What's In Blue

Posted Wed 27 Mar 2013

Mali Consultations

Council members will meet this afternoon (27 March) in consultations to discuss developments in Mali. Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, is scheduled to brief on developments on the ground. Edmond Mulet, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, might also be in attendance. At press time, no outcome was planned immediately following the meeting.

The security situation in northern Mali is likely to be of immediate interest to many Council members. Following the on going combat operations in Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu, as well as the recent confirmation of the death of Abou Zeid, the leader of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Council members might also want to hear an update on the now ten-week long Opération Serval. Of particular interest to some Council members is what France has in mind as a transition from its forces to the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) which the Council authorised in resolution 2085. Ensuring that AFISMA has the basic financial and logistical support to attain its objectives, before the transition to a UN mission, might also be raised as an issue by some Council members.

Council members were last briefed by the Department of Political Affairs on Mali a month ago (on 27 February) in consultations. The focus of that meeting was the content of a letter to the Secretary-General from the interim President of Mali, Dioncounda TraorĂ© (S/2013/113). The letter requested the rapid deployment of AFISMA to restore state authority and sovereignty prior to its possible transformation into a UN stabilisation and peacekeeping operation. Although it seemed that a clearer request from the interim government was needed, Council members at this meeting began a preliminary discussion about the establishment of a peacekeeping operation. In a letter from the President of the Council to the Secretary-General (S/2013/129), the Council requested the inclusion of recommendations on options in terms of size, mandate and composition of such an operation in the upcoming Secretary-General’s report (S/2013/189).

In preparation for this report an exploratory Secretariat mission headed by Mulet visited Mali in mid-March. The main objective of the mission was to explore options for a peacekeeping mission, assess the situation on the ground and identify the potential risks that might arise.

An advance copy of the abovementioned report was circulated yesterday evening among Council members. However, following rule 26 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security Council (S/96/Rev.7), by which the Secretary-General has to distribute the documents required by the Council at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting for them to be considered (except in urgent circumstances), the President of the Council, Russia, decided that the document will not be taken into consideration this afternoon.

Although the meeting is not expected to go into the details of the report, the two options that are presented in the report will likely be on all Council members minds.

The first option appears to be beefing up the current UN multidimensional presence in Bamako and transforming it into an integrated political presence with a better resourced AFISMA. AFISMA would then have “an offensive combat and stabilisation mandate focusing on extremist armed groups”, together with bilateral military efforts. AFISMA would then transition to a UN stabilisation mission once certain critical benchmarks are met. The second option seems to be for an integrated stabilisation mission under Chapter VII alongside a parallel force to conduct counterterrorism operations beyond the scope of the UN’s mandate. In this scenario the bulk of AFISMA would transition to a UN stabilisation mission largely based in the north with a light presence in Bamako.

It appears that the report rules out the possibility of a UN operation under a peace enforcement mandate as was requested by the AU, ECOWAS and many Malian interlocutors. There appears to be a sense that the UN is not configured to oversee at a strategic level such operations nor are its peacekeepers trained in this area. In addition, the report explains that this sort of operation falls outside the scope of the UN peacekeeping doctrine. Although the Council is currently considering an “Intervention Brigade” within the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) which appears to have an enforcement mandate, it is being made clear that this is being done on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent.

Council members are expected to meet early next month for a briefing and further discussion on the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Mali and the options for a UN multidimensional response to the crisis. Council members are also expected to start negotiating a resolution reflecting their decision on the type of UN mission that will be set up.

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