29 March 2019

Secretary-General Says Mali Situation Tests International Community’s Ability to Mobilize for Peace, Stability in ‘Enlightened Self-interest’

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Security Council meeting on Mