8 August 2012
Security Council
SC/10737

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6820th Meeting (AM)


Secretary-General Urges Security Council to Consider Imposing Sanctions

 

on Those Fanning Crisis in Northern Mali

 


Following Briefing on Deteriorating Humanitarian,

Security Situations, Members Hear from Regional, Subregional Officials


Warning that the situation in Mali was taking “one alarming turn after another”, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefed the Security Council today on a raft of grave developments there — including a deepening humanitarian emergency and mounting evidence that the country’s vast northern region was being overrun by a volatile mix of armed groups — and encouraged the 15-nation body to “seriously consider” imposing sanctions on those fanning the flames of the crisis.


“We have seen a regional pillar of democracy fall steeply off the constitutional path,” he said, telling Council members that the “deeply troubling situation” meant that “more may be required of you” following their unanimous adoption last month of a resolution condemning the coup d’état that had toppled the Government in March, and expressing the Council’s readiness to study the request from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union for a United Nations mandate authorizing deployment of a subregional stabilization force in Mali.


The Secretary-General spotlighted the enormous suffering caused by an already horrendous food and nutrition emergency that was growing even worse, now threatening some 4.6 million people in Mali and more than 18 million people across the wider Sahel.  Moreover, the ongoing political instability had displaced more than 174,000 Malians and driven a quarter of a million more into neighbouring countries.  He also cited the rise of extremism, criminal activity and human rights violations in northern Mali, where the security situation remained “volatile and unpredictable” after the Ansar Dine and Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa — armed groups reportedly linked to Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb — had forced the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad from territory under its control.


Encouraging the Council seriously to consider imposing targeted travel and financial sanctions against individuals or groups engaged in terrorism, religious extremism or other such activities, he said that besides international engagement, the crisis in Mali would require a holistic and comprehensive approach, rather than partial and disconnected measures, given its complex and multidimensional nature.  “I strongly encourage the Government of Mali to develop an overarching political strategy to return the country to constitutional order and re-establish State authority in the north,” Mr. Ban said.


He said:  “The strategy should clearly spell out responses to genuine socio-economic and political grievances, the modalities for political dialogue and negotiations, and the aims of eventual military action against extremist forces in the north.”  Looking ahead, he emphasized that it was essential for Malians to take ownership and show leadership, adding:  “If we are to succeed in restoring peace in Mali and the wider Sahel region, there must be unity of vision and close coordination.”


Following the Secretary-General’s briefing, which covered political and humanitarian developments in Mali since the coup, the Council heard presentations by Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, and Tete Antonio, Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations, as well as a statement by Oumar Daou, Mali’s Permanent Representative.


Ms. Hussaini Suleiman, echoing Mr. Ban’s concern over the situation in the north, said reprehensible acts of vandalism and criminality, as well as gross violations of human rights, were “getting worse by the day” despite the solemn appeal by ECOWAS and the international community for armed groups there to respect the sanctity of the holy month of Ramadan.  The latest addition to the litany of crimes was the stoning to death of an alleged adulterous couple and the imposition of a dawn-to-dusk curfew on women.


She said that, to ascertain the security situation on the ground and further assess requirements for the eventual deployment of a standby force, the ECOWAS Commission had dispatched a technical assessment mission to Mali from 6-19 July.  Its report had been presented to the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff in Abidjan during its meeting from 25-27 July.  A final planning conference to further refine the strategic concept — with the participation of ECOWAS, the United Nations, the European Union and other partners — was scheduled for 9-13 August in Bamako, and would pave the way for deployment as soon as the expected United Nations mandate was received.


The ECOWAS strategy in Mali aimed to intensify efforts to mediate with all stakeholders while undertaking a phased deployment process, she explained, adding that the purpose of the stabilization force would be to help the Malian Government ensure the security of the transition and its institutions.  It was also to restructure and reorganize Mali’s security and defence forces, and to restore the country’s territorial integrity by extending State authority to the north, combating terrorist and criminal networks and responding to the humanitarian consequences of the crisis.


Mr. Antonio expressed serious concern not only about the reported human rights violations, but also the destruction of historic monuments and religious sites in the fabled city of Timbuktu.  Such reprehensible actions, exacerbated by the rejection of constitutional order and the occupation of sovereign territory by armed groups, had “shaken the very principles of the African Union”, and posed a serious threat to the continent, he said, adding that in the face of such dire challenges, the African Union had met no less than six times, rallying international support and establishing a follow-up mechanism, among other actions.


