What's In Blue

Posted Sun 6 Mar 2016

Dispatches from the Field: Council meetings with Key Stakeholders in Bamako

BAMAKO (6 February): Today, Security Council members held several meetings in Mali’s capital, Bamako. On their last day of the Mali leg of their visiting mission to West Africa, Council members, led by France and Senegal, met with key stakeholders including political parties, civil society, government officials, the diplomatic corps, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the UN country team.

In a press conference at the end of the day, Council members said that they were encouraged by the unanimous support that they had found in Mali regarding the need to accelerate the full implementation of the June 2015 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali. Council members agreed that this consensus could be the basis for new momentum to bring concrete peace dividends to the Malians. They also expressed their full support for the work of MINUSMA and its head, Mahamat Saleh Annadif.

Just before addressing local and international media at the MINUSMA headquarters in Bamako, Council members had met with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. President Keita reiterated his personal commitment to accelerate the implementation of the Agreement. He gave as an example of his commitment the 27 February meeting that he hosted in the presidential palace with the signatory armed groups that established a March-April timeline to advance the political process. In his discussions, President Keita identified the terrorist groups as the common enemies of the Malian government and the signatory armed groups, and stressed the importance of tackling their increasing reach.

Earlier today, Council members had met with several government ministers, including those in charge of the implementation of different provisions of the Agreement, such as Minister for the Reconstruction of the North Sidiki Konaté, Minister for National Reconciliation Zahabi Ould Sidi Mohamed, and Minister of Decentralisation Mohamed Ag Erlaf, as well as Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop. Council members welcomed some of the recent decisions taken by the government to advance the implementation of the Agreement, such as the appointment of national disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR), and integration commissions. Council members took advantage of this opportunity to inquire about some areas where the government could be more proactive. They asked about the plans for the development of the north and the decentralisation processes, as well as the operationalisation of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. In addressing members’ questions the ministers explained that sometimes the slow application of certain policies was due to the lack of progress on the security front with signatory armed groups that have, for example, resisted providing lists of names for cantonment purposes.

During the meeting, some ministers gave their assessment of MINUSMA’s mandate and elaborated on the need for MINUSMA to prepare an exit strategy, an issue that had been first brought up by Foreign Minister Diop during an October 2015 briefing to the Council on Mali. They expressed their concern with the lack of proactive initiatives by MINUSMA when faced with asymmetric attacks, as well as with the limited cooperation with the Malian Defense and Security Forces, and highlighted the need to adapt MINUSMA’s mandate to a context that is very different to the one in 2013. Diop proposed establishing benchmarks to assess performance and provide for an exit for the mission once commonly agreed objectives have been attained. Council members encouraged the authorities to further develop the ideas expressed in the meeting and engage with the forthcoming mission that will conduct MINUSMA’s strategic review this month, ahead of the June mandate renewal.

Council members also met today with the members of the international mediation team, which is composed of member states and regional organisations that are guarantors of the Agreement. Algeria, which leads the group, and the AU briefed Council members on how the Agreement has become the basis of the political process, even as new initiatives emerge, such as the inter and intra-community dialogue that started in Anefis in September 2015. They announced that the main follow-up mechanism for the implementation of the Agreement, the Comite de Suivi de l’Accord (CSA), will hold its seventh meeting on 9 March. There has been some progress on this track, but among the issues that have hindered the implementation process are disagreements over the adoption of a budget for the CSA, and the representation of certain non-signatory armed groups on the CSA.

The best indicator of the new political context in which MINUSMA now operates is that the members of the Platform and Coordination coalitions of armed groups met jointly with Council members for the first time. During their last visit in February 2014, Council members had to meet these groups separately. The armed groups expressed their concerns regarding the slow implementation of the Agreement and stressed the need to see more progress on the security and political fronts. Highlighting the government’s primary focus on security considerations, members of the armed groups expressed the need to put the onus on the political elements of the Agreement, in particular decentralisation, including ensuring inclusiveness in appointing regional authorities such as prefects and governors. Council members inquired about the presence of terrorist groups in northern Mali. The armed groups explained how the establishment of cantonment sites and progress on DDR could prevent some of the movement of their members towards terrorist groups, which is due partly to the lack of resources to sustain their families.

Council members also met with women leaders of civil society organisations, who expressed many of the same concerns as were raised at the first meeting of the Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security convened in New York on 29 February. Council members’ interlocutors noted the all-male Council delegation and pointed out that none of the armed groups participating in the previous meeting with the Council included women in their delegations. They emphasised how ensuring the political participation of women in Mali has been a concern of civil society organisations for a long time. Despite recent advances in this regard, such as the adoption of a law establishing a 30 percent quota for women in all levels of public administration, the women leaders highlighted how the translation of this norm into a reality is still far away. They also criticised the low levels of participation of women in the follow-up mechanisms to the Agreement, as well as the lack of accountability for violations of human rights such as gender-based sexual violence.

Council members also met separately with representatives of the main political parties as well as the opposition. Given the limited time that they had in their meetings these groups submitted their positions on the implementation of the Agreement in written form.

A briefing by the leadership of MINUSMA afforded another opportunity for Council members to hear about the shortfalls in operational capacity, and how this will still be a problem even when MINUSMA reaches full currently planned capacity. For example, given the security situation and the risks of improvised explosive devices, the limited number of Armored Personal Carriers remains a key limiting factor for the mission. (A meeting with key troop- and police- contributing countries was scheduled to take place today but was cancelled due to some of the meetings going over their scheduled time.)

Council members met with the UN Country Team as well as some of Mali’s main partners such as Canada, France and the EU. In a discussion led by the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mbaranga Gasarabwe, heads of agencies, funds and programmes based in Bamako expressed their concerns regarding the limited access for humanitarian and development actors in the north and the challenges associated with the return of refugees as well as humanitarian needs which have only been aggravated by the conflict in the last few years.

Council members were also briefed by the leadership of Operation Barkhane, regarding the offensive operations conducted by the French forces in the region, and the leadership of the EU Training Mission, who discussed its role in training and advising the Malian Defense and Security Forces.

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