Briefing Security Council on Mali, Under-Secretary-General Expresses Concern over Violent Clashes in Lead-up to Presidential Election

SC/13382
14 June 2018
8288th Meeting (PM)

Briefing Security Council on Mali, Under-Secretary-General Expresses Concern over Violent Clashes in Lead-up to Presidential Election

Presidential elections on 29 July must lay the foundation for consolidating democracy in Mali, with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) continuing to play an active role in the unfolding peace process, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations told the Security Council this afternoon.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, briefing on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in Mali (document S/2018/541), said the past 12 months had been the most encouraging in terms of advancing the peace process set out in the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali.  However, the security context remained volatile and some key steps for reinforcing political dialogue had not been achieved.  Participation of civil society, particularly women, remained insufficient, while pre-election tensions — including recent violent clashes during an opposition demonstration in Bamako — were disturbing.

To help lay the foundation for consolidating democracy in Mali, MINUSMA had been playing — and would continue to play — an active role, supporting the Malian authorities and political actors while contributing logistical and technical support and ensuring security, he said.  The United Nations, he emphasized, was not in a position to certify the elections as requested by opposition parties, as that was not part of the Mission’s mandate and would require Security Council action.

Turning to MINUSMA and the recently concluded independent strategic review of the Mission, he said the Secretary-General — who visited Mali last month — was recommending a shift in its focus, prioritization and implementation of its mandated tasks to maximize its role in support of the Agreement and in amplifying the peace process.  That included a more tailored approach to the protection of civilians, particularly in the centre of Mali.  He added that MINUSMA would intensify its reporting and monitoring efforts, while cooperating closely with other security actors, including the Group of Five for the Sahel (G-5 Sahel) joint force, the Barkhane force and the European Union Training Mission in Mali.

In the ensuing debate, members of the 15-nation Council expressed concern about the security situation and urged all sides in the West African nation to intensify work on implementing the Agreement.  They also called for prompt investigation of alleged human rights violations by Malian security forces.  With MINUSMA’s current mandate set to expire on 30 June, speakers favoured giving it a bigger role in facilitating the peace process and improving its ability to protect its own peacekeepers, of whom 101 have died in hostile action since the Mission deployed in 2013.

The representative of Côte d’Ivoire, describing the 29 July elections as an important step in resolving the crisis, called on MINUSMA to ensure a secure and safe voting environment by providing support to the Malian armed forces.  The protection of civilians required the deployment of United Nations police units, he added, noting with regret that the humanitarian emergency plan for 2018 had only been partially financed.  Addressing the terrorist threat in Mali was a matter of regional security and would require a coordinated, comprehensive approach.

France’s delegate said that, three years after the Agreement was signed, a significant number of commitments undertaken had not yet been implemented, largely due to a lack of political will.  All Malian stakeholders must be aware that the Security Council was monitoring the implementation of their commitments and to that end, France was paying particular attention to those that were creating obstacles.  Keeping MINUSMA in its current configuration would not be possible without substantial progress on the peace process, he warned.

The representative of the United States said all parties in Mali had wasted far too much time over the past three years.  MINUSMA should focus more on the political process and that, if no progress was seen, the Council should consider how long it could sustain the Mission.  She added that it was time to streamline MINUSMA’s mandate to increase support for political engagement, but that would require tough choices.  She also expressed concern about growing instability in central Mali, saying failure to contain that crisis could lead to the reversal of small gains made so far.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali, speaking at the end of the meeting, said the presidential elections must be held in conditions of transparency to ensure the legitimacy of Mali’s institutions.  To that end, the Government was requesting from MINUSMA both logistical and security support.  Noting that his Government preferred to strengthen the current provisions of MINUSMA’s mandate, he said that, if implemented now, the proposed reconfiguration of the Mission risked creating a security vacuum and jeopardizing progress made in the peace process.  The most credible option was to ensure the application of pertinent provisions of Agreement so that the reconfigured forces would be carried out with the international community monitoring the Agreement.

