Briefing and Consultations on the Security Situation and Political Process in Mali
Tomorrow (8 October), the Security Council will hold a briefing followed by consultations on the situation in Mali with Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous speaking via video-teleconference from Mali. The meeting is expected to provide Council members with an opportunity to discuss the 22 September Secretary-General’s report on Mali (S/2014/692), particularly the implementation of the 18 June 2013 Ouagadougou preliminary agreement and the expansion of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in the north.
The measures taken by the mission to address the deteriorating security situation and the deliberate targeting of MINUSMA by terrorist groups are expected to feature prominently in the discussions. The security situation in northern Mali has been affected negatively by the withdrawal of the Malian Defence and Security Forces (MDSF) from Kidal in May and the end of Opération Serval in July. Also since July, French forces maintain some 1,000 troops in Mali within the framework of Opération Barkhane, which has a regional scope, as opposed to Serval’s exclusive focus on Mali.
Since 27 May, at least 29 attacks have targeted MINUSMA personnel, resulting in at least 26 peacekeepers killed and more than 55 injured. Although most of the casualties have been the result of improvised explosive devices, a 2 October attack that resulted in the death of nine Nigerien peacekeepers represented a qualitative change, since it was carried out by assailants on motorbikes armed with rocket propelled grenade launchers.
Chad, which in addition to being a Council member is the second largest troop contributor to MINUSMA, has been very vocal regarding safety concerns of its peacekeepers in Mali. Since 29 August, 10 Chadian peacekeepers have been killed and at least 33 injured in four attacks. On 19 September, Chad issued a statement complaining that “the Chadian contingent serve[s] as a shield for the other contingents positioned further back” and asked the mission to improve its operating conditions. A UN mission led by the Deputy Military Adviser, Major General Adrian Foster, will visit N’Djamena later this week to address the concerns expressed by the Chadian government. As of 1 September, Chad had 1,205 military personnel deployed in MINUSMA.
Some Council members might be looking for more information about the actual capacities of battalions deployed in the north. As part of the re-hatting process from the African-led International Support Mission to Mali into MINUSMA, troop and police-contributing countries were given a four month grace period until 31 October 2013 to meet UN standards for equipment and capability. Council members might be interested in inquiring whether all contingents currently deployed with MINUSMA meet the minimum UN standards. If they have not met these standards, there is likely to be interest in the obstacles preventing them from doing so—as the grace period ended nearly one year ago–and options for ensuring that these standards are met soon.
Council members are also expected to request an update on the two rounds held so far of the inter-Malian negotiation process facilitated by Algeria. A high-level meeting of the Council and the mediation team was held on 27 September on the margins of the General Assembly to galvanise international support for the political process. The talks have adjourned in observation of the Tabaski holiday, but are expected to resume in mid-October, when discussions are expected to focus on substantive outstanding issues such as the territorial structure of Mali and new security arrangements in the north.
Council members are also likely to be interested in how the divisions among armed groups are hindering the political process. Even though the negotiation process has already resulted in the adoption on 24 July of a roadmap and a declaration of cessation of hostilities, many challenges remain. According to the Secretary-General’s 22 September report (S/2014/692), “the two-track nature of the process remains a challenge for the negotiation” since the road map and the cessation of hostilities were signed separately by the government with the two respective coalitions—which at the time refused to sit together at the negotiating table. As exemplified by the clashes in July in Kidal and Gao, the two rival rebel coalitions are at odds with one another. The two rebel coalitions are the “Coordination” comprised of the Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad, the Haut Conseil pour l’Unité de l’Azawad and the Mouvement Arabe de l’Azawad (MAA), while the “Platform” comprises the Coordination des Mouvements et Fronts Patriotiques de Résistance, the Coalition du Peuple pour l’Azawad and another MAA faction. In recent weeks new splinter groups are seeking a seat at the negotiating table. Council members might be looking for insights on how the appearance of these new groups will impact the already difficult dynamics among armed groups negotiating in Algiers and complicate the peace process.
Most Council members are also expected to reiterate their concerns regarding the challenges of transnational terrorism and the presence of jihadist groups in Algeria, Libya and Mali that have benefited from political instability in northern Mali. They might also be interested in knowing if there is evidence of linkages between armed and terrorist groups.