council members. No immediate outcome is envisaged after the briefing and consultations, but it is likely that France will consider drafting a new resolution on Mali shortly after tomorrow’s meetings.

Council members are likely to be focused on issues relating to the feasibility of recently distributed plans for the deployment of an ECOWAS stabilisation force in Mali. (On 3 August, Council members received a copy of a note verbale from the Permanent Mission of Côte d’Ivoire—the current president of ECOWAS—containing a detailed ECOWAS concept paper for deploying such a force. The note verbale was in response to Council resolution 2056 of 5 July which declared the Council’s readiness to consider backing a military deployment in Mali, as earlier proposed by ECOWAS, but only “once additional information has been provided regarding the objectives, means and modalities of the envisaged deployment and other possible measures.” For further developments in July related to the feasibility assessment of deploying an ECOWAS force, see the Mali brief in SCR’s August Monthly Forecast.)

It appears that the ECOWAS strategic concept paper enclosed in the 3 August note verbale sets out plans for the deployment of over 3,000 troops to Mali in three phases. The objectives of these phases seem to be, respectively, securing the transitional government in the capital, Bamako, restructuring and retraining the Malian army, and then launching an operation on radical Islamist forces in order to regain control of northern Mali. ECOWAS has stated that the overriding legal basis for the stabilisation force is the restoration of sovereignty and regaining territorial integrity in the north of Mali. (About 10 percent of Mali’s population of 15 million live in the north of the country.)

It seems that most of 15 member states of ECOWAS, with the exception of Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia (both of whom are hosting large UN peacekeeping missions), have indicated that they will contribute troops to the envisaged force. Niger, Nigeria, and Togo are likely to be the largest troop contributors.

Council members tomorrow are likely to be interested in the operational feasibility of the concept note, particularly with respect to its funding mechanism. (ECOWAS has stated that it will need substantial financial and logistical support from partners, including the UN, and it estimates the cost of the mission at over $400 million.) Before the Council authorises any force deployment in Mali, it is likely to also want to receive an explicit request from the transitional government in Mali for it to do so.

Council members seem united on the need for constitutional order to be re-established in Mali. Some appear to be interested in seeing a more vigorous diplomatic effort towards the separatists in the north, although they have not ruled out supporting a regional force if those endeavours failed. Others have backed in principle the deployment of a regional force, with the Foreign Minister of France (which leads on the issue in the Council) saying recently that such a strategy was “desirable and inevitable.” (ECOWAS has so far limited its diplomatic effort to engagement with the transitional government in Bamako. It seems that the regional body regards the Islamists in the north – who have dislodged the Tuareg separatists operating under the banner of the Mouvement national pour la libération de l’Azawad – as largely foreign terrorists with whom it could not negotiate.)

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