He said that while today’s Council heralded a major boost in international engagement and recognition, the recent return to Bamako of interim President Dioncounda Traoré, and his commitment to working with mediators to build transitional institutions and form a unity Government, gave rise to hopes for improvement.  Yet, more concrete and coordinated efforts were needed “to remove this heavy cloud over” the Malian State, he stressed.  “We must, at all costs, ensure that the situation in Mali does not continue indefinitely.”   It was important to shore up international efforts and strengthen cooperation among African countries, along the lines of the declaration adopted by the African Union in July 2011.


Taking the floor last, Mr. Daou (Mali) said his country’s Government had decided to open an inquiry and to prosecute those responsible for incitement against public order, attempted assassination, complicity in attempted assassination, and non-provision of assistance to persons in danger.  That process had started on 7 April and a verdict was expected in the coming weeks.


He went on to highlight the unique structure proposed by the interim President to overcome Mali’s crisis, explaining that it took the different national actors into account and provided for the creation of transitional organs.  They included a high council of State comprising the President and two Vice-Presidents; a Government of national unity with representation from all the forces in the country; a national transitional council playing a consultative role and consisting of representatives of political parties and civil society; and a national negotiating commission that would engage the armed movements in northern Mali in seeking peace, in collaboration with the ECOWAS Mediator.  Under such a plan, the army and security services would ensure the security of the President and national institutions, he said.


Noting that the humanitarian situation in northern Mali continued to deteriorate, he said there was insufficient financing to respond to the urgent needs of refugees and internally displaced persons.  The latter, as well as the 250,000 refugees in neighbouring countries such as Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Algeria, Guinea and Togo, were living in conditions of extreme difficulty.  As such, easing food insecurity and alleviating the situation of those affected by the crisis in the north figured among the top priorities of the Government, which was engaged in a massive campaign to mobilize resources from the international community.


The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 10:56 a.m.


Background


Meeting this morning to consider peace and security in Africa, the Security Council was expected to hear briefings on the situation in Mali, including from the Secretary-General and senior officials of the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).


Briefings


BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, characterized the situation in Mali as “deeply troubling”, noting that since the start of the crisis, it seemed to be taking one alarming turn after another, sinking to new depths with each passing week.  “We have seen a regional pillar of democracy fall steeply off the constitutional path, undermining years of progress,” he said, adding that an already horrendous food and nutrition emergency had grown worse, exposing many more thousands of people to acute shortages of food, water and basic services.  “And in areas where there was once stability and coexistence, we have seen rising extremism, criminal activity and violations of human rights.”


Such grave developments had brought enormous suffering upon the people of Mali and also posed a widening threat to international peace and security, he continued, recalling that, with its adoption last month of resolution 2056 (2012), the Security Council had expressed its concern.  Today, examining the latest developments “it is clear that more may be required of you”, he said, explaining that in Bamako, limited progress had been made in restoring constitutional order, with Mali’s socio-political forces remaining divided over support for the transitional arrangements, and more broadly over the country’s very future.


He went on to note that the military junta reportedly maintained a strong influence on the transitional process, retaining control over the security and defence forces, and continuing violently to repress fellow soldiers suspected of having supported the attempted counter-coup of 30 April.  In response, the Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States had called for a more inclusive Government, and mandated the ECOWAS Mediator urgently to engage in consultations with Malian stakeholders.  They had also decided to deploy an ECOWAS standby force to Mali and to send a technical assessment mission to Bamako to prepare for deployment of that force.  “I understand that the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, has submitted the mission’s report and other relevant documents to this Council,” he added.


One positive development, the Secretary-General pointed out, had been the return to Bamako of President Dioncounda Traoré, whose presence enhanced the constitutional legitimacy of the transitional arrangements and could ensure that Malians played a central role in leading the transitional process.  “I commend the steps the President is taking to ensure the formation of a Government of national unity,” he said, welcoming the interim leader’s announcement of the creation of the National Transition Committee, the National Dialogue Committee, and the High Council of State.


Turning to the situation in northern Mali, “where the security situation remains volatile and unpredictable”, Secretary-General Ban said the Ansar Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa — reportedly linked to Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb — had taken control after pushing out the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), and had illegally imposed Islamic law on the residents.  “With the influx of regional and international jihadists, there is reason to be concerned that the north is becoming a safe haven for terrorists and criminal elements,” he warned.


