Briefing and Consultations on Mali: Security Situation, Deployment and Elections
Wednesday morning (16 October), the Security Council will receive a briefing on the Secretary-General’s most recent report on the situation in Mali (S/2013/582). Albert Gerard Koenders, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), will brief Council members for the first time since the re-hatting of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) on 1 July. The newly appointed Minister for National Reconciliation and Development of the North, Cheick Oumar Diarra, is expected to participate in the briefing. Following the briefing, Council members are to meet in consultations, where Ameerah Haq, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, will be present.
The latest MINUSMA report was circulated on 1 October. It highlights the key recent developments in the political process underway in Mali, according to the priorities established in the 18 June Ouagadougou Agreement between the government and rebel groups. While the Agreement was instrumental in holding two rounds of peaceful presidential elections on 28 July and 11 August and in setting a clear timeline for the second phase of the talks, the report points out that “dialogue and reconciliation activities remained limited during the reporting period”. Council members might seek further clarification on the recent week-long suspension of the participation of rebel groups that are signatories of the Ouagadougou Agreement from the follow-up mechanisms it established: the Commission Technique Mixte de Sécurité and the Comité de Suivi et d’Évaluation, chaired by the MINUSMA Force Commander and Koenders, respectively. They might want more details on the preparations for national peace talks (“Assisses du Nord”) announced by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta in his inauguration speech. (According to the Ouagadougou Agreement, these are expected to take place within a 60-day time frame from the appointment of the cabinet, which took place on 8 September.)
The report also characterises the security situation in Mali as “relatively stable but fragile”. In this context, Council members will be interested in receiving a further assessment of the security situation in the last two weeks, given press reports of the shelling of Gao and the destruction of a bridge in the north near Bentia by the Mouvement pour l’Unicité et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO) and a deadly suicide attack in Timbuktu claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Council members might inquire about the challenges in the deployment of MINUSMA.
The mission is not expected to reach its full operational capacity till the end of the year, due to the lack of key enablers, infantry units, the poorly equipped re-hatted battalions and external factors such as the harsh climatic conditions and the lack of public infrastructure, such as airfields, in the north. Council members might be interested in the recent steps taken by the Secretariat to speed-up this process, as well as the status of the equipment of battalions already on the ground. (AFISMA’s re-hatted battalions were given until 31 October to get up to UN standards in human rights, including ensuring there are no child soldiers, and to acquire the required equipment.) Council members might inquire whether the sluggish pace of deployment is affecting the stabilisation and protection mandates of MINUSMA, as France continues to gradually draw down its forces in Mali with the objective of leaving around 1,000 troops at the beginning of 2014.
Following the recent unrest in the Kati military barracks, home of former coup leader General Amadou Sanogo until last week, Council members might be interested in getting more information about how MINUSMA is cooperating with the government on security sector reform beyond the work of the EU Training Mission mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report.
Council members may be looking for more information about the measures taken by MINUSMA to support the holding of upcoming legislative elections in Mali, which will take place on 24 November and 15 December, in the light of the challenges identified in the recent presidential elections.
It seems some Council members are also keen to have Koenders elaborate on some of the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s recent report, such as the call to international partners to establish, in consultation with Mali, “a New Deal that would ensure accountability while respecting national sovereignty”, and how this idea would fit in with regional coordination mechanisms being planned in the wider Sahel region.