Briefing on the Ceasefire and Violence in Mali
This afternoon Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Mali, Albert Gerard Koenders will brief the Security Council via video teleconference (VTC) on the recent violence in Kidal and the 23 May ceasefire brokered between representatives of the armed groups and the government. In the agreement, signed under the auspices of the African Union (AU) and the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the parties agreed to start negotiations as soon as possible and facilitate humanitarian access, the liberation of prisoners and the establishment of an international commission of inquiry. Today’s meeting is being held at the request of France, and while a formal outcome is unlikely, it seems that Council members might agree to the Council President conveying “elements to the press” after the meeting.
The briefing comes about a week after Council members were briefed on the 16-17 May violence in Kidal and a failed 21 May offensive by the Malian Defence and Security Forces (MDSF) to retake Kidal from the Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA). The MDSF reportedly executed the poorly coordinated offensive without giving MINUSMA or Opération Serval any advance warning. Koenders is expected to stress that ensuring the return of the state authority and the stabilisation of the north will only be sustainable if the political process is resumed. (At press time, the MNLA still had control of Kidal and Ménaka and possibly other towns.)
According to MINUSMA, the outbreak of violence in Kidal has so far resulted in the deaths of 33 soldiers, and some 50 detainees as well as the resignation of Defence Minister Soumeylou Boubéye Maïga on 27 May. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, some 4,000 people have been displaced to date by the violence. Given that Koenders visited Kidal on 23 May along with the President of Mauritania and current chairman of the AU, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, as well as AU Special Representative for Mali and the Sahel Pierre Buyoya, Council members will be keen to get his impressions on the negotiation of the ceasefire and his assessment on the way forward to ensure the de-escalation is sustainable. Questions regarding coordination, or lack thereof, of military offensives by the MDSF with MINUSMA and/or Opération Serval, may also be raised by some Council members.
Council members are also likely to want to know more about the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, including the commitment to start negotiations as soon as possible. They might inquire about the impact of the violence in Kidal on the rest of the country and the parties’ response to the Council’s call to act with restraint and refrain from any further violence. Council members are also expected to ask about the windows of opportunity for the political process despite the violence and reiterate the Council’s call for the cantonment of armed groups and an inclusive and credible dialogue. They might also ask Koenders about the steps taken by the Secretariat to establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate the violence in Kidal and other international crimes, as agreed to in the ceasefire agreement as well as the 18 June 2013 preliminary Ouagadougou Agreement.
In light of the expectations impressed on the Council visiting mission to Mali on 1-3 February, Council members may be interested in getting a better understanding of developments in Kidal. In particular some Council members may be looking for more information about the presence of terrorist groups among the MNLA and other armed groups, as claimed by Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop of Mali when he briefed Council members on 20 May by VTC. Council members might also inquire about the current stage of negotiations with the MNLA and other armed groups regarding the return of state authority to Kidal, Ménaka and other seized towns , the release of prisoners and the prevention of further violence in the north.
Finally, some Council members seem interested in sending a message of support to Koenders in the light of MINUSMA’s strained relationship with the government and the negative impact of the recent incidents in Kidal on MINUSMA’s public image. Council members are also expected to try to contribute to improving the perception of MINUSMA through the messages it conveys in its outcome documents and public statements. (In the 20 May consultations, following Koenders’ briefing, language was added to the press statement in order to incorporate some sensitive issues for the government such as referencing the MNLA or calling for the return of armed groups to their previous positions in the framework of the cantonment process.)