He went on to reaffirm Mali’s commitment to respect human rights, pledging that the Government would complete investigations on “each and every” case of abuses referenced in the Secretary-General’s report.  Already, disciplinary measures had been taken on Malian security units deployed in the affected regions, with the results of investigations to be published as soon as possible.  Mali observed a zero‑tolerance policy towards such violations, he stressed.

Also speaking were the representatives of the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Peru, Bolivia, Kuwait, Poland, Sweden, China, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation.

The meeting began at 3:17 p.m. and ended at 5:14 p.m.

Briefing

JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in Mali (document S/2018/541), saying the past 12 months since the adoption of resolution 2364 (2017) had been the most encouraging in terms of advancing the peace process since the signing three years ago of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali.  However, the security context remained volatile, with a loss of life among civilians, Malian security forces, the French Barkhane force and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).  Recalling the Secretary-General’s visit to Mali in May, he said that, despite progress, some key steps for reinforcing political dialogue and the peace process had not been achieved.  Participation of civil society, particularly women, was also insufficient.  Disturbing tensions had meanwhile emerged in the run-up to Presidential elections on 29 July, including violent clashes in Bamako during an opposition demonstration.

The Presidential elections must lay the foundation for consolidating democracy in Mali, he said.  In that regard, MINUSMA had been — and would continue to — play an active role, supporting the Malian authorities and political actors while contributing logistical and technical support and ensuring security.  He emphasized that the United Nations was not in a position to certify the elections as requested by opposition parties, as that was not part of the Mission’s mandate and would require Security Council action.

After the elections, the focus must be on implementing the institutional aspects of the Agreement, he said.  Parties must turn their attention to the strategic pillars of the Agreement dealing with long-term goals.  Hopefully, the work of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2374 (2017) concerning Mali would help lift certain obstacles to implementation.  Expressing concern over the complex political and security situation in central Mali, he drew attention to the Secretary-General’s idea of a “pact for peace” that would promote the Agreement’s inclusive nature.  That effort would involve the Government, United Nations, Security Council and other regional and international parties.

Turning to MINUSMA and the recently concluded independent strategic review of the Mission, he said the Secretary-General was recommending a shift in its focus, prioritization and implementation of its mandated tasks to maximize its role in support of the Agreement and in amplifying the peace process.  That included a more tailored approach to the protection of civilians, particularly in the centre of Mali.  Given the critical juncture in which Mali found itself, he added, MINUSMA would intensify its reporting and monitoring efforts, while cooperating closely with other security actors, including the Group of Five for the Sahel (G-5 Sahel) joint force, the Barkhane force and the European Union Training Mission in Mali.

He emphasized the G-5 Sahel member States remained accountable for the conduct of operations with full respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.  Gross violations such as those reportedly perpetrated in Boulkessi on 19 May by the Malian armed forces operating under the G-5 Sahel task force must be addressed.  Concluding, he said stronger support to the G-5 Sahel joint force — including predictable and sustainable financing — was critical for reducing the risk of human rights violations during counter-terrorism operations.

Statements

ANTOINE IGNACE MICHON (France) stressed that support for the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali must remain a priority.  Three years after its signature, a significant number of commitments undertaken had not yet been implemented, largely due to a lack of political will by the stakeholders.  There was a need for significant progress to take place.  It was also important to consolidate the mechanisms for the mixed patrols in the north of the country and to start the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.  All Malian stakeholders must be aware that the Security Council was monitoring the implementation of their commitments and to that end, France was paying particular attention to those that were creating obstacles to the implementation of the Agreement on the ground.  He expressed serious concern about allegations of instances of human rights violations in the context of anti-terrorist operations undertaken by Malian forces.

