Visiting Mission to Mali and Burkina Faso
This evening (21 March), Security Council members are leaving New York on a visiting mission to Mali and Burkina Faso. There are three main objectives of the visiting mission, which is co-led by Côte d’Ivoire, France and Germany. First, it aims at assessing progress and encouraging further implementation of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Mali. Second, it aims at assessing the status of the operationalisation of the joint force of the G5 Sahel (FC-G5S) after a six-month hiatus following a terrorist attack against its headquarters in central Mali in June 2018. Third, it seeks to focus on the degradation of the security situation in Burkina Faso.
This is the fourth Council visiting mission to Mali since the establishment of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in 2013. The Council previously visited the country in February 2014, March 2016 and October 2017 (when it also went to Burkina Faso and Mauritania). This visit takes place three months before the renewal of the mission’s mandate in June. Upon returning to New York, the Council is expected to hold a ministerial meeting on Mali, featuring a briefing by Secretary-General António Guterres and the participation of Malian Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga.
Implementation of the 2015 Agreement
Discussions in Mali are expected to complement the 5 March report of the Secretary-General (S/2019/207) which assessed progress in several priority areas identified by the Council in resolution 2423. These areas include the holding of presidential elections; the decentralisation of state administration; the operationalisation of the interim administrations in northern Mali; the cantonment and disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration processes, as well as inclusive and consensual security sector reform; the full operationalisation of mixed patrols by government forces and armed groups in Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu; the socio-economic development of northern Mali; and the equal and meaningful political participation of women.
While the report acknowledges the limited progress in some key areas, it highlights the critical role that MINUSMA plays in support of the implementation of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. It further states that more progress has been achieved within the past six months than ever before since the signing of the agreement.
This assessment is relevant because in resolution 2423, the Council, at the initiative of the US, expressed its intent, in the absence of significant progress on the implementation of the peace agreement, to request the Secretary-General to provide options for a potentially significant modification of MINUSMA’s mandate when the current mandate expires. The visiting mission seems geared as much to put pressure on the parties to deliver on their own commitments under the agreement and exercise their political will, as to address the concerns of those Council members that may question the appropriateness of MINUSMA’s current configuration.
Council members are likely to reiterate their intention to follow closely the implementation of the agreement and consider responding with targeted sanctions against spoilers should the parties not deliver on their commitments within a particular timeframe.
In addition to the difficult security dynamics in the north, the situation in the centre of Mali is expected to be discussed as well. Inter-communal violence among ethnic groups—particularly Fulani, Bambara and Dogon—persists. Terrorist groups often take advantage of these tensions to increase recruitment and enhance their own legitimacy in their communities. While the government has developed an integrated security plan, the Secretary-General highlighted in the 5 March report that “a stand-alone security response will not be sufficient to address the crises in Mali, the root causes of which are inherently political and developmental”. The situation in the centre lacks an overall political framework of the kind outlined for northern Mali by the agreement.
Council members are expected to assess the level of operationalisation of the FC-G5S, as well as concurrent efforts carried out by the G5 Sahel in the political and development fields. The force was established in February 2017 by Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger to combat terrorist and criminal groups in the subregion, but it is yet to become fully operational. In January, the mission carried out its first operations since a June 2018 terrorist attack against the FC-G5S headquarters in central Mali.
Council discussions regarding the FC-G5S have been influenced by a lack of unanimity regarding the kind of financial support that the Council should provide to the force. In the end, resolution 2391, which was adopted in December 2017, tasked MINUSMA with the provision of operational and logistical support to the FC-G5S when operating on Malian territory. However, MINUSMA’s support has been limited by a lack of funding. The EU, which is the only donor to fund MINUSMA’s support to the joint force, has committed $10 million to be used for CASEVAC and life support consumables (rations, water and fuel).
Members are also likely to assess the human rights compliance framework of the FC-G5S during the visiting mission.
Council members are expected to hold meetings in Ouagadougou on the deterioration of the security situation in Burkina Faso and the increased reach of terrorist groups in the Sahel. Although the situation in Burkina Faso is not specifically on the agenda of the Security Council, the Council regularly receives information through the reports of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel. The terms of reference of the visiting mission reflect the Council’s willingness to demonstrate “interest in contributing to prevent a further destabilization of the security situation in parts of the country which are subject to cross-border challenges and have a bearing on peace and security in the Sahel”.