Mali: Vote on Renewal of Sanctions Regime*
Tomorrow afternoon (30 August), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the Mali asset freeze and travel ban sanctions until 31 August 2023 and extending the mandate of the Mali Panel of Experts until 30 September 2023. France and Mexico served as co-penholders for this year’s sanctions renewal; Ambassador Juan Ramón de la Fuente Ramírez of Mexico chairs the 2374 Mali Sanctions Committee. The penholders circulated an initial draft text on 16 August and convened one expert-level meeting on 18 August. On 25 August, after members submitted further comments on the draft resolution, the penholders placed the text under silence procedure. India broke silence on 26 August. Later that day, the penholders put the draft resolution in blue without substantive changes.
In addition to extending the sanctions regime, the draft resolution in blue states the Council’s regret that the Comité de suivi de l’Accord (CSA), which monitors the implementation of the 2015 Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, has not met since October 2021, and expresses “significant impatience with parties” over the persistent delays with its implementation. As the Mali Panel of Experts observed in its final report, which was published earlier this month, implementation during the past year of the peace agreement by the government and ethnic Tuareg separatist groups “was stalled, with none of the implementing mechanisms functioning”. For the first time since July 2017, the report expresses concern about the threat of confrontation between the parties, noting that they continue to build up their military strength. The draft resolution in blue recalls the Council’s readiness to respond with measures pursuant to resolution 2374 of 5 September 2017 “should the parties engage in hostilities in violation of the Agreement, take actions that obstruct, or that obstruct by prolonged delay, or that threaten the implementation of the Agreement”.
During the negotiations, the A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) apparently conveyed a preference for a more positive tone and expressed reservations over mentioning that the CSA has not met. But since the penholders had included in the initial draft resolution language welcoming a recent high-level meeting on the peace agreement’s implementation in Bamako from 1 to 5 August, they withdrew these reservations.
Overall, the negotiations appeared to have been smooth. The penholders sought to have the draft resolution focus on the implementation of the peace agreement (which was the Council’s motivation in establishing the sanctions regime in 2017) and avoid having the text address broader political issues that could divide Council members, as recently played out in the negotiations to renew the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Resolution 2640 of 29 June, which extended MINUSMA’s mandate, was adopted without consensus due to Chinese and Russian abstentions. The initial text that France and Mexico prepared therefore omitted language from last year’s sanctions renewal on Mali’s political transition and broader situation.
It seems that several Western Council members expressed a preference for the text to address the transition and broader political issues, while China and Russia apparently conveyed their opposition to their inclusion. Council members eventually agreed to a short paragraph “acknowledging the decisions on Mali” of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at its 3 July summit—to reference the latest decisions of the regional bloc on the transition since MINUSMA’s mandate renewal—and “recalling the provisions of resolution 2640 on elections and the return to constitutional order”.
There was debate about whether to name terrorist organisations in Mali and the Sahel or to make a more general reference to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Qaida-linked terrorist groups in a paragraph that condemns their activities. It seems that the A3, along with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), sought more general language. Their concerns were driven in part over giving legitimacy to these groups by naming them, with the A3 being uncomfortable in particular about referencing the Islamic State in West Africa Province, since the word “province” could suggest formal control of territory. The penholders and others accepted the proposed revision. However, this change prompted a silence break by India, which apparently considers it important to identify specific terrorist groups. Despite the silence break, the penholders did not change the text and the more general reference was retained in the draft text in blue.
One change to this year’s Mali sanctions resolution focused on the establishment of a focal point by the Malian authorties for communication with the committee. In the initial draft, the penholders included a request for Mali’s authorities to notify the 2374 Sanctions Committee of the appointment of such a focal point. The final report of the Panel of Experts describes a lack of awareness in the region about the sanctions regime. According to the panel, implementation of the assets freeze and travel ban is mostly inadequate and ineffective, as the travel ban is violated regularly and the Malian government has not implemented the assets freeze. The panel says that the situation highlights the need for greater outreach and sensitisation at both the administrative and operational levels.
In reaction to the penholders’ proposal, the A3 said that Mali has appointed a focal point but had realised that this had not been communicated to the committee. Last week, Mali sent a letter to the committee, notifying it about the appointment. This led to the draft resolution’s revision so that the text now “welcomes” the designation by the Malian authorities of a focal point and calls for swift and timely dialogue and exchange of information between the Malian authorities and the committee.
*Post-script: On 30 August, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2649, renewing the Mali asset freeze and travel ban sanctions until 31 August 2023 and extending the mandate of the Mali Panel of Experts until 30 September 2023.