The upcoming electoral cycles, including the Presidential election, would be an important step for Malian democracy, and must take place in a peaceful, transparent and credible environment, he stressed.  The renewal of the MINUSMA mandate was crucial for the stability of Mali and the region.  He underscored that the Mission should better communicate the specific nature of its mandate and its actions to local stakeholders, adding that there must be a balanced approach in response to the growing threat in the centre of the country.  Keeping the Mission in its current configuration would not be possible without substantial progress on the peace process, he warned.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said that although progress had been made in the peace process, it had been a difficult struggle.  Malian parties must quickly make progress on implementing the Agreement, including by ensuring the full participation of women.  “Our patience is running out,” he said, adding that the upcoming elections would be a crucial test.  The Malian authorities must ensure that the electoral process and associated political dialogue was inclusive by providing space for debate and dissident voices.  Support for the political process and the mediation role of the Mission had proved to be valuable.  Too often, international humanitarian law and international human rights violations allegations did not lead to any prosecutions, he said, emphasizing that one could not minimize the importance of the Mission’s work in the areas of the judiciary and prisons.  To find the best strategies to support peace, MINUSMA must improve its understanding of the ways in which the illegal economy affected the conflict, including with regard to the trafficking of drugs, arms and human beings.

ILAHIRI ALCIDE DJEDJE (Côte d’Ivoire) urged all stakeholders to commit to the road map adopted in March and to promptly implement priority actions.  The presidential elections were an important step in resolving the crisis, and in that connection, he called on MINUSMA to ensure a secure and safe environment for those elections by providing support to the Malian armed forces.  The security situation remained disturbing in some areas of the country due to the persistent asymmetric attacks carried out by terrorist groups, as well as community violence in the centre of the country.  He called on the international community to provide the Mission with the necessary resources and personnel to carry out its work.  The protection of civilians required the deployment of United Nations police units, he said, noting with regret that the humanitarian emergency plan for 2018 had only been partially financed.  Addressing the terrorist threat in Mali was a matter of regional security and would require a coordinated, comprehensive approach.

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation was greatly concerning, with more than 4.3 million people — more than a quarter of the population — poised to require humanitarian assistance.  In light of that impending crisis, the international community and the Government must fulfil their commitments.  Emphasizing that political stability was crucial for addressing the root causes of the conflict, he said his country agreed with France on the next steps forward.  To the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali, he said the Council was increasingly concerned by the slow pace of implementation of the Agreement, for which MINUSMA peacekeepers were paying with their lives.  He urged the Minister to take back to all parties the Council’s expectation for fast and deep implementation of the Agreement.  “Patience is running out,” he said, adding that an inclusive peace that included a greater role for women would be more likely to succeed.

AMY NOEL TACHCO (United States) said her country was gravely concerned by the deteriorating security situation in Mali and the worsening humanitarian situation.  Ongoing attacks on MINUSMA were a serious challenge to the implementation of its mandate.  Stating that the Secretary-General’s report provided an opening for a difficult conversation, she said successful elections would be essential for securing gains made so far.  All parties in Mali had wasted far too much time over the past three years, she said, adding that MINUSMA should focus more on the political process and that, if no progress was seen, the Council should consider how long it could sustain the Mission.  It was time to streamline MINUSMA’s mandate to increase support for political engagement, but that would require tough choices.  She expressed concern about growing instability in central Mali, saying failure to contain that crisis could lead to the reversal of small gains made so far.  She also echoed concerns about alleged human rights violations by the Malian security forces, saying the Government must swiftly investigate such reports.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) noted with concern the worsening humanitarian and security situation in Mali, highlighting the activities of terrorist groups, clashes between armed groups and attacks against MINUSMA staff.  Yet, he welcomed the new road map for the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement, as well as the establishment of mixed patrol units.  There must be greater efforts aimed at the implementation of the Agreement, he said, stressing that it was essential for the citizens of Mali to take full ownership of the process.  The holding of free and fair presidential elections was crucial for the future of the country, he said, welcoming the efforts of the Government to implement the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme and the reforms aimed at strengthening the security services.  He noted with concern allegations of human rights violations and believed the ongoing political process would be enhanced by the strategic review of MINUSMA’s activities.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) noted with concern that, despite many years of efforts, the stability that was needed to ensure the people of Mali could live in peace had not been achieved.  Asymmetric threats and constant clashes of armed groups, as well as intercommunal violence, continued to put at risk the well-being of the population.  The economic development of the country had slowed, while the presence of transnational crime continued to grow.  He called on countries that had committed financial support to MINUSMA to fulfil their obligations.  He commended the efforts by the Government to appoint interim authorities and set a timetable for legislative elections as well as other efforts.  It was essential to promote the State presence in the most troubled areas.  The Mission was not only dealing with violence by armed groups, but was also being forced to fend off a multitude of additional threats.

BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) called on all parties to the peace process in Mali to cooperate and step up their efforts to make progress in the interest of that country’s people.  Kuwait looked forward to transparent, smooth and inclusive presidential elections, and encouraged MINUSMA to help reduce tensions and ensure the security of the electoral process.  Expressing concern by the security situation and threats posed by terrorist groups, as seen by a recent attack on a MINUSMA base, he said the Council must ensure that the Mission was provided with the equipment it needed.  On the renewal of the Mission’s mandate, he welcome the findings of the independent strategic review, adding that the scope of the mandate must be clarified, with priority given to full implementation of the Agreement.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said the forthcoming elections would be crucial for securing gains made thus far in implementing the Agreement.  Commending the efforts of neighbouring countries, she said the international community must do more to comprehensively address the crisis.  Women remained under-represented in mechanisms for implementing and monitoring the Agreement, she said, adding that Mali had no national law dealing with sexual violence.  Strong language on gender equality and women’s rights and participation in the peace process should be maintained in future Mali-related resolutions, she said.  Poland supported proposals to revitalize the Mission’s presence in the north and centre of Mali, and welcomed giving it a stronger role in the peace process, with its good offices being used more extensively.  She commended the tireless efforts of MINUSMA personnel and looked forward to the extension of the Mission’s mandate.

CARL ORRENIUS SKAU (Sweden) said implementation of the Agreement must be intensified, with greater efforts to ensure women’s participation in the peace process.  Political actors and parties must put aside differences and work towards inclusive, transparent and credible elections.  Sweden called on the Government to step up efforts to protect human rights in central Mali and to investigate alleged violations and abuses.  Turning to MINUSMA’s mandate, he expressed support for enhancing its political role as well as the development of a “pact for peace” that linked assistance to existing benchmarks and timelines.  It was also important to safeguard key civilian components of the Mission, not least those dealing with human rights.

ZHANG DIANBIN (China) noted that the new Malian Government had worked hard to advance the peace process and had achieved positive progress.  Nevertheless, the security situation in the north and centre of the country had worsened, which seriously affected the peace process.  It was important to assist the Malian parties to implement the peace deal and in that connection, the international community should continue to support the country and help it enhance its own development and governing capacity.  The Malian sanctions mechanism should have objective support and work in strict compliance with the Security Council mandate.  The peace and security of Mali was closely related to the surrounding region, which underscored the need for an integrated approach to the challenges faced by the country.  China commended MINUSMA for its efforts to support the joint force, as well as the efforts undertaken by the Secretariat and the Mission to improve the safety and security of peacekeepers.  Noting that there were 400 peacekeepers from China in Mali, he said that his country would continue to support the peace and development cause of the African nation.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) welcomed the renewed momentum in the peace process and the other measures that had contributed to progress in the implementation of the Agreement.  He also welcomed the progress made in the operationalization of the mixed units and commended the Government’s efforts to foster a conducive environment for holding peaceful, transparent and credible elections.  Despite the progress made, the continuing deterioration of the security situation in Mali, including intercommunal violence, was of source of concern.  The destructive actions of terrorists and armed groups were undermining State authority and creating a difficult humanitarian challenge.  The role of MINUSMA continued to be indispensable, and in that connection, his delegation supported the continuation of the Mission’s mandate for an additional 12 months.

JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) highlighted the timeline for priority actions, the road map related to security reforms and the mixed patrols as positive signs for generating trust.  Those patrols were reconfigurations of the armed forces, focused on providing defence and extending the forces to the north of the country, he said.  He welcomed the Minister’s recent visit to the north, while also advocating progress in the social and political spheres.  He voiced hope that implementing the Agreement would lead to the holding of Presidential elections in July, and he endorsed the 3 June statement by the African Union Chair calling on political actors to refrain from actions that would escalate polarization in Mali.  They should also ensure the holding of elections in conditions of peace, security and transparency.  For its part, the Mission must continue to provide technical support and exercise its good offices for the peaceful conduct of elections, he said, expressing support for the renewal of its mandate.

