What's In Blue

Posted Tue 20 May 2014

Briefing and Consultations on Mali over Violence in Kidal

This afternoon (20 May), Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet and Special Representative for Mali, Bert Koenders will brief the Security Council on the 16-17 May clashes between the Malian Defence and Security Forces (MDSF) and members of the Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) in Kidal. France requested the briefing and is expected to circulate a draft press statement condemning and stressing the need to de-escalate the violence in Kidal and calling on all parties to engage in an inclusive and credible negotiation process, which may be discussed during the consultations which will follow the briefing.

Council members will be interested in getting a better understanding from Mulet and Koenders of the 16-17 May violence in Kidal. On 16 May, demonstrations against a visit by the newly appointed prime minister, Moussa Mara, on his first visit to Kidal since taking office, erupted into violent clashes between the demonstrators and the police on a runway in Kidal airport, preventing the plane carrying the Prime Minister’s advance party, composed of several Government ministers, from landing and forcing it to divert to Gao. Seven civilians were reportedly injured and 19 UN police officers deployed to control the situation were wounded as well.

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), which was supporting the prime minister’s visit in coordination with the MDSF and Opération Serval, transported Mara to Kidal in a helicopter the next morning and provided some security during his trip. Following a visit by Mara to the governor’s office, the MNLA took over the office and set it on fire, killing at least eight civilians, including six government officials. A number of MDSF and MNLA elements were also reported killed. That evening, MINUSMA and Opération Serval brokered a ceasefire. According to MINUSMA, some 32 officials who had been detained in the building were released on 19 May. In a televised speech that evening, Prime Minister Mara said he considered the attack a “declaration of war”. At press time, the governor’s office was still held by the MNLA and press reports indicate the MSDF might be preparing a military offensive on Kidal.

Council members are likely to want to know more about the role of MINUSMA forces during Mara’s visit to Kidal and the impact this incident might have on the public image of the mission. (A November 2013 incident in Kidal airport that resulted in one death and several injuries by the MDSF resulted in increased tension between the government and MINUSMA.)

Council members might also be looking for an assessment of whether the conflict is likely to escalate further, igniting old grievances. They might also inquire about the current stage of negotiations with the MNLA aimed at a hand over of the governor’s office and the prevention of further violence in Kidal. Another area of interest for many members is the impact of these events on prospects for an inclusive peace process, as well as the implementation of the modus operandi for the cantonment process that were agreed to by the government and the armed groups in March. In light of his recent mission to Mali, Mulet may also brief on the preliminary findings of his visit and on how the recent events might impact the Department of Peacekeeping Operations-led review of MINUSMA currently underway.

Finally, Council members might discuss how this incident violates the preliminary 18 June Ouagadougou agreement, as MNLA is one of the signatories to the agreement, and members may consider requesting an investigation into the crimes committed against civilians.

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