Prime Minister Says Changes to Reduce Budget, Mandate Will Endanger Fragile Gains, Strengthen Jihadist Threat
Emphasizing that “investing in peace in Mali is an investment in global security”, the Secretary-General urged the Security Council today to maintain full support for the United Nations mission in the country, calling on the Government, opposition leaders and signatories to the 2015 peace agreement to redouble efforts to restore calm.
António Guterres made his appeal as Council members described conditions in the West African country six days after the massacre of 160 civilians in the village of Ogossagou, events which coincided with the Council’s visit, and amid negotiations on the renewal of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali’s (MINUSMA) mandate in June.
Condemning the massacre, the Secretary-General warned of more atrocities if extremist movements, communal tensions over land and water access, the spread of light weapons and the arming of ethnically based self-defence groups are not addressed. It is not a question of charity, but of self-interest, he said, as security in Mali impacted on both the entire Sahel and global stability. “We cannot stand by while the humanitarian situation deteriorates, development gaps increase and security risks become unsustainable,” he stressed.
In the ensuing debate, Mali’s Prime Minister said all parties in his country understand the importance of MINUSMA and the need to strengthen its capacity. Reducing its budget or changing its mandate risks endangering the fragile progress achieved, notably by strengthening the hand of terrorist groups. MINUSMA plays an essential role in supporting France’s “Operation Barkhane” and the Group of Five for the Sahel (G‑5 Sahel) joint force, and recent setbacks suffered by terrorist groups have opened a window of opportunity.
Describing Mali as a dam against the spread of terrorism in the Sahel and Sahara region into West Africa, he urged the Council to study the possibility of giving Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) members a role in strengthening MINUSMA’s capacity. Mali is at a crossroads: either peace will take root and development will spread, or the country will take a great leap backwards — a risk the entire international community must prevent, he said.
Several Council members voiced frustration with the pace of implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement signed in Algiers in 2015. The Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the United States said MINUSMA cannot be expected to fill a gap created by the Government and its interlocuters. “It’s time to evaluate whether a peacekeeping mission in such an environment is the appropriate or effective solution to the problem set in northern Mali,” he said, asking for the Secretary‑General to recommend options for significantly adapting its mandate.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire said success in Mali requires support from the entire international community, including the United Nations, African Union and ECOWAS. Emphasizing that attacks in Mali impact the stability in neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso, he pressed the United Nations and international financial partners to provide the G-5 Sahel joint force with all that it needs. As for MINUSMA, a stronger mandate is more necessary than ever.
While calling on Malian stakeholders to keep making significant strides to implement the 2015 Agreement, South Africa’s delegate said the Council has a responsibility, together with ECOWAS and the African Union, to support the Government and people along their path to peace.
The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, Council President for March, speaking in his national capacity, warned against persistent delays in implementing the Agreement. To prevent a setback, new sanctions can be considered for spoilers, he said, stressing also MINUSMA’s role in helping Mali implement the necessary political, security and development objectives.
Also speaking today were representatives of Germany, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Poland, Peru, China, Equatorial Guinea, Belgium, Kuwait, Dominican Republic and Indonesia.
The meeting began at 2:39 p.m. and ended at 5:15 p.m.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that last weekend’s massacre of at least 160 civilians in the Mopti region of central Mali — the worst of its kind, but not the first — must be urgently investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. Stressing that impunity fuels violence, he called on Malian authorities to step up efforts to restore peace and stability. For its part, the international community must take stock of what more it can do to support the authorities. He warned of further escalation and more atrocities if extremist movements, communal tensions over land and water access, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and the arming of ethnically based self-defence groups are not addressed. The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is playing a critical role, but as extremists expand their activities and use more sophisticated weapons, Malian and international forces must strengthen their response.
Some important steps have been made in the past six months towards speeding implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Mali, he said. More than 1,400 former combatants in Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu have joined the Malian army as part of an accelerated disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, interim administrations have been set up in all five northern regions and talks are under way to enhance women’s participation in the peace process. Comprehensive political and administrative reform is laying the groundwork for dialogue on how Mali’s institutions can best serve people’s interests. He encouraged the Government to promote reconciliation and intercommunal dialogue and welcomed its efforts to make that process as broad as possible. He urged all Malian parties to redouble their efforts, address differences through dialogue and listen to the voices of the Malian people, with continued international support.