DIDAR TEMENOV (Kazakhstan) said the priority must be the accelerated implementation of the peace agreement, and in that connection, his delegation welcomed the increased cooperation between the Government of Mali and other signatories.  He encouraged the parties to continue demonstrating genuine will to advance the implementation of the Agreement and underscored the need to focus on the three long-term pillars contained within the peace deal.  Ensuring transparent, fair and peaceful elections in July was of great importance, he said, adding that addressing the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the north and centre of Mali was equally important.  Kazakhstan supported the recommendations of the independent strategic review and was convinced that full operationalization of the G-5 Sahel joint force would substantially reinforce the efforts of MINUSMA and Malian national security forces to combat terrorism and other cross-border threats.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) noted that the process to implement the Agreement had sped up, including the deployment of mixed patrols, while disarmament, demobilization and reintegration was continuing.  There had been no significant violations in the preparations for the upcoming presidential elections, he said, although there were many grounds for concern, including that the geographical scope of terrorist activities had expanded.  There was a need to review the approaches being taken to resolve the crisis as military means alone would not be enough, he said, underlining the need for Malian citizens to play a leading role in resolving the country’s numerous, complex challenges.  It would be hard to achieve a settlement in Mali without normalizing the situation in the region as a whole, he said, expressing support for the establishment of the joint force to combat terrorism and organized crime.

TIEMAN HUBERT COULIBALY, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali, welcomed the references in the Secretary-General’s report to progress on start on the Operational Coordination Mechanism in Kidal and Timbuktu, as well as pursuing the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process with the pre-enrolment campaign for former combatants, and the start of security sector reforms.  He also welcomed that it underscored parties’ determination to step up implementation of the Agreement, reaffirming that commitment to the Secretary‑General when he met with the Agreement Monitoring Committee.

Noting that such progress demonstrated the unwavering commitment of the President and all parties, he said that resolve had also expressed itself through the Ouagadougou Agreement, national meetings and the Conference on the Charter of National Understanding.  While implementation of the peace agreement had seen setbacks, he cited intense work by the Council’s own missions, MINUSMA and the Government, and underscored the need to “continue along those lines” so that ahead of the Presidential elections, the Agreement could be implemented “without taking the foot off the accelerator”.

He said the first round of the Presidential elections — due in 45 days — must be held in conditions of transparency, which was crucial for ensuring the legitimacy of Mali’s institutions.  The Government was aware of the need respect the Bamako Declaration.  It was requesting from MINUSMA support in the areas of security and logistics, as well as for stepped-up efforts to enable the Government to re-establish authority over its territory; provide basic social services; and speed the support plan for the G-5 Sahel joint force.  He requested that training and operational resources also be bolstered.

Noting that his Government preferred to strengthen the current provisions of MINUSMA’s mandate, he said that, if implemented now, the proposed reconfiguration could run the risk of creating a security vacuum and jeopardizing progress made in the peace process.  The most credible option was to ensure the application of pertinent provisions of articles 21 and 24 of the peace agreement so that the reconfigured forces would be carried out with the international community monitoring the Agreement.  Reaffirming Mali’s commitment to respect human rights, he pledged that the Government would complete investigations on “each and every” case referenced in the report.  Already, disciplinary measures had been taken on units deployed in the affected regions.  The military prosecutor had been engaged and the results of the investigations would be published as soon as possible.  Mali observed a zero-tolerance policy towards such violations.

Aware that the 29 July elections must be as transparent as possible, the Government was working unfailingly to achieve that goal, he said, noting that a dialogue framework had been established which included parties of the presidential majority, centre, opposition and civil society.  Further, material and logistical measures needed to be taken to ensure that a free, credible and peaceful vote took place.  The electoral register had been deemed credible, he said, noting that the rapporteur from that audit committee was a representative of the political opposition.  New voting cards had been made and would be available in the coming days.  More than 11,000 members of the defence and security forces would be deployed, along with their partners.  Combating terrorist armed groups was a priority and he renewed the request for the joint force to be given a robust Chapter VII mandate, as well as predictable and sustainable financing.

For information media. Not an official record.