Prime Minister Urges More ‘Robust and Active’ Posture by Peacekeeping Mission, Support for Regional Counter-terrorism Efforts
Despite some progress, key challenges to implementing Mali’s peace and reconciliation agreement remained, one year after the Government and armed groups signed the accord, the senior United Nations official in the West African country told the Security Council today.
“Quite clearly neither the signatories nor the national mediation team are satisfied with the slow pace of implementation,” said Mahamat Saleh Annadif, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). “This slow pace is difficult to understand and it is undermining the whole process, particularly the setting up of joint patrols.”
Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on major developments in Mali since the end of March (document S/2016/498), he said that although the peace agreement was a package, for some time now, the process had been reduced to discussions about the establishment of an interim administration, which had been slow to occur. He added, however, that he was pleased with the compromise reached earlier this week, on the side lines of the ninth session of the Agreement Monitoring Committee. MINUSMA remained fully engaged and was ready to use its good offices to help establish the interim authority.
He said that since the 15-member Council’s visit to Mali in early March, the situation on the ground was worrisome, with security having deteriorated in the past weeks. Since its deployment in 2013, MINUSMA had faced the deadliest threats of any United Nations mission ever deployed, he said, recalling that 19 peacekeepers had died following terrorist attacks between February and May 2016, 12 of them in May. The Mission had lost a total of 26, plus a United Nations contractor, when counting deaths due to accidents and disease. The numbers were even more distressing when one added losses resulting from the Barkhane operation and those among Mali’s security, defence and civil forces. “Enough is enough,” he emphasized. “We cannot continue to accept the unacceptable.” Most of the deaths could have been avoided if the peacekeeping contingents involved had been better equipped, particularly with armoured vehicles. The 29 May attack on a MINUSMA convoy illustrated the terrorist threat in central and southern Mali, he said, warning that the trend could spread and should not be forgotten.
Despite scepticism, however, there were signs of hope that the situation had improved since 2012, he said. Since the signing of the peace accord, all signatories to the ceasefire had demonstrated unwavering compliance and made dialogue a priority. Efforts were under way to establish a sound juridical and institutional framework, he said, describing the 18 May draft agreement to create a council on security-sector reform, under the Prime Minister’s office, and the adoption of a decree establishing a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration commission as significant steps forward. Eight cantonment sites had been set up to allow the disarmament process to begin, he said, noting that the integration of former combatants and the management of violent extremism were also positive steps. He stressed the importance of reinforcing trust and confidence among the signatory parties, pointing out that the lack of effective control on the ground by other parties in the north had led to a spike in terrorism, organized crime, banditry and intercommunal tensions. The slower the peace accord’s implementation, the more likely the peace process would capsize, he said, underlining that MINUSMA’s future mandate should take those challenges into account.
In light of the deadly attacks, the recommendations of the strategic review called for strengthening MINUSMA’s personnel and air capacity in order to save lives, he said, adding that authorizing proactive operations would ensure that the Mission could fulfil its responsibilities and protect its staff. It could not do so alone, however. Only a surge on the part of Mali’s defence forces could tackle such challenges. That must be part of a regional strategy in which various actors, such as the Group of 5 for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), the Nouakchott process, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and others would play a leading role. The situation in Mali impacted the whole of West Africa, he said, adding that recent attacks in Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso demonstrated the fluidity of terrorist groups and the interdependence of States in the struggle against terrorism. “I remain an optimist, a moderate one though,” he said, while emphasizing that the status quo played into the hands of the enemies of peace. “The worst is behind us, but we must not forget that time is against us.” Calling on all Malians to increasingly take ownership of the peace agreement, he noted that people who had protested the accord in Kidal a year ago were today celebrating in Kidal, Gao and Tombouctou, and calling for its implementation.
Addressing the Council after that briefing, Prime Minister Modibo Keita of Mali expressed regret that so many victims — civilian and military, Malian and foreign — had fallen in his country, noting that the month of May had been particularly lethal for MINUSMA.
A year after the signing of the peace agreement, the Government had demonstrated its firm will to honour all its commitments, he said. Regarding political and institutional reforms, Mali’s delegation had informed the Council that the National Assembly had adopted a law on the code for territorial districts, thereby paving the way for the establishment of interim local authorities. The constitutional review process was under way and a commission had been established to consider the provisions of the peace agreement, he said, adding that the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission was also in place and operational.
Emphasizing the need to move forward on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, he said the Government was also engaged in development activities, including in the north, a region for which a specific strategy had been launched. The arrival of a definitive peace in Mali required efforts from all parties, including signatories to the peace accord, as well as the international community. The Government, for its part, had fulfilled all its obligations and its goodwill had never fallen short. He stressed the need for the other parties to demonstrate greater effort and commitment in that regard, saying: “We are at a turning point and our population has suffered enough.” Each day that implementation of the peace agreement was delayed was another day won by the enemies of peace, he warned, calling upon the Agreement Monitoring Committee to ensure that the parties fulfilled their commitments. Recalling that the Council had considered imposing sanctions on all actors threatening the peace process, he expressed hope that the participation of all parties would preclude the need for such extreme measures.
He noted that terrorist attacks had intensified and become more complex, and that MINUSMA had become a major target, welcoming in that regard, the Secretary-General’s recommendations to strengthen the Mission so it could carry out its stabilization mandate. He advocated for a more “robust and active” posture on MINUSMA’s part, and underscored the need to support regional counter-terrorism efforts, especially those of the G5 Sahel, ECOWAS and the African Union. Given the persistence of the terrorist threat, ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, meeting recently in Dakar, had reiterated their commitment to the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Mali, he recalled. They had also expressed their concern about the resurgence of terrorist attacks in Mali, and had encouraged the Council to bolster MINSUMA’s mandate in that regard.
Recalling that the Secretary-General had on several occasions underlined the need to respect human rights in Mali, he announced that the Minister for Justice and Human Rights had set up a mechanism for monthly dialogue with MINUSMA to address such matters. Mali also called for the deployment of the International Commission of Inquiry, which it had been requesting since July 2014. In conclusion, he announced that, as of yesterday, the Government and the signatories had agreed on a protocol of understanding that would make it possible to install interim authorities in the country.
The meeting began at 10 a.m. and ended at 10:50 a.m.