What's In Blue

Posted Wed 29 Jun 2022

Mali: Council Vote to Renew the Mandate of MINUSMA*

This afternoon (29 June), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution extending the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) for one year, until 30 June 2023.

France, the penholder on Mali, circulated an initial draft text to Council members on 13 June. It convened two expert-level negotiations on 15 and 21 June, before placing the text under silence procedure on 23 June. Multiple delegations subsequently broke silence: the A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya), Brazil, China, India, Russia and the UK. Yesterday (28 June), the A3, Brazil, China, Russia and the US announced that they were breaking a second silence procedure on a revised version of the text, and several other members submitted comments on the draft. Following only a few amendments to the text, France placed the draft resolution in blue yesterday afternoon.

During the negotiations, Council members were in agreement on the need to renew MINUSMA’s mandate in its current form, as most recently outlined in resolution 2584 of 29 June 2021. The draft resolution in blue maintains the mission’s force level, its strategic priorities (to support the implementation of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, Mali’s political transition and efforts to stabilize central Mali), as well as the mission’s priority and other mandated tasks.

The draft text in blue expresses support for the Secretary-General’s plan to conduct an internal review of MINUSMA, which he has proposed in light of recent significant security and political developments in the country. The draft resolution requests that the review be submitted no later than 13 January 2023, and include analysis of the political and security challenges affecting the mission’s ability to implement its mandate; an assessment of cooperation with the host country authorities and movement restrictions; recommendations on the necessary conditions for MINUSMA to continue operating; and options on MINUSMA’s future configuration, force levels and ceiling of uniformed personnel.

One of the main issues of disagreement among members during the negotiation was over how to address the reported increase in human rights violations committed by the Malian Defense and Security Forces (MDSF) and restrictions that Mali’s transitional authorities have been placing on MINUSMA’s freedom of movement.

The penholder updated this year’s text to reflect these reported human rights abuses and restrictions. It seems that the European members and the US emphasised the importance of the resolution’s text addressing these developments. Several other members, however, raised concerns that highlighting such issues in the text could be perceived as hostile towards the host country and would complicate MINUSMA’s efforts to improve relations with the authorities. The A3 members’ concerns apparently focused on the text having an excessive focus on human rights abuses by the Malian security forces. These members broke silence twice over their preference to streamline the human rights language and to avoid singling out the government forces for human rights violations.

It seems that Russia, in addition to objecting to much of the language on human rights violations, also pushed back against highlighting the restrictions the authorities have imposed on MINUSMA’s movements. Russia apparently contended that the draft resolution was too critical of the transitional authorities and of their counter-terrorism efforts. China apparently called for greater recognition of the efforts that Malian authorities have made to address the challenges facing the country.

On the opposite end, the UK and the US broke silence on 24 June and 28 June, respectively, in part over their view that the text did not go far enough in stressing that UN support to the MDSF should comply with the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (HRDDP). This may have also reflected concerns that several members share about MINUSMA support to the Malian armed forces potentially being channeled to the private Russian security company, the Wagner Group, that has reportedly been present in Mali since late December 2021 and has been supporting MDSF counter-terrorism operations.

The draft resolution in blue appears to reflect compromises in tone and the extent of its coverage of these issues. It includes provisions urging “the timely entry and rotation of MINUSMA’s international military and police peacekeepers”—a reference to the Malian authorities having blocked for several months the rotations of peacekeepers of several West African countries because of the sanctions that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed in January against Mali. It further calls for a cessation of all restrictions on freedom of movement, disinformation campaigns and other destabilising activities.

The draft text in blue urges the authorities to fight impunity “by investigating alleged human rights abuses” and “ensuring freedom of movement for MINUSMA to implement is current human rights mandate”. It also expresses serious concerns about repeated and increased allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the MDSF, as documented by MINUSMA in its human rights reporting. A subtle change in the text now requests MINUSMA to report “quarterly” to the Council on human rights violations, instead of “regularly”, which appears intended to prompt a more systematic release of its Human Rights Division reports. The draft resolution in blue also reinforces calls for compliance with the HRDDP, although not to the extent that the UK and the US preferred.