“While we must do more to support the Malian authorities and improve security across the whole country, military approaches alone will not resolve Mali’s challenges,” he said. Violence can only be prevented by tackling causes that include poverty, climate change, competition for resources, underdevelopment and lack of opportunities for young people. Noting that 2.4 million people need food assistance, and more than 800 schools have closed, he said MINUSMA and United Nations agencies, funds and programmes have adopted a framework to prioritize tasks and define responsibilities. The Sahel Alliance launched by France, Germany and the European Union plans to invest €9 billion in the region by 2020, and a recent Group of 5 for the Sahel (G-5 Sahel) [Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger] donors conference in Nouakchott was a success. However, such initiatives are not enough, and he called for strengthened efforts to address causes of instability through humanitarian aid and support for sustainable development.
He said the situation in Mali is a test of the international community’s ability to mobilize in support of peace. It is not a question of charity, but of self-interest, as security in Mali impacts on the entire Sahel, and in turn, global stability. “We cannot stand by while the humanitarian situation deteriorates, development gaps increase and security risks become unsustainable.” He called on all national, regional and international actors to better tackle the multiple threats. Emphasizing that “investing in peace in Mali is an investment in global security,” he urged the Council keep giving full support to MINUSMA and to the Organization’s humanitarian and development agencies and partners. He also called on the Government, opposition leaders and signatory movements to redouble efforts to overcome challenges.
JEAN-YVES LE DRIAN, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, Council President for March, spoke in his national capacity to condemn the recent attack that killed more than 160 people, calling for justice. Noting that the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Mali, also known as the Algiers Accord, was signed in 2015, he highlighted the important role played by MINUSMA. Recalling that the Council had warned against persistent delays in implementing key provisions of the Agreement — a wake-up call to the concerned parties — he said the Mission also played a decisive role in the peaceful holding of the presidential elections in 2018. Progress has been made on the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, as well as on the decentralization of institutions. Women’s participation in the political process had been minimal, but is now increasing with MINUSMA’s help. “We must build on this progress,” he said, calling on all parties to continue those efforts. To prevent a reverse in the political process, new sanctions can be considered for spoilers. Noting that the resolution renewing MINUSMA’s mandate will be adopted in June, he stressed the Mission’s important role in helping Mali implement the necessary political, security and development objectives.
HEIKO MAAS, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, describing his recent visit to Mali as part of the Security Council mission to the Sahel, said young people there had told him about their fight for peace and efforts to rebuild their country. While young people and women hold the key to peace, Mali will continue to require international support and the Council is ready to play its part in those efforts. The European Union stands ready to help with capacity‑building, including training. Noting that uniformed men and women had described the danger they face while on mission, he said MINUSMA requires a comprehensive mandate and support. Germany stands shoulder to shoulder with Mali. As many challenges do not stop within the border, he underscored the need to support the G-5 Sahel joint force. “The peace mission cannot replace the political process,” he said, urging that progress be made on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, as well as on the revision of the Constitution.
MARCEL AMON-TANOH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire, said that success in Mali requires support from the entire international community, including the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Independent Observer. Emphasizing that attacks in Mali impact the stability in neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso, he said terrorism and cross-border organized crime are regional security challenges that require a collective response. Making the G-5 Sahel joint force operational is critical, he said, calling on the United Nations and international financial partners to provide it with all that it needs. The international community must demonstrate greater solidarity and mobilize to alleviate humanitarian distress, he said, describing MINISMA as an essential link in the subregional security chain that must benefit from Council support. Its complementarity with other forces is an “ace card” in the fight against terrorism and its capacities must be strengthened. A stronger mandate for the Mission is more necessary than ever.
DAVID HALE, Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the United States, said the Council must recognize the gravity of the security situation in Mali, where MINUSMA is operating in an environment far outside the bounds of traditional peacekeeping. Violence in Mali is accompanied by an unacceptable lack of progress in implementing the Algiers Accord. “Now is not the time to give up, nor is it the time to pretend that peace in Mali is advancing sufficiently,” he said. Mali should expand the inclusivity of its constitutional reform process, leading to a legitimate constitutional referendum. Parties to the Algiers Accord should, meanwhile, speed the integration, training and deployment of fighters participating in the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation programme in northern Mali. Also, the Government should provide greater resources to interim administrations in the north to ensure they actually deliver services. MINUSMA cannot fill the gap while the Government and parties to the Algiers Accord fail to make progress, he emphasized. Given the state of affairs, “it’s time to evaluate whether a peacekeeping mission in such an environment is the appropriate or effective solution to the problem set in northern Mali”. He asked the Secretary-General to provide the Council with options for a significant adaptation of MINUSMA in time for negotiations on the renewal of its mandate in June, including options for significant adaptation so that Council members can consider the best way forward.