In response to that increasingly troubling situation, the ECOWAS Mediator, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, had taken initial steps to meet with representatives of MNLA and Ansar Dine, the Secretary-General said.  After travelling to northern Mali yesterday, Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibrill Ypènè Bassolé had met with leaders of Ansar Dine and requested that they cut ties to terrorist movements before any peace talks could begin.  “But no meaningful dialogue has commenced between the Government of Mali and any of the groups in the north,” he said, noting that with the establishment of President Traoré’s National Commission for Negotiations, a Malian-owned dialogue process was expected to begin shortly, with the assistance of ECOWAS and neighbouring countries.


“For my part, I have used my good offices to help address the crisis through my Special Representative for West Africa, Mr. Said Djinnit,” Secretary-General Ban said, explaining that from the outset of the ECOWAS-led process, Mr. Djinnit had been in close contact with the mediation team.  He had conducted good offices missions to Mauritania and Algeria, in addition to having participated in ECOWAS Summits and other meetings on Mali.  At United Nations Headquarters, the Department of Political Affairs was consulting with Permanent Representatives of ECOWAS Member States, the “Pays du Champ” and other partners, he said, adding that United Nations military planners had played an advisory role in the ECOWAS technical assessment mission.


The conflict in Mali had exacerbated a “perilous” humanitarian situation, with more than 174,000 people internally displaced and more than 253,000 seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, the Secretary-General said.  A severe food-security and nutrition crisis was now affecting 4.6 million people in Mali and more than 18 million people across the Sahel region, he added, emphasizing that he was also extremely concerned about reports that armed groups in the north were committing serious human rights violations, including summary executions of civilians, rapes and torture.  Moreover, the Ansar Dine had deliberately destroyed 9 of the 16 mausoleums in Timbuktu, in callous disregard of sites classified by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as part of the indivisible heritage of humanity.


He continued:  “I encourage the Security Council to give serious consideration to the imposition of targeted travel and financial sanctions against individuals or groups in Mali engaged in terrorist, religious extremist or criminal activities.”  The crisis in Mali was complex and multidimensional, and resolving it required a holistic and comprehensive approach, rather than partial and disconnected measures, he stressed.  “I strongly encourage the Government of Mali to develop an overarching political strategy to return the country to constitutional order and re-establish State authority in the north.”  Such a strategy should clearly spell out responses to genuine socio-economic and political grievances, the modalities for political dialogue and negotiations, and the aims of eventual military action against extremist forces in the north.


SALAMATU HUSSAINI SULEIMAN, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said the reprehensible acts of vandalism and criminality, as well as the gross violations of human rights that had accompanied the rebellion in the north of Mali since 17 January, were getting worse by the day, despite the solemn appeal by ECOWAS and the international community for armed groups there to respect the sanctity of the holy month of Ramadan.  The latest addition to the litany of crimes was the stoning to death of an alleged adulterous couple and the imposition of a dawn-to-dusk curfew on women in the occupied territory.  As tangible progress was made in the transition process, the marginal forces bent on obstructing its timely execution had lately increased their acts of incitement and obstruction, she noted.


Those disturbing developments, as well as the ominous threat that the double crisis in Mali posed to regional and international peace and security, must focus the mind of the international community, she said, emphasizing that the situation called for urgent and decisive measures by all.  To ascertain the security situation on the ground and further assess requirements for the eventual deployment of the standby force, the ECOWAS Commission had dispatched a technical assessment mission to Mali from 6-19 July, she said, pointing out that the action was also in fulfilment of the Security Council’s request for greater clarity on the anticipated deployment.  The mission’s report had been presented to the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff in Abidjan during its meeting from 25-27 July.


She said that a final planning conference to further refine the strategic concept — with the participation of ECOWAS, the United Nations, the European Union and other partners — was scheduled for 9-13 August in Bamako to pave the way for the deployment as soon as the expected United Nations mandate was received.  The ECOWAS strategy in Mali aimed to intensify efforts to mediate with all stakeholders while undertaking a phased deployment process, she said, adding that the purpose of the ECOWAS stabilization force was to help the Government ensure the security of the transition and its institutions.  It was also to restructure and reorganize Mali’s security and defence forces, and to restore the country’s territorial integrity by extending State authority to the north, combating terrorist and criminal networks and responding to the humanitarian consequences of the crisis.