Another issue was over referring to the presence of the Wagner Group in the country. The draft resolution in blue condemns the “use of mercenaries and violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses perpetrated by them”. This formulation was used by the Council in resolution 2605 of 12 November 2021 on the Central African Republic (CAR), where the Wagner Group has been present for several years.

The US and the UK wanted to identify the Wagner Group by name or replace the term “mercenaries” with formulations such as “foreign security personnel”, since they view the group as an extension of the Russian state, and not as a private contractor, as the term “mercenary” would suggest. These formulations were apparently unacceptable to Russia, leading the penholder to retain the language drawn from the CAR resolution.

When breaking silence yesterday, the A3 also objected to a change that had been made to the text regarding the political transition. At Russia’s request, the draft resolution was amended during the negotiations to call for the transition government to restore constitutional order and hand over power to elected civilian authorities “in cooperation” with ECOWAS, replacing “in agreement” with ECOWAS. The A3 opposed the revision, apparently contending that it placed Mali at an equal level to ECOWAS, when Mali is one of several countries that form the sub-regional bloc. They maintained that the Council should respect the language that ECOWAS and the AU Peace and Security Council have used in their communiqués and statements on the transition. The penholder merged the two positions, updating the final version of the draft resolution to read “in cooperation with ECOWAS in order to reach an agreement”.

Among the concerns expressed by India and Brazil in breaking silence was a paragraph linking climate change to the security and stability of Mali. These members apparently sought to have “security” deleted from the text in this context. On the other hand, the A3 reportedly broke silence seeking to strengthen language in this paragraph. The paragraph, which emphasises the need for risk assessment and risk management strategies of climate change, among other issues, remains unchanged in the draft resolution in blue.

Another issue during the negotiation was over proposals made by the penholder regarding the Secretary-General’s six-monthly reports on the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) Joint Force (FC-G5S), which he provides separately from his reports on Mali. The proposals included a request that the Secretary-General provide updates on the FC-G5S and also on other existing or potential African counter-terrorist forces in the region. The request was apparently prompted by Mali’s decision in May to withdraw from the FC-G5S, which has raised concerns about the future of the force.

The UK and the US pushed back against making such changes through the MINUSMA resolution and expressed concerns about the UN reporting on issues in areas where it is not present, which led to the removal of the request for information on other security initiatives. However, the draft resolution in blue includes new requests that the Secretary-General’s next report on the FC-G5S provide updates, as appropriate, on the Independent High-Level Panel’s strategic assessment on Security and Development in the Sahel, which the UN, the AU, ECOWAS and the G5 Sahel recently launched. It should also contain a section assessing how Mali’s decision to withdraw from the G5-Sahel affects MINUSMA’s support to the FC-G5S, which the peacekeeping mission has been authorised to provide since December 2017.

The draft resolution in blue updates some of the information that the Secretary-General’s quarterly reports on Mali should convey. This includes information on “instances in which MINUSMA was unable to reach civilians to carry out is mandated activities and respond to potential protection threats” and “all instances of interference with MINUSMA’s activities by all actors, including violations of the [Status of Forces Agreement], denied flight authorisations, attacks, provocations and incitement to hatred and violence and disinformation and misinformation campaigns against MINUSMA”.


*Post-script: On 29 June, the Security Council adopted resolution 2640, extending the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) for one year, until 30 June 2023. For the first time since MINUSMA’s creation in 2013, the Council did so without unanimity, as China and Russia abstained on the vote. Speaking at the adoption, Mali’s Permanent Representative reiterated Mali’s “firm opposition to the freedom of movement of MINUSMA in the execution of its human rights mandate” and said that it “does not intend to implement those provisions of the resolution” (S/PV.9082).

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