What's In Blue

Security Council Videoconference on Mali Socio-Political Crisis

On Monday afternoon (27 July), Security Council members will hold a closed videoconference (VTC) on the ongoing political and civil unrest in Mali. Special Representative and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) Mahamat Saleh Annadif is expected to brief. Last week, Russia proposed the meeting on Mali, but Niger requested to delay a Council meeting until after a planned mission of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) heads of state to Mali, which took place yesterday, and an extraordinary ECOWAS summit on the situation planned for Monday.

Since last month, Mali has seen tens of thousands of people protest in Bamako against the government, prompting a new socio-political crisis. A coalition of opposition and civil society groups known as the June 5 Movement-Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP) and led by Imam Mahmoud Dicko organised the first mass protests on 5 and 19 June, calling for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita because of continued insecurity, the struggling economy, corruption, and the Constitutional Court’s decision to annul 5.2-percent votes cast in the long-delayed legislative elections held this spring. The court’s ruling on 30 April, a key trigger for the demonstrations, overturned provisional results for 31 seats, (out of 147) which increased the representation of Keita’s party in the parliament by ten seats.

From 18 to 20 June, a high-level ECOWAS delegation—including the Nigerien and Nigerian foreign ministers, Kalla Ankourao and Geoffrey Onyeama, respectively, and the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou—were in Mali to mediate the dispute. The mission called for the formation of a national unity government and the re-running of the elections for the disputed legislative seats.

Tensions escalated further when at least 11 protesters were killed and 150 people were injured in Bamako between 10 and 12 July. Security forces fired live ammunition at protesters who looted the parliament, besieged the national broadcaster’s office, and attacked the offices of the ruling party. In a 12 July joint statement, MINUSMA, the AU, ECOWAS, and the EU condemned “any form of violence as a means of crisis resolution” and condemned the authorities’ “use of lethal force” to maintain order. The four organisations encouraged the government to release protest leaders who had been arrested and expressed support for ECOWAS’ proposals to end the crisis. That same day, Keita announced that he had dissolved the Constitutional Court and said that he was willing to consider re-running contested legislative elections.

A second ECOWAS mission was in Mali, where protesters reportedly continued to block roads around Bamako, from 15 to 19 July, led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. The mission urged the authorities to finalise investigations into the recent deaths of protestors, and recommended that the Constitutional Court be reconstituted to review the electoral results of the disputed parliamentary seats, and the formation of a national unity government comprising 50 percent of members from the ruling coalition, with thirty percent from the opposition and the remaining 20 percent from civil society.

M5-RFP rejected the proposals because they did not include Keita’s resignation. On 23 July, the presidents of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal went to Bamako to meet with President Keita and Dicko. The mission will report on its meetings at an ECOWAS extraordinary summit for Monday, which was announced yesterday and should conclude by the time of the Council VTC.

Annadif is expected to update members about these developments and ECOWAS’ efforts, for which most members are likely to express support. Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou is the current chair of ECOWAS, which apparently has coordinated closely with the AU; thus, the A3 (Niger, South Africa and Tunisia) are expected to present a united front on the situation. ECOWAS has opposed an outcome leading to Keita’s resignation. The communiqué of its 15 to 19 July mission recalled the importance of respecting “the constitutional means of ascending to power” and stated that ECOWAS would “not tolerate” any unconstitutional ascension to power. At the conclusion of yesterday’s heads of state mission, President Issoufou described Keita’s resignation as a “red line” and said that there would be “no unconstitutional changes of power in the ECOWAS region.”

Council members have been negotiating a draft presidential statement on West Africa and the Sahel following their 9 July six-monthly meeting with Special Representative Mohamed Ibn Chambas of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel. The current draft text, which addresses the turmoil in Mali, urges Malian stakeholders to engage in dialogue based on ECOWAS’ recommendations.

The current crisis comes as Mali struggles to implement a 2015 peace agreement with armed groups in the north, as well as dealing with widespread insecurity in its northern and central regions from terrorist groups and intercommunal violence.

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