What's In Blue

Posted Thu 27 Aug 2020

Mali: Renewal of Sanctions Regime*

This evening (27 August) the Security Council started a written voting procedure on a draft resolution that will extend the Mali sanctions measures—an asset freeze and travel ban—until 31 August 2021, and the mandate of the Mali Panel of Experts until 30 September 2021. Members held one expert level meeting on the draft text on 18 August, the same day as the coup d’état in Mali. France, the penholder on Mali, placed the draft resolution under silence on 25 August, which Russia and China broke yesterday (26 August). Agreement was reached on the draft resolution following the completion of a second silence procedure that expired at 6 pm today. The Council presidency is expected to convene a videoconference (VTC) tomorrow (28 August) at 6:30 pm to announce the results of the voting on this and other draft resolutions.

Draft Resolution and Negotiations

One issue where members had differences was around the Panel of Experts’ recommendation from its final report—dated 13 August—that the Council extend the designation criteria to include proceeds from the illegal exploitation and trafficking of natural resources, including gold and manganese. The final report describes the artisanal gold boom in northern Mali’s Kidal region since 2018 and the Gourma area since March this year that has attracted some 200,000 workers. It notes that the gold boom helps the implementation of the 2015 Mali Peace and Reconciliation agreement by absorbing ex-combatants of armed groups and keeps youth from joining the groups. But the report says that it also threatens the peace agreement by supporting the expansion strategy of the Coordination des mouvements de l’Azawad (CMA), a signatory party of the Mali peace agreement. It further maintains there is a risk that crimes are committed in the pursuit of wealth, and that criminal networks involving armed group members engage in gold production, which can negatively impact the agreement’s implementation.

It seems that some members that opposed adding the new criterion on illicit mining warned about the risk of negatively impacting the situation, as the mining sector is important for a large number of people. Concerns were also raised about making sure that language defining the criteria targets those who seek to use proceeds from mining to obstruct the agreement. Ultimately it seems that members concluded that they would consider the proposal further and that the Panel should provide more information on the issue before potentially adding the new designation criterion.

The penholder also sought to include a Panel recommendation that would request the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to ensure the safety, security and freedom of movement of the Panel. This proved to be the most contentious issue during negotiations. China and Russia raised objections, maintaining that this would expand the mandate of MINUSMA. Russia also apparently proposed that the Panel be requested to provide information that would be relevant for delisting sanctioned individuals, in addition to its current task of providing information for listings. France and several other members opposed this proposal, however. Yesterday, Russia and China broke silence regarding these points. The version of the draft resolution that passed silence today does not call for MINUSMA to provide the Panel with protection or for the panel to provide relevant delisting information.

Ultimately the draft resolution is very similar to the text of last year’s sanctions resolution, with only minor changes. Language on last week’s coup d’état was drawn from Council members’ 19 August press statement that strongly condemned the mutiny and expressed strong support to the mediation efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The draft resolution adds that the Council is ready to “discuss this matter…in light of the potential implications of these recent developments on the implementation of the Agreement”.

The Report of the Panel of Experts

The 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee discussed the Panel of Experts final report at the start of this month on 5 August. Other Panel findings include breaches of the peace agreement and subsequent agreements regarding the accelerated disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) process, in particular by the former chief of staff of the Malian army, General Keba Sangaré. According to the report, these breaches created delays and tensions in the DDR process, despite the deployment of reconstituted units to northern Mali having been one of the main areas of progress this year in implementing the peace agreement. The panel’s report also attributes much of the discord between signatory parties that has undermined the peace agreement’s implementation as being rooted in the strategy of Malian governments since 1994 to co-opt and manipulate armed groups and militia active in northern Mali. As previously reported, armed groups’ involvement in drug trafficking has led to deadly clashes, which are potential ceasefire violations and threaten the implementation of the agreement. The Panel suggests the importance of sanctions designations targeting “suppliers” of drugs, due to the destabilising effects of drug trafficking.

Among other observations, the Panel’s report describes a challenging regional environment as hindering the agreement’s implementation. This includes a trend of increasing violence against civilians committed by military and security forces during counter-insurgency operations in Mali, Burkina Faso and the Niger, as well as by ethnic-based militia against rival communities. According to the report, negligence and misconduct on the part of the Malian military is responsible for the failure to protect civilians from some of this inter-ethnic violence, including during the “preventable” 14 February attack in Ogossogou that killed 35 Fulani civilians. Moreover, escalating violence in central Mali has diverted resources and attention from implementing the agreement and has eroded public support for the accord and trust in the government, military and security forces.

The Committee is continuing to discuss the Panel’s other recommendations from its final report. Additionally, the Panel has proposed designating several additional individuals to the sanctions list. However, Council members seem unlikely to act on the proposed listings at this time in light of last week’s more recent developments and ongoing mediation efforts. ECOWAS heads of state and government will hold another virtual summit on the crisis tomorrow (28 August) following this past weekend’s mediation mission to Mali by former Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan.


  • Post-script (30 August 2020): The announcement of the results of the written voting procedure was moved from 28 August to 31 August. 
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