TARIQ AHMAD, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the United Nations of the United Kingdom, welcomed the recent steps by the Government to implement the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, including progress on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. However, the Secretary-General’s latest report pointed out that benchmarks have not been met on various fronts, and continued efforts are needed in the areas of constitutional reform, decentralization of State authority and security sector reform. It is important to hold a referendum on the constitutional reform by June, with all signatory parties to the Agreement and other stakeholders included. Underscoring MINUSMA’s crucial role, he condemned attacks on its personnel. The Mission’s mandate must focus on the core tasks in Mali’s north and highlight the value of good offices. It also must achieve longer-term cost savings to free up capacity to save lives. The Mission is not a permanent solution, but rather, a means to achieve sustainable peace.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), noting that a tragic incident took place during the Council’s visit to Mali, said his delegation shares the Secretary‑General’s assessment of the situation. Noting that parties will continue to implement key provisions of the Agreement, he said the timely holding of parliamentary elections in June requires resources as a priority. Pointing to less encouraging trends, he cited the lack of State authority in many of the parts of the country, which has turned these areas into breeding grounds for terrorists. Human rights violations are rampant. Drawing attention to intercommunal and ethnic clashes in central Mali, he said that restoring State authority across the country is essential, and that efforts to both stimulate the economy and provide services must be ensured.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), expressing regret that some key provisions of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement have not been fully implemented, emphasized that those who are hampering the political process must know that the Council is ready to impose all necessary measures against them. She described the 23 March tragedy as the latest sign that violence in Mali is out of control. Improving the situation requires effective implementation of the peace accord. Emphasizing that MINUSMA plays a critical role in combating extremist armed groups, she said the Council’s recent visit to the subregion revealed the need for a broader security architecture. Turning to the worrisome human rights situation, she said no effort should be spared to bring perpetrators to justice. At the same time, all military forces must ensure that their operations comply with international human rights and humanitarian law.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said full application of the peace agreement must be a priority for the Government, with support from the international community. All parties must pool their efforts to ensure that achievements translate into a better life for all Malians. He encouraged all parties to work in an inclusive manner on reforms. Emphasizing the need to address the worsening security and humanitarian situation, he said Peru supports strengthening the Malian armed forces with technical capacity and training in order to confront terrorists and rebel groups, while earning the trust of the population. Efforts must also be made to eliminate economic and development inequality between the capital Bamako and other parts of Mali. He went on to support MINUSMA receiving the resources and capacities it needs to fulfil its mandate.
MA ZHAOXU (China), condemning the recent attacks that killed more than 160 people in Mali, welcomed the successful holding of presidential elections last year and other progress on the political front. While noting the security condition is deteriorating in the north and central regions, he said it is important to advance the peace process and national reconciliation. Sanctions must support the political process. The international community should support Mali’s counter-terrorism efforts by providing capacity‑building so that Mali’s security force can eventually assume responsibility across the country. It is also vital to support economic and social development, he said, adding that China contributes engineering and medical personnel to MINUSMA.
AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea) said the security situation in Mali’s north and central regions has remained a challenge. It is important to conduct broad consultations to provide the tools necessary to prevent and fight terrorism. While noting ongoing efforts to implement the peace agreement, she condemned recent attacks on the United Nations and other personnel, and pressed authorities to strengthen their determination to combat terrorism and violent extremism. The international community must employ a multi-stakeholder approach to improve the security situation in Mali and the Sahel. He welcomed the President’s efforts to revise the Constitution, which will lay the ground for other reforms.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) called on Malian stakeholders to continue to make significant strides to implement the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation. The Council has a responsibility, together with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union, to support the Government and Malians in general on their path to sustainable peace. He welcomed the progress made to operationalize a truth, justice and reconciliation commission, adding however that more attention should be paid to post-conflict reconstruction and development. He expressed support for MINUSMA providing more assistance to the G‑5 Sahel, reiterating that group’s request to allow cross‑border operations to neutralize groups. He also expressed support for Government efforts to extend its administration, especially in the north.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) voiced deep concern that the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement is not being implemented as quickly as hoped. All measures at the Council’s disposal should be used against those who are hindering the peace process. Sanctions have been imposed and the Council should be ready to introduce more as needed. Expressing alarm at terrorist and intercommunal violence in central Mali, he said the solution must address such issues as governance, corruption, justice and basic social services. Combating impunity must be a priority. “Only Malians hold the key [to their future] and the United Nations must support them in their actions,” he said. On MINUSMA’s mandate, he called for a strengthened focus on the protection of civilians, particularly in the centre of the country and in support of the authorities.