What's In Blue

Posted Sat 12 Jun 2021

Mali: Briefing and Consultations

On Monday (14 June), the Security Council is expected to hold its quarterly briefing, followed by consultations, on Mali. Special Representative and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) El-Ghassim Wane will brief. Fatima Maiga, president of the Coalition des Femmes Leaders Nord, Sud et Centre du Mali (NSC), will also brief the Council. Following the meeting, France, the penholder on Mali, is expected to circulate a draft resolution to renew the mandate of MINUSMA, which members will begin to negotiate next week. The mandate of MINUSMA expires on 30 June.

On 24 May, Mali experienced its second coup d’état in 9 months. Members of the military arrested transitional President Bah N’daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, who both resigned on 26 May while still in detention. The developments added new uncertainty and complexity to the political transition established to restore an elected government after the 18 August 2020 coup.

Wane briefed Council members about the latest crisis on 26 May in closed consultations. At the meeting, he reportedly described events leading up to the transitional authorities’ arrest. A reshuffling of the transitional government, which was announced earlier in the day on 24 May, replaced the defence and security ministers. Both officials were involved in last year’s coup d’état. A 25 May statement by transitional Vice-President Colonel Assimi Goïta—who was a leader of the August 2020 coup—claimed that Ouane had failed to consult with him on the new cabinet, violating Goïta’s responsibility for defence and security matters stipulated in the transitional charter.

Security Council members issued a press statement condemning the arrests following the 26 May meeting. The statement affirmed Council members’ support to the civilian-led transition, called for its immediate resumption and for maintaining its 18-month timeline, and expressed support for regional mediation efforts. In the press statement, Council members underlined that “imposing a change of transitional leadership by force, including through forced resignations, is unacceptable”.

Other international interlocutors also strongly condemned the 24 May coup. During a 30 May special summit in Accra, Ghana, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) suspended Mali from the regional bloc and called for a new civilian prime minister to be nominated immediately. On 1 June, the AU Peace and Security Council suspended Mali from participation in all AU activities and organs, called for a swift return to the civilian-led transition and threatened to impose targeted sanctions. In addition, France, Mali’s main military partner, announced on 3 June that it was suspending joint operations with the Malian military.

At Monday’s meeting, Wane is likely to provide an update on developments since the Secretary-General’s 1 June report on Mali. Goïta was sworn in as president on 7 June, following the constitutional court’s ruling on 29 May that he should exercise the functions of the transitional presidency to lead the transition to its conclusion. Goïta has promised that presidential and legislative elections that are planned for 27 February 2022 will take place as scheduled. On the day of his swearing-in, Goïta appointed Choguel Maiga of the June 5 Movement as prime minister—the movement led protests in 2020 that precipitated the August 2020 coup d’état and has been critical of the transition’s trajectory. On 8 and 9 June, ECOWAS mediator to Mali, Goodluck Jonathan, visited Bamako and discussed with Goïta and Maiga their plans to complete the transition within the 18-month timeframe; the visit was Jonathan’s second mission to Bamako since the coup. Wane may highlight in his briefing the particular importance of focusing efforts on organising February’s elections.

During Monday’s session, Council members may reiterate their condemnation of last month’s coup. They are expected to stress the need for resuming the political transition and for the timely holding of elections. Members may underline the need for inclusive dialogue and compromise by stakeholders to achieve the electoral timeline.

Other areas of discussion at the meeting will be the implementation of the 2015 Mali Peace agreement and the situation in central Mali. Wane may refer to the “protracted delays”, according to the Secretary-General’s report, in implementing the key provisions of the 2015 peace agreement. On 13 April, the leader of the signatory party Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), Sidi Brahim Ould Sidati, was assassinated in Bamako by unidentified individuals. The transitional authorities opened an investigation into the assassination.

Regarding the situation in central Mali, the Secretary-General’s report notes that “violence has continued unabated” and says that “absent a strong and coherent vision of the transitional government and a stronger presence of the state, [MINUSMA] will not be in position to make a real difference in central Mali”. The report observes a decrease in intercommunal violence in several districts amid various local dialogue and ceasefire initiatives, although it reports an increase in the activities of terrorist groups. It also notes an expansion of extremist groups and conflict into parts of southern Mali.

Members are likely to call during Monday’s meeting for the peace agreement’s continued implementation. They may also discuss increasing the troop ceiling of MINUSMA in the upcoming mandate renewal to improve its ability to protect civilians in central Mali. MINUSMA has struggled to implement an adaptation plan following the Council’s decision in 2019 to add, as a second strategic priority, the mission’s support to the government to stabilise central Mali. Members may also underscore that the new Malian authorities keep a focus on tackling impunity for human rights violations.

Some Council members may reiterate calls for establishing a UN office to support the Group of Five of the Sahel Joint Force (FC-G5S). At the Council’s last briefing on Mali in April, Niger announced on behalf of the “A3 plus one” (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) that it intends to propose during June a resolution to create the office, which the Secretary-General has recommended to facilitate more predictable funding for the FC-G5S. Regarding the Sahel more broadly, where security continues to deteriorate, French President Emmanuel Macron announced yesterday (10 May) that France plans to draw down Operation Barkhane, its regional counter-terrorism force in the Sahel. While France will maintain forces in the Sahel, Macron suggested that Paris aims to see other countries increase their support to counter-terrorism efforts.

Maiga of NSC is expected to focus on women’s political participation during her briefing at Monday’s meeting. The Security Council’s Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security met on 29 April to discuss Mali. A summary of the meeting, published on 25 May, contains several recommendations, among others, for MINUSMA’s upcoming mandate renewal to increase women’s participation in the transition process and in the implementation of the peace agreement.