|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7043rd Meeting (AM)
Improved Situation Opens ‘New Prospects’ for Mali’s Recovery Though Country
Remains Fragile, Special Representative Tells Security Council
National Reconciliation Talks to Begin at End of October, Says Minister
The improved situation in Mali had “opened new prospects” for the West African country’s recovery from near collapse in 2012, but the security situation remained fragile amid asymmetric attacks by extremists and tensions within the Armed Forces, the senior United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today.
Urging all actors to formulate a transparent road map for inclusive peace talks as a matter of priority, Albert Gerard Koenders, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Mali, emphasized that the real work had only just begun. Mr. Koenders, who also heads the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), was briefing the Council on the situation in that country.
He said the Preliminary Agreement adopted in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, by the Government of Mali and armed groups in the north, had paved the way for elections in that area, to be followed by inclusive discussions on a comprehensive peace settlement. On the security front, theMouvement national pour la libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) and the Haut conseil pour l’unité de l’Azawad (HCUA) continued to occupy the governorship and radio station in Kidal, despite requests by the authorities for their return. The Office of the Special Representative had organized two meetings of the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, but MNLA and its High Council had suspended their participation, owing to a lack of progress on confidence-building measures, including the release of prisoners.
Such worrying incidents were an “important wake up call” breaking the calm that had preceded the presidential election, he continued. Clashes had erupted throughout September, and the northern regions had proven difficult to stabilize due to the complex nature of the conflict. Citing examples, he said an explosives-laden vehicle had tried to enter a Mali Defence and Security Forces (MDSF) camp in Timbuktu on 28 September, an attempt for which Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had claimed responsibility. In addition, authorities had to contend with tensions within the Armed Forces, he said, recalling that 30 disgruntled soldiers had kidnapped two officers in the garrison town of Kati on 1 October.
That incident was a sobering reminder of the urgent need to re-establish discipline and the Armed Forces chain of command, and to undertake security-sector reform in earnest. Moreover, the United Nations itself faced severe challenges, including the Mission’s lack of critical enablers such as helicopters to facilitate rapid deployment to remote areas in order to ensure the protection of civilians. He called on the Council, as well as troop- and police-contributing countries, to ensure that additional enablers and battalions were provided to Mali, so MINUSMA could discharge its mandate.
Turning to Mali’s daunting humanitarian situation, he said the United Nations country team had devised an action plan to guide the international response to the most urgent humanitarian and early-recovery needs in the northern regions. However, international support had been “timid”, with the humanitarian appeal only 37 per cent funded, which amounted to $177 million of a total $477 million — a $300 million gap. Cautioning that Mali’s near collapse in 2012 was no mere coincidence, he urged the Council not to lose sight of the regional dimension of the situation, saying the 15-member body must implement an integrated Sahel strategy addressing the root causes of the region’s difficulties, especially the manner in which international partners provided political and financial support.
“The time may be right for a critical reassessment of our engagement”, he said, suggesting a “new deal” between the Government and donors. It would be based on agreed priorities and a clear accountability framework that would pave the way for a more transparent, focused partnership, with Mali “in the driver’s seat”. Priorities must focus on national reconciliation, implementation of the Preliminary Agreement, legislative elections, and the start of inclusive peace negotiations to deal with the deep-rooted causes of the crisis, he said.
Cheick Oumar Diarrah, Minister for National Reconciliation and Development of the North, said Mali’s presidential elections had been the most transparent since the arrival of democracy in 1992. It reflected the Malian people’s commitment to “pulling the country from the abyss”. The Government had taken several steps to tackle problems in the north, including meetings with armed movements, establishing a timeline for future discussions, carrying out confidence-building measures — including the release of prisoners — and taking steps to lift political warrants.
Furthermore, he continued, inter-community forums were taking place in different parts of the country to promote truth and reconciliation, as were investigations into human rights violations and the consequences of the occupation of northern Mali. National peace talks would commence before the end of this month, he said, adding that the Government would initiate a consultative process to forge institutional mechanisms intended to strengthen the powers of decentralized units.
He went on to say the Government had drafted an accelerated development plan for the north, the first version of which had been approved during a recent workshop. National peace talks would bring together all social components to find a solution to the crisis that had shaken Mali. Urging the nation to mobilize around a common vision, he said a new social contract could be drawn up, allowing Malians once again to live together in peace and harmony. In that context, he underlined the Government’s “unwavering determination” to organize legislative elections in November and December, saying Mali was charting the path towards the rule of law.
For their part, MINUSMA and Malian forces had improved the security situation in large northern towns. However, the return of armed groups, terrorists and “jihadists” posed a threat to the north’s security and stability, as well as that of the entire Sahel. The rise in the number of attacks in the north, which Mali had detailed in a letter to the Council, showed that the fight against terrorism and organized crime was not over, he stressed.
Turning to humanitarian efforts, he said much remained to be done to ensure the safe and viable return of refugees and displaced persons. The food situation had worsened in the south, creating difficulties for 800,000 people. Against that backdrop, MIMUSMA must have the appropriate means to carry out its mandate, he asserted, pressing the international community to work towards fulfilment of its pledges.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:35 a.m.
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