Press Conference on International Crisis Group's Mali Report

23 April 2013

Press Conference on International Crisis Group's Mali Report

23 April 2013
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE on internaional crisis group’s mali report


Crises of governance, corruption and nepotism were at the root cause of unrest in Mali, said Comfort Ero, Director of the International Crisis Group’s Africa Programme, at a Headquarters press conference today as she introduced the Group’s report, “Mali:  Security, Dialogue, and Meaningful Reform”.

The report’s findings came at an opportune time, Ms. Ero said, ahead of the Security Council action on a draft resolution on the deployment of a stabilization force in Mali.  That resolution would prove to be a “test case” for the future of international peace and security.

The Council had adopted resolution 2085 (2012) last December, stressing the need for democratic governance and constitutional order in Mali and condemning strongly all abuses of human rights in the North.

Urging that Mali not be viewed through the “war on terror lense”, Ms. Ero said the report examined multiple challenges facing the West African nation, and aimed at contributing to the United Nations stabilization mission.  At the same time, the report focused on helping Member States think about how a stabilizing operation could be navigated in such dangerous terrain.  Based on interactive discussions and reflecting the concerns of the Security Council, as well as the Secretariat, the report concluded that the very first layer of crisis in Mali was lack of governance, nepotism and corruption.

She pointed out that there was a real security crisis in northern Mali, which had laid the ground for rebellion.  Added to that, Mali had become a haven for networks of terrorist groups that had “coalesced in no-man’s land”, threatening national, regional and international security.  The objective, therefore, was to rebuild a country that was better equipped to deal with a number of internal pressures and a range of security threats that had national and international implications.

The biggest challenge, she said, was figuring out how to “marry” the two objectives — stabilizing the region and dealing with the international security threat while implementing a counter-terror strategy.  Those familiar with the situations in Afghanistan and Somalia were aware that making that connection was extremely challenging.

The French military intervention, she noted, had dramatically changed the situation on the ground, considering that Mali had been “on the verge” of a second coup.  Prior to that, there had been a nine month political stalemate.  Although the intervention had deterred a possible political disaster, the French forces needed to bring the political dimension back on track, rather than just pursue a security dimension.  “The security train cannot be allowed to go full stream ahead” without acknowledging the importance of the political dimension, she stated.

She also expressed concern that the United Nations stabilization mission was entering a difficult climate.  The deployment of United Nations forces was dangerous because it was not clear who the enemy was.  Further, the Malian Government could not abdicate responsibility to the United Nations with the notion that the United Nations would do all the “heavy lifting”.

Although necessary for a transition and an attempt to bring back a sense of democracy, she said that the moment might not be right to hold elections.  It was, however, important to consider that the situation went well beyond Mali.  Mali could not be asked to be the solution for all regional troubles, nor could it be “the prism to solve all the problems”, she stressed, adding that a regional and international security dimension was the missing link.

When asked what role the United Nations peacekeeping mission should have, she said that the mission must be willing to include various armed groups.  “You cannot impose preconditions on the dialogue process” beyond asking the groups to renounce the armed struggle, she pointed out. There was also need for an inter-communal dialogue.

In response to a question on the regional dynamic with Algeria, she said Algerians had given airspace to the French to put in place airstrikes against jihadists forces.  Algeria had also communicated with French forces and had not criticized the French operation in Mali, which, given their shared history, was quite a “significant moment”.  The Algerian Government had made the determination that it would be part of the process.  “The North of Mali was the South of Algeria,” she observed, noting that there was a lot of cross-border affinity.

When asked how she expected the situation to be after the French downgrade their intervention, she said she didn’t want to sound like a spokesperson for the French forces.  The French had not been able to eradicate the jihadist groups, as most of them had retreated into the mountainous region.  Furthermore, the French would be the first to say that their work was not done.

Asked if the jihadist groups were connected to Algeria, she said that the history of jihadists and terror networks did not start just last year.  That history was tied to Algeria’s internal crisis.  It was very clear that some jihadist groups had, as a reaction to Algeria’s military campaign, spilled over into other countries, going well beyond Mali to Niger and Nigeria, in particular.  Hence, the regional dimension needed to be worked out so that the problem could be dealt with “once and for all”.

Responding to a question on the situation in northeast Mali, she said the Government itself was undermining the democratic process.  There had long been a historic division of the North and South.  However, reiterating previous comments, she said it all came down to lack of governance, corruption and nepotism.  In addition, as political instability ensued in Mali, a number of fighters had returned from Libya, which led to rebellion forces uniting.  At the same time, the Malian military was frustrated that monies and resources to fight the rebellion had never been made available to them, which then led to a military revolt.

Asked whether she believed there was a link between jihadists in Mali and today’s bombing of the French Embassy in Libya, she recalled a similar situation in Nigeria that had comparable patterns to today’s bombing.  However, she could not say there was or was not a connection.

In response to whether or not she was satisfied with the Security Council resolution on Mali, Ms. Ero said that there had been long engagement and discussion in the Council on Mali.  There were still some concerns, however, on the operational side.  On paper, there seemed to be adequate integration, but, in practice, the nature of intelligence sharing between a stabilizing force and the United Nations would be quite challenging.  The United Nations peacekeeping mission was aware of the nature of the situation.

Asked why the United Nations believed it was capable of fighting jihadists, she said that was not the case.  The Council, she assured reporters, did not want a “more muscular” mission on the ground.  The primary goal was to bring some order to the North while keeping peacekeepers safe.  The United Nations was cautiously aware and had asked for a 45-day readout of the security situation on the ground before it would begin its peacekeeping operations.

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