Mali: Briefing and Consultations
Tomorrow (8 October), the Security Council will hear a briefing from Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the Special Representative and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). This is foreseen as the first formal meeting in the Council chamber since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place in March, although there have been several recent Council meetings in the ECOSOC chamber. Consultations are scheduled to follow the public session. France, as the penholder on Mali, is expected to propose a presidential statement that will take stock of recent progress in setting up a political transition following the 18 August coup d’état, and set out expectations for the way forward. It will also likely address the implementation of the 2015 Mali peace and reconciliation agreement, and stabilisation efforts in the country’s centre.
Much of tomorrow’s meeting will focus on developments since the coup and efforts to establish a political transition. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and its appointed mediator to Mali, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, have been leading negotiations with the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), formed by the soldiers that carried out the coup against President Ibrahim Keïta. The crisis, which reportedly started as a mutiny before evolving into a coup, followed protests since June by the opposition and civil society groups calling for Keïta’s resignation over Mali’s mismanagement, corruption, insecurity and a controversial constitutional court ruling that overturned the results of legislative elections earlier this year in favour of Keïta’s ruling party.
Negotiations have led to an agreement for an 18-month transition period before new elections. ECOWAS has insisted on a civilian-led political transition as a condition for lifting the economic sanctions that the regional bloc imposed immediately following the coup. On 21 September, the CNSP appointed as transitional president Bah N’daw, who is a former colonel and served as minister of defence in 2014. It also named CNSP head Colonel Assimi Goïta as transitional vice-president. On 28 September, Moctar Ouane, a former foreign minister and diplomat, was named transitional prime minister. A new 25-member government, announced on 5 October, includes the appointment of army colonels to the posts of defence, security, territorial administration and national reconciliation.
In its 6 October communiqué lifting the sanctions, ECOWAS cited the recent appointments of the president and prime minister, among other developments. While ECOWAS has reportedly had concerns about Goïta’s role, these were apparently mitigated when the CNSP published the transitional charter on 1 October, which limits the vice-president’s responsibilities to defence and security and excludes a provision from an earlier draft of the charter allowing the vice-president to replace the transitional president, according to the ECOWAS announcement. In lifting sanctions, ECOWAS reiterated demands that the new authorities release all military and civilian personnel still being detained since the coup and dissolve the CNSP. (Keïta was released from detention in late August and travelled to the UAE on 7 September for medical treatment).
Security Council members have been following the developments in Mali and the ECOWAS-led mediation. In a 19 August press statement and 31 August resolution that renewed the Mali sanctions regime, the Council expressed its support for ECOWAS’ efforts. At tomorrow’s meeting, members may underscore the importance of the transitional government adhering to the 18-month period for the transition, while also expressing their intention to support the new authorities. Members are likely to stress that the transition period be used to carry forward reforms to strengthen Mali’s democracy and institutions, including security sector reform. The 18 August coup d’état was Mali’s second coup in eight years and followed significant international financial and human investment in support to governance and security.
While the political turmoil in Bamako is likely to be the main focus of tomorrow’s discussion, Council quarterly briefings on Mali typically review progress towards implementing the 2015 peace agreement and efforts to stabilise central Mali amid terrorist and inter-communal violence. The Secretary-General’s latest report on Mali—shared with members last week—notes that progress in implementing the peace agreement has been at a “near standstill” since the protests began in June. It also says that attacks by extremist groups in northern and central Mali, as well as intercommunal violence in the centre, have continued “unabated”. For its part, the CNSP was quick to affirm, upon its formation, its commitment to the peace accord and to cooperating with various international presences, including MINUSMA, France’s Operation Barkhane, and the G5 Sahel joint force. Among other challenges, the Secretary-General report flags the impact of COVID-19, observing that the global economic recession sparked by the pandemic is likely to push a further 800,000 Malians below the poverty line and contribute to escalating socio-economic and political tensions.
During tomorrow’s session, members are likely to encourage MINUSMA to continue with its mandated priorities to support the peace agreement and help stabilise central Mali, while also encouraging the mission to support the country’s political transition. ECOWAS has announced the creation of a monitoring committee to oversee the political transition that includes Annadif.
Members may raise concerns about a trend in increasing human rights violations and abuses linked to violent extremism, counter-terrorism operations, and community-based violence. Such abuses include allegations of fifty arbitrary executions committed by Malian defence and security forces and international forces during a three-day period this past May during counter-terrorism operations, as noted in the Secretary-General’s report.
In other developments that members may allude to, leading Malian politician Soumaïla Cissé, who was kidnapped in March, and French aid worker Sophie Petronin, who has been held captive for nearly four years, were reportedly released yesterday as part of a prisoner exchange involving up to 200 extremist fighters, negotiated by the new Malian authorities.