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), recalling positive steps taken to implement the peace agreement, said the security situation has deteriorated. While Kuwait had previously welcomed the establishment of interim administrations in some areas, the pace of progress has since remained “below our expectations”, and he urged stepped-up efforts to implement the agreement. Otherwise, terrorists will take advantage of the security vacuum to expand their activities. The Government must complete the constitutional reform process, including the establishment of a national consultation framework, and reconstruct the national defence and security forces. The deteriorating security conditions have also caused humanitarian challenges, he said, with 2.4 million people in need of food and 800 schools closed. He urged the Government to reopen schools.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said progress has been made in Mali, with the establishment of provisional authorities in Kidal and other parts of the country. He nonetheless lamented the slow implementation of the peace agreement, notably on security sector reform and the establishment of development zones, pressing the Government and other parties to accelerate efforts. Resources must be provided to provisional administrations. Over the last six months, 18 peacekeepers lost their lives and he expressed hope that “no stone will be left unturned” in bringing perpetrators to justice. Women’s inclusion in decision‑making through a quota system has the potential to transform Mali, he said, also calling for greater participation by young people in peacebuilding efforts. Climate change — which causes droughts and floods in Mali, a landlocked country — has taken a toll on herders and farmers. The Council and MINUSMA must work hand in hand to establish a mechanism to evaluate this risk, strengthen resilience and establish channels to detect early warning signs.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said last week’s visit was useful in terms of envisioning a way to support peace and development in Mali. While the progress made in implementing the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement has been commendable, there are still many areas that require hard work, notably Constitutional reform and redeployment of Defence and Security Forces. He expressed concern over the security and humanitarian situation, particularly in northern and central Mali, and over the increasing number of terrorist attacks against both MINUSMA and the Malian Defence and Security Forces. During the Council’s visit, intercommunal violence led to the death of 153 people. He called for strengthening MINUSMA’s capacity, stressing that the situation has not only impacted the daily lives of the Malian people, it has also hampered the deployment of personnel delivering essential services. “These are the pressing issues that must be addressed,” he emphasized.
SOUMEYLOU BOUBÈYE MAÏGA, Prime Minister of Mali, recapping developments in his country, including the 2018 presidential election, said the President and Government remain fully committed to implementing the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. Efforts are being made to speed the implementation of provisions dealing with institutional reforms and security arrangements, and the Government is also stepping up work on decentralization and regionalization. However, the terrorist threat is complicating implementation, prompting the Government to adopt an integrated security plan for central Mali and to accelerate the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. Economic growth in 2018 meanwhile reached 5.3 per cent and the Government’s budgetary deficit was reduced.
Emphasizing that freedom, dignity and solidarity are values dear to the Malian people, he said his country has for over five decades participated in peacekeeping missions in Africa and beyond, responding without hesitation to help end conflicts, restore democracy and rebuild national cohesion. Now it is Mali that is benefiting from international solidarity and it will never be able to thank its friends enough, he said, adding that recent violence demonstrates the need to remain vigilant and mobilized. Mali is determined to combat terrorist fighters, whether they are faceless or not, and it will use all means at its disposal to ensure that those responsible for massacres are brought to justice.
All parties in Mali stress the importance of MINUSMA and the need to strengthen its capacity, he said, adding that reducing its budget or changing its mandate risks endangering the fragile progress achieved. Genuine progress is being made on the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, but for that to continue, there must be ongoing support from the Mission, working together with the signatories to facilitate disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and the functioning of interim administrations, among other things. Reducing its means will have extremely negative consequences that will strengthen terrorist groups. MINUSMA plays an essential role in supporting “Operation Barkhane” and the G‑5 Sahel joint force, he said, noting that setbacks suffered by terrorist groups in recent months have opened a window of opportunity.
Welcoming the Council’s constant attention to the situation in Mali, he described his country as a dam against the spread of terrorism in the Sahel and Sahara region into West Africa. The ability of terrorism to cross borders cannot be underestimated, he said, emphasizing that all forces must be mobilized to prevent the arrival of foreign terrorist fighters. He reiterated the need for predictable and sustainable financing for the G-5 Sahel joint force, recommending that the Council study the possibility of giving ECOWAS member States a role in strengthening MINUSMA’s capacity.
Seven years ago, Mali was under threat, with much of its territory in terrorist hands and the State in freefall, he said. Today, thanks to massive investments by the international community through MINUSMA, the leadership of the President and the determination of its people, Mali is back on its feet. But, the situation remains concerning, with the jihadist threat still present, particularly in the centre, and implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement still too slow and fragile for the international community to consider its work to be done. Mali is at a crossroads. Either peace takes root and socioeconomic development can spread, or the country will take a great leap backwards — a risk the entire international community must prevent. Any withdrawal will be seen as a sign of weakness and possibly deal a fatal blow to peace and reconciliation.