5 December 2012

As Security Council Weighs Response in Strife-torn Mali, United Nations Political Chief says Malians Themselves Must Be at Centre of Efforts to Restore Democracy

5 December 2012
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6879th Meeting (AM)

As Security Council Weighs Response in Strife-torn Mali, United Nations Political

Chief says Malians Themselves Must Be at Centre of Efforts to Restore Democracy

As the international community considered responses to the multiple crises in Mali, including authorization of an African-led military force, Malians themselves needed to be at the centre of efforts to restore their democracy to health and fully recover their territory, the United Nations political affairs chief told the Security Council this morning.

“The Malian leaders must shoulder their responsibilities and work together, inclusively, for the interests of the Malian people and the region,” Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said as he introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the West African country, which has suffered a coup and has had much of its north overrun by insurgents.  “The international community must with urgency do all it can to assist,” he added.

Noting the report’s advocacy for a multifaceted, integrated response to the crisis, he said that, as a first step, international support should be focused on supporting Malian authorities in conducting an inclusive national dialogue aimed at reaching consensus on a road map aimed at a full return to constitutional order, as well as addressing the grievances of groups in the north.  Secondly, efforts to bring about a negotiated settlement with armed groups who had disavowed ties with terrorists should continue in earnest.

“Finally”, Mr. Feltman said, “a well-conceived and executed military intervention in the north should be conducted as a last resort to address terrorist and criminal elements, while planning should be undertaken for stabilization activities in recovered areas”.  While that option was being considered, it could also provide useful leverage to the political process, which remained the priority option, he stressed.

Surveying recent developments, he said that the political situation in the Malian capital, Bamako, had become more complex as a result of deep divisions between political stakeholders, with formal dialogue delayed due to disagreements and now scheduled for next week.  In the meantime, meetings had taken place between representatives of some armed groups in the north and the Mediator for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, which had resulted in a communiqué affirming basic principles of national unity and respect for human rights. 

Meanwhile, the security situation in the north continued to deteriorate, he said, with clashes between the major movements, and reports that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had backed at least one group, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) in its battles with the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which had participated in negotiations facilitated by the Burkinabe mediation.  A third group, Ansar Dine, had also participated in the meetings while it continued fighting and holding territory.  There were continuing reports of jihadists and terrorist elements arriving to join the armed groups.

Gross human rights abuses continued as well, he said, including summary and extrajudicial execution, sexual and gender-based violence, recruitment and use of child soldiers and torture.  Ansar Dine continued to destroy historical, cultural and holy sites in Timbuktu.  Over 412,000 persons had fled the north, with half of them crossing borders into neighbouring countries.  An estimated 5 million persons had been affected by the conflict, with about 600,000 children under five facing severe malnutrition. 

Since the adoption of resolution 2071 on 12 October, he said, the United Nations system had accelerated efforts to give strong impetus to the political process in Mali, including planning for elections, for which an assessment mission was dispatched.  The Special Envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, had also been active on broader Sahel issues, which were vital to address as part of the solution to the Malian crisis, he stressed.  In addition, to help Malians bridge differences, the Secretary-General intended to establish a full-time United Nations political presence in Bamako.

United Nations military and police planners had also worked closely with ECOWAS and the African Union, in close consultation with Malian authorities, in developing a strategic operational framework for the proposed African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), which would support Malian defence forces in operations to restore the territorial integrity of the country.  Questions remained, however, regarding how the international and Malian forces would be led, sustained, trained equipped and financed.  Moreover, division of tasks between the forces, command and control, civilian oversight and timelines were issues that still needed to be addressed. 

He stressed that, should the Council decide to authorize the deployment of AFISMA, its operations must be coordinated effectively and must be carried out in strict compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law, possibly monitored by human rights officers as proposed by the Secretary-General.  Benchmarks, he suggested, could also be set to make sure that any military intervention was successful and in conformity with international standards.

Noting that the United Nations had limited ability to deliver a support package to the force, he said it could be supported through contributions from Member States.  Once military objectives had been achieved, the Council could consider the Organization’s provision of a logistic package for stabilization operations, which he called vital, with the deployment of a peacekeeping operation an option as well at that point. 

Noting also letters from African Union and ECOWAS officials calling for urgent authorization of AFISMA, he stressed that the Secretary-General shared the sense of urgency about the horrendous crisis facing Mali, but underlined that the international response must be multidimensional and well-conceived, with additional planning needed before the deployment of any force. 

Following Mr. Feltman’s briefing, officials of Mali, the African Union and ECOWAS took the floor.  Traore Rokiatou Guikine, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mali, expressed hope for prompt Council action that would allow the immediate deployment of the international force to address the suffering of the population in the north and the growing terrorist threat.

“ Mali is on its way to becoming a breeding ground for terrorism,” she said, hoping for swift action to prevent catastrophic consequences for the region.  “This calls for military intervention.”

The situation on the ground was worsening, she said, affirming that flogging, the amputation of limbs and stoning was taking place in the application of Sharia law by foreigners.  Terrorists were also recruiting children to carry out Jihad.  Islam would not condone this, she said.  Beyond the forced displacement of people, the crisis had undermined access to education, halting classes for half a million children. 

