What's In Blue

Posted Tue 12 Jan 2021

Mali: Briefing and Consultations via Videoconference

Tomorrow (13 January), Security Council members will hold a videoconference (VTC) briefing on Mali, with Special Representative and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) Mahamat Saleh Annadif. This is expected to be Annadif’s final Council briefing, as he will be ending his tenure in March of the mission he has led since his appointment in December 2015. Closed consultations through VTC are scheduled following the public session. This is the regular quarterly meeting of the Council to consider the Secretary-General’s report on Mali (the latest is dated 28 December 2020), and the Secretary-General’s bi-annual letter on MINUSMA operations, including security challenges, implementation of the mission’s adaptation plan, mission performance, and transition planning.

Annadif is expected to update members on Mali’s political transition, brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) following the 18 August 2020 coup d’état that ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. Since the Council’s last briefing on Mali on 8 October 2020, further progress was made in putting in place the institutions envisioned during the 18-month transition period, which is expected to culminate in presidential and legislative elections. The National Transitional Council has been established to serve as an interim parliament that will be responsible for voting on reforms and legislative changes; Transitional President Bah N’Daou appointed its 121 members on 3 December 2020.

The creation of the National Transitional Council follows the appointments in September of N’Daou, who is a former colonel and defence minister, as president; Colonel Assimi Goïta as transitional vice-president; and Moctar Ouane, a former foreign minister and diplomat, as transitional prime minister. On 1 October, the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP)—created by officers involved in the coup—issued the transitional charter, developed through consultations with Malian stakeholders during negotiations led by ECOWAS. On 5 October, N’Daou appointed a 25-member transitional government. Annadif is likely to recognise this progress in establishing the transition’s key institutions, especially following the uncertainty that prevailed after last year’s coup.

Despite ECOWAS’ calls for the transition to be civilian-led, the military has retained a strong hold on power. In addition to N’Daou’s own military background and the appointment of Goïta, military officers were appointed to lead four government ministries: the important portfolios of defence, security, territorial administration, and national reconciliation. The military were given the largest block of seats in the transition parliament—22 of 121 seats—and Colonel Malick Diaw, one of the coup organisers, was elected to lead the body. Eleven newly appointed governors from the military have brought the number of regions governed by military or police officers to 13 out of 20. In his report, the Secretary-General also describes “worrying” social developments, including strikes and the threat of strikes by labour unions. He says that “social tensions could have serious consequences for the political transition, if not addressed”.

Developments in Bamako have overshadowed efforts to implement the 2015 Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement between the government and signatory armed groups in the north. However, representatives of the signatory movements joined the new government for the first time since the agreement, with the appointment of four ministers from these movements. The Secretary-General’s report says that their involvement in the new government “presents an opportunity for collaboration and pragmatic solutions to overcome differences and to take bold decisions to advance the peace process”. Annadif may echo the report’s observation that the “transitional period should be capitalized upon to address the outstanding issues regarding implementation of key provisions of the Agreement”.

Annadif is also likely to address efforts to stabilise central Mali, which is one of the mission’s two strategic priorities, with the other being support to the peace agreement. The security situation in Mali “continued to deteriorate…in particular in the centre”, according to the Secretary-General, where civilians continue to be the main victims of attacks by community-affiliated groups and violent extremist groups. Violent extremist groups also remained active in the north.

Annadif could refer to progress by MINUSMA in implementing its adaptation plan to make the mission more mobile and thereby better support efforts to stabilise the centre and protect civilians. As described in the Secretary-General’s letter, “persistent equipment shortfalls”, in particular air assets, “pose significant operational challenges” that affect MINUSMA’s ability to respond rapidly and in a flexible manner, which Annadif could draw attention to during his briefing.

Among recent developments, Annadif could refer to the death on 25 December 2020 of prominent Malian politician Soumaïla Cissé, from COVID-19. Cissé was freed this past October in a reported prisoner exchange with the Group to Support Islam and Muslims, after being kidnapped in March 2020, and had been expected to be a leading presidential candidate next year. (Pierre Buyoya, the AU High Representative to Mali and the Sahel until soon after his conviction in October by Burundi’s Supreme Court for the murder of former Burundian president Melchior Ndadaye in 1993, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in Mali and died on 17 December 2020.)

Council members’ interventions are likely to encourage progress with the four priorities that the Council outlined in its 15 October 2020 presidential statement welcoming the new transitional arrangements. In the statement, the Council set out its expectation that the transition should be completed within 18 months and recognised the importance of political, institutional, electoral, administrative, and security sector reforms outlined in the Transition Charter and the Transition Roadmap. The new authorities, according to the presidential statement, should further continue to implement the 2015 peace agreement, carry out efforts to stabilise central Mali and combat terrorism. Some members are likely to call on Malians to demonstrate commitment to and results in advancing these priorities.

Members may also underscore, among other points, the importance of women’s participation in the political process. The Secretary-General’s report notes some positive developments in increasing women’s participation—9 out of 31 members of the Monitoring Committee of the Peace Agreement are women, an increase from just four women members in the first half of last year. Members may seek to draw attention to the humanitarian situation, described in the Secretary-General’s report as a “serious concern”. They may also emphasise the importance of concrete steps for ending impunity and promoting dialogue and reconciliation for the effective protection of civilians, echoing observations of the Secretary-General in his report.

Since this is likely to be Annadif’s last briefing, he may offer reflections about his tenure in Mali. Council members are expected to congratulate Annadif on his work after more than five years leading MINUSMA.

For further background, see Security Council Report’s January Forecast on Mali.