Initial Optimism over Signing of Accord Dampened by Terrorism, Says Foreign Minister, Blaming Instability on Libya Situation
Every day lost in implementing the peace agreement in Mali was a day gained by extremist and terrorist groups betting on its collapse, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations said today as he briefed the Security Council on the situation in that country.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2016/281) on the activities of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous reported significant progress in recent weeks towards implementing the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation. It included steps towards establishing interim administrative arrangements in the north, the creation of two new regions — Taoudenni and Menaka — on the heels of an 18 January meeting in Algiers of the Agreement Monitoring Committee, and a meeting convened by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on 27 February in Bamako, where the parties to the peace agreement had set an implementation timetable for March and April.
He noted other positive developments, including the creation of national commissions on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, as well as the construction of cantonment sites. In light of the security situation in the north, however, he warned against slow progress on defence and security issues, urging the Government and signatory armed groups to move forward on the Operational Coordination Mechanism that would be responsible for establishing mixed patrols and protecting cantonment sites. MINUSMA would do its part to facilitate that process, he said.
“In effect, every day lost during the implementation of the peace agreement is a day won for extremist and terrorist groups who have been gambling on the failure of the Mali peace process,” he said, warning that delays in implementation would have an impact on intercommunal conflicts, particularly in the Gao and Mopti regions, with alarming consequences for civilians. He paid tribute to Guinean peacekeepers and members of Mali’s defence and security forces killed in repeated confrontations with the Al Mourabitoun and Ansar Eddine movements, as well as other victims of terrorist attacks.
He reported that, despite a commitment on the part of the Government and the signatory parties to speed up implementation, trust must be consolidated. Putting the interim authorities in place and commencing mixed patrols and the cantonment process would be key steps towards restoring such basic services as health care and education, he said, urging the Government also to move quickly on preparations for a national conference of understanding.
Turning to the security situation, Mr. Ladsous saluted the efforts of Malian security forces to counter the influence of terrorist groups, in cooperation with neighbouring States and Operation Barkhane. MINUSMA, for its part, was stepping up its own security measures, he said, emphasizing the latent threat posed by terrorist and organized crime groups in a time of change for United Nations peacekeeping in West Africa, as well as the need for reinforced cooperation with the African Union, among others, on intelligence and border security. He announced a strategic review of MINUSMA by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations ahead of the Secretary-General’s next report, in late May, a month before the Mission’s mandate was due to expire.
The Council then heard from Abdoulaye Diop, Mali’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and African Integration. Recalling the Council’s visiting mission to Mali last month, he said it had shed light on the incompatibility of MINUSMA’s current mandate with its operating environment in terms of training and equipment. The Government of Mali had highlighted actions that would allow improved functioning of the Mission by making it more proactive, he said.
Besides civilians, defence forces and security personnel, MINUSMA was also the direct target of terrorist groups, he said, pointing out that the heavy toll of 80 “Blue Helmets” killed in three years made the Mission the deadliest current peacekeeping operation. A great deal was riding on the review of MINUSMA’s mandate, which needed updating to take into account the current security situation, including the growing terrorist threat, he said. It was also important that MINUSNMA report any human rights violations to the Government so that it could react in due time. The Government would continue to cooperate closely with all actors involved in the protection of human rights in Mali, he emphasized.
The Minister went on to voice regret that the initial optimism created by the signing of the peace agreement had been dampened by terrorism, drug trafficking and all forms of crime in the Sahel region. The lack of logical resources for judges as well as general instability made it all the more important to speed up the stabilization of Mali, he stressed. Instability in the country was due in part to the political situation in Libya, he noted, calling for an urgent solution to the crisis in that neighbouring country.
Underlining the need to accelerate implementation of the peace and reconciliation agreement, particularly in terms of political and security issues, he said the Government had taken significant steps in that regard. Urgent steps were needed on the part of signatory armed movements, including with regard to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, as well as the roll-out of joint patrols. The Government was ready to shoulder its implementation responsibilities and hoped the Council would also play an active part, he said.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 10:45 a.m.