The best way to preserve human rights in the north was to quickly bring about conditions for the State to exercise its authority over all its territory, she said, noting that a lasting settlement entailed, among other things, holding credible elections.  The road map existed, she said.  Now was the time for the Council to act.

Antonio Tete, Observer of the African Union, affirmed that the deployment and operations of AFISMA would require strong United Nations support.  Noting that experience in Darfur and Somalia had clearly shown the limitations and constraints of support provided on a voluntary basis, he echoed a call made by the Union’s Peace and Security Council on 13 November to establish a United Nations support package funded through assessed contributions.

“ Mali is at a crossroads,” he said.  “Time is of essence.  We need to act fast and to send a clear and strong message on the resolve of the international community and its support to the African-led efforts.”

Mindful of the complexity and multifaceted nature of the crisis, he called on the Security Council to take a number of steps, including extending full support to the strategic concept to address the crisis and authorizing the deployment of AFISMA.  He also called on the Council to establish a United Nations support package for AFISMA and a trust fund to support the Malian defence and security forces.

Finally, Kadré Désiré Ouedraogo, President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, said that, given the dire, daily-deteriorating situation in northern Mali, efforts made by this Council and national, regional and international partners must be translated into concrete action.  For ECOWAS, political dialogue must be paired with a military option that would help Mali regain its territorial integrity, dismantle terrorist networks and re-establish State authority countrywide.

Non-intervention in northern Mali was gravely aggravating the situation, he said.  Based on a recommendation coming out of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers meeting this week, he urged the Council to consider the urgent need to adopt a resolution that authorized the deployment of the AFISMA under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.

Outlining a strategy agreed upon by ECOWAS and the African Union, he said over the coming days and weeks a double approach was needed to address the crisis in the north, including dialogue and negotiation with armed groups and the use of force against terrorist groups.  Deployment of AFISMA should occur before the end of the year, he stressed, adding that ECOWAS and the Union hoped that along with that urgently-needed action, a political and security plan to ensure fair elections, military reform and other initiatives to stabilize the situation would be put in place.

The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and ended at 11:24 a.m.


As it met today, the Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Mali (document S/2012/894), which covers the implementation of Council resolution 2071 (2012), in particular with regard to the provision of support by the United Nations to the Malian political process and to the planning for a potential deployment of an international military force to assist Malian armed forces in recovering the occupied regions in the north of the country.  The report also summarizes major political and security developments in Mali since January 2012, outlines the United Nations multidimensional response to the crisis, presents the activities carried out by the Organization to implement the resolution and makes recommendations with regard to the way forward.

In the report, the Secretary-General says that a military operation may be required as a last resort to deal with the most hard-line extremist and criminal elements in the north.  Before that stage is reached, however, the focus must be on initiating a broad-based and inclusive political dialogue aimed at forging national consensus around a road map for the transition and at addressing the long-standing grievances of the Tuaregs and other communities in the north.  The threat of military intervention, however, in addition to some other developments, appears to have rendered some groups in the north more amenable to dialogue, an opportunity which the Malian authorities must take advantage of. 

On the political track, he says internal divisions constitute the single greatest obstacle to progress and must be addressed urgently, affirming that the Malian authorities must coalesce around a common vision for the future of the country that enjoys the support of various constituencies.  This includes creating the conditions and formulating a detailed and realistic timeline for the holding of elections.  To augment previous assistance for that purpose, he signals his intension to strengthen the United Nations presence in Bamako in the coming days through the deployment of a senior United Nations official who will be responsible for interacting on a daily basis with key stakeholders.

He noted the proposal of the African Union for an African-led international support mission for Mali for an initial period of one year, comprising 3,300 personnel, to take all measures necessary, as appropriate, to assist the Malian authorities to recover the occupied regions in the north of Mali in order to restore the country’s unity and territorial integrity and reduce the threats posed by terrorist and affiliated groups and transnational organized crime.  He said that fundamental questions on how the force would be led, sustained, trained, equipped and financed remained unanswered.  Plans for both the international force and the Malian security and defence forces need to be developed further.  They should include details on a harmonized operation with a clear division of functions, effective command and control and legitimate civilian authority oversight of the defence and security forces.

This planning, he says in the report, should also be synchronized with regional and international plans for counter-terrorism and border control and to counter criminal networks.  Measures to mitigate the possible impact of a military operation on the extremely fragile humanitarian and human rights situation in northern Mali and the subregion must be incorporated into every stage and facet of the planning process.  He adds that the effective implementation of the strategic operational framework will require significant and timely external support for training, equipment, logistics and funding for both the international force and the Malian defence and security forces.

Both the support mission and the Malian defence and security forces would be required to act in compliance with applicable international humanitarian and human rights law and in full respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Mali and neighbouring countries, he states.  In that context, the deployment of a sufficient number of United Nations human rights observers should be mandated.  Funding for the initial combat-related operations could be through voluntary or bilateral contributions.  Once the objectives of the initial military operation have been achieved, the Council could consider the option of providing a United Nations logistics package to assist an international force during stabilization operations.

In the meantime, the United Nations could continue to support Malian authorities with planning and preparations for an intervention in the north, as well as in critical areas that will be required to accompany or follow any operation with regard to the extension of State authority.  This, he says, would include rule of law and security institutions, mine action, promotion of national dialogue, regional cooperation, security sector reform, human rights and the initial demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of former combatants.   

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.