With the MNLA’s eviction from the north by the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine at the end of June, she warned, the international community could no longer characterize events in the region as acts of rebellion or expressions of self-determination.  The group’s removal had replaced political demands with outright terrorism and criminality, which should be combated with all means available.  The objective of the terrorist groups and transnational organized criminals was to create a safe haven and coordination centre for continental terrorist networks, including Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab.  If that objective were realized, no country inside or outside Africa would be safe, she warned.  The longer that precarious situation persisted, the greater danger it would pose to regional and international peace and security.


TETE ANTONIO, Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations, spoke on behalf of the African Union Commission, reiterating the regional organization’s support for the Council’s adoption of resolution 2056 (2012) and hailing the Secretary-General’s briefing as an accurate reflection of the current situation in Mali.  Stressing the important role that neighbouring countries were playing in helping to resolve the “deeply troubling” crisis, he said events in Mali had shaken the very principles of the African Union, citing the rejection of constitutional order, the occupation of territory by armed groups and the resort to armed rebellion.  Such actions were fraught with danger and called constitutional progress throughout the continent into question, he warned.


Making matters worse, he continued, was the increasing threat posed by armed terrorist groups in northern Mali, as well as the deteriorating humanitarian situation, human rights violations and the destruction of historic monuments and religious sites in the fabled city of Timbuktu.  In the face of such dire challenges, the African Union had met no less than six times, rallying international support and establishing a follow-up mechanism, among other actions.  Nevertheless, the Council’s meeting today could herald an improvement, he said.  Furthermore, the return of interim President Traoré and the proposal to establish a national unity Government gave rise to hopes for improvement.  Yet, more concrete and coordinated efforts were needed “to remove this heavy cloud over the Malian State”, he stressed.


He went on to note that the international community, including ECOWAS, the United Nations Office for West Africa and the African Union, had met upon the President’s return to Bamako in order to rally behind the call for a unity Government.  The Council, for its part, must continue to urge support for the rule of law and an end to human rights violations.  “We must, at all costs, ensure that the situation in Mali does not continue indefinitely,” he emphasized, adding that the African Union was preparing a list of terrorist and armed groups active in the Sahel region before considering measures that might be imposed upon them.  A strategic concept for dealing with the wider situation served as an important political and military measure towards a peaceful settlement.  “The seriousness of the crisis requires the shoring up of international efforts to ensure optimal impact for desired results,” he said, adding that African cooperation must also be strengthened along the lines of the declaration adopted by the African Union in July 2011.


OUMAR DAOU (Mali) said there had been a significant development in his country’s situation with the return of interim President Traoré after more than two months in France, where he had received medical treatment following the 21 May aggression against him.  In an address to the nation on 29 July, the President had announced once again that he had pardoned his attackers, saying that Mali needed all its energy and all its sons.  Beyond all the humanity displayed, however, the rule of law must prevail, he emphasized.  That was why the Government had decided to open an inquiry and to prosecute those responsible for incitement against public order, attempted assassination, complicity in attempted assassination and non-provision of assistance to persons in danger.  That process had started on 7 April and a verdict was expected in the coming weeks.


The interim President had proposed a unique structure to overcome the crisis in the country, he continued.  It took into account the different national actors and provided for the creation of transitional organs, including a high council of State comprising the President and two Vice-Presidents; a Government of national unity with representation from all the forces in the country; a national transitional council playing a consultative role and consisting of representatives of political parties and civil society; and a national negotiating commission that would engage in seeking peace with the armed movements in northern Mali, in collaboration with the ECOWAS Mediator.  Under such a plan, the army and security services would ensure the security of the President and national institutions.


Noting that the humanitarian situation in northern Mali continued to deteriorate, he said there was insufficient financing to respond to the most urgent needs of refugees and internally displaced persons.  The 167,000 internally displaced and the 250,000 refugees in neighbouring countries, particularly Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Algeria, Guinea and Togo, were living in conditions of extreme difficulty, he said, stressing that alleviating the living conditions of those affected by the crisis in the north and by food insecurity figured among the top priorities of the Government, which was engaged in a massive mobilization campaign for resources from the international community.


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