What's In Blue

Posted Wed 8 Apr 2015

Briefing and Consultations on the Political Process and Security Situation in Mali

Tomorrow (9 April), the Security Council will be briefed by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous on the situation in Mali, followed by consultations. Council members are likely to take the opportunity to discuss the 27 March Secretary-General’s report on Mali (S/2015/219) and to hear about the recent conversations in Algiers between the Algeria-led mediation team and the coalition of armed groups known as the Coordination, on how to break the stalemate around the political process. The Foreign Minister of Mali, Abdoulaye Diop, is also expected to participate in the briefing.

Council members were briefed on 4 March by the head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Mongi Hamdi, via video teleconference on the decision of the Coordination not to initial the peace agreement proposed by the Algerian-led mediation team to the parties of the inter-Malian peace process. The agreement had been initialed on 1 March in Algiers by the government and the Platform, a coalition of armed groups considered to be more closely aligned with the government. Hamdi told Council members that the Coordination had requested more time to consult with its constituency before initialing the document. Council members subsequently agreed on elements to the press encouraging the Coordination to initial the agreement.

On 15 March, after holding a series of consultative meetings in Kidal, the Coordination decided not to sign the agreement, claiming that the document “did not take into account the legitimate aspirations of the people of Azawad”, and requested more talks. (The differences appear to be over what the Coordination perceives as insufficient legal and political recognition for the northern territory, referred to as Azawad, as well as concern over security arrangements for the north.) Since then, the mediation team has stated its willingness to address the issues raised by the Coordination during the implementation of the agreement, once it is signed by all, without holding another round of negotiations. Council members might be eager to learn whether the conversations in Algiers held during the last few days have led to any shift in positions.

Some Council members are also expected to raise questions about how the mediation team, with the participation of MINUSMA, is planning to address the concerns of the Coordination in order to make the agreement more sustainable without further alienating the bases of the different parties and potentially increasing instability. Despite calls by the Malian government to impose sanctions if the Coordination fails to sign, Council members seem unlikely to echo this call in closed consultations. France, which is the penholder, is expected to circulate a press statement urging the Coordination to initial the agreement and calling on the parties to engage in good faith efforts to finalise this phase of the negotiation process. Even though some Council members seem to be aware of the limitations of the agreement in addressing divisions among groups in the north (as illustrated by the fact that the two coalitions of armed groups have not directly negotiated with each other during the Algiers process), Council members are not foreseeing a particularly difficult negotiation of the draft press statement.

Some Council members might be curious to know how the mechanisms to implement the draft agreement are expected to work once it is signed, given the fact that, according to the current draft peace agreement, MINUSMA’s role will be limited to being the Secretariat of the main follow-up mechanism, led by Algeria (the Comité pour la Suivi de l’Accord).

Council members might be interested in Ladsous’ current assessment of the security situation in the north, given the clashes among armed groups reported at the beginning of 2015. Some Council members might be interested in getting Ladsous’ analysis on whether a return to violence is a possibility if the deadlock over the peace process is not overcome. (On 6 February, the Council adopted a presidential statement that included for the first time a reference to the Council’s readiness to consider appropriate measures, including targeted sanctions, against those who resume hostilities and violate the ceasefire.)

The measures taken by the mission to address the deteriorating security situation and the increasingly sophisticated targeting of MINUSMA by terrorist groups are expected to feature prominently in the discussions. In 2014, 28 MINUSMA peacekeepers were killed as a result of hostile acts, which is the highest number of fatalities in a single peacekeeping operation in a given year since the UN Operation in Somalia II in 1994.

Council members might ask for some clarification about the impact of the inquiry launched by the Secretary-General on the killing of three civilians by MINUSMA forces during a demonstration against the mission in Gao on 27 January. Council members were briefed on the results during “any other business” on 2 April by Ladsous. They were told that the inquiry team concluded that Rwandan members of a formed police unit had used unauthorised and excessive force on civilians, resulting in the death by gunfire of three protesters and the wounding of four others. While it appears that Rwanda has expressed some unhappiness over the conclusions of the inquiry, the commander and police involved have apparently been repatriated to Rwanda. Council members might be interested in knowing if measures have been put in place to prevent further violations of the MINUSMA directive on the use of force.

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