What's In Blue

Posted Mon 5 Apr 2021

Mali: Videoconference Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (6 April), Security Council members will hold their quarterly briefing and consultations on Mali through videoconference (VTC). Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix will brief. El-Ghassim Wane, the new Special Representative and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), takes up his position in Mali later this month.

Lacroix will provide an update on the political transition, the implementation of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement and the security situation in central and northern Mali, and highlight developments since the Secretary-General’s new report on Mali that covers 15 December 2020 to 15 March. Tomorrow’s meeting follows a 2 April attack against the MINUSMA camp in Aguelhok, Kidal region, that killed four Chadian peacekeepers and injured 19 others. With Friday’s attack, ten peacekeepers and one UN contractor have been killed in Mali this year, a notable increase since the previous reporting period during which one peacekeeper was killed.

Mali completed the establishment of its transitional institutions during the current reporting period, though the political environment remains fragile amid distrust between the military leadership, who retain significant power, and the civilian political class. On 22 February, the transitional parliament, known as the National Transitional Council, approved the government’s action plan, which sets out six priority areas and 275 specific actions. Many of these objectives are unlikely to be achieved during the remaining 11 months of Mali’s 18-month transition, which should culminate with national elections in March 2022. Lacroix may emphasise the need to focus on the implementation of the most important electoral, constitutional and institutional reforms.

Lacroix may also observe that the interim authorities and signatory armed groups have appeared committed to the 2015 peace agreement. The Secretary-General’s report highlights the 11 February meeting of the Agreement Monitoring Committee in Kidal. It was the first meeting of the parties in Kidal since the agreement’s signing in 2015 and included the participation of six government ministers and the leadership of the signatory armed groups; it was also the first time the Malian flag had flown over Kidal in nine years, as the Secretary-General’s report notes. The report urges the parties to build on the “momentum” generated by this meeting to make sustainable progress in further implementing the agreement. Council members are likely to stress the importance of Malian stakeholders now achieving concrete results both regarding the political transition and the peace agreement.

For tomorrow’s session, members are also considering a Secretary-General’s letter on a long-term road map on conditions for a possible MINUSMA exit strategy. The Council requested such a road map in last year’s MINUSMA mandate renewal. The document sets out benchmarks and sectorial priorities to be achieved by the end of the political transition next year, which makes up the first phase of the road map. These benchmarks include, among others, completing electoral reforms, the constitutional review, and deploying the reconstituted units and integrating an additional 2,000 members of signatory armed groups into the Malian defence and security forces.

It also sets out the challenges that Mali will still face after the political transition, and thus the priority activities and role of MINUSMA during this second phase, which would eventually help create conditions for planning the transfer of the mission’s responsibilities to Malian forces and the UN country team. The third phase of the road map will consist of an exit strategy and has not yet been developed, which the letter says would be “premature”.

On the security front, in addition to the attacks on MINUSMA, the Secretary-General’s report notes that 100 Malian soldiers were killed during the reporting period. Since the report was prepared, 33 Malian soldiers were killed and 14 wounded near the town of Tessit, located in the Gao region, making it the deadliest attack against Malian forces since the August 2020 coup. The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara claimed responsibility. Neighbouring Niger has also experienced a new wave of lethal attacks near its border with Mali. Assailants killed at least 58 civilians on 15 March in Banibangou in the Tillabéri region and attacked a series of villages on 21 March in the Tahou region, killing at least 137 people.

Members condemned the 2 April attack on MINUSMA in a press release this weekend, and are likely to reiterate their condemnation of such attacks tomorrow. Council members may also refer to the report by the MINUSMA Human Rights and Protection of Civilians Division released on 30 March, which concluded that a 3 January airstrike by France’s regional counter-terrorism force, Operation Barkhane, killed at least 19 civilians at a wedding party in the town of Bounti in central Mali. According to the report, five armed individuals belonging to the terrorist group Katiba Serma attended the wedding, three of whom were killed. France’s ministry of defence said in a statement that it “reaffirms strongly” that the airstrike targeted an “armed terrorist group” and indicated that it had “numerous reservations about the methodology” used in the report.

On 17 March, the Secretary-General announced Wane’s appointment to replace Mahamat Saleh Annadif, who headed MINUSMA during the last five years, and will next lead the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) in Dakar. By the end of June, the Council will need to renew the mandate of MINUSMA.

For more on Mali, see this month’s brief in Security Council Report’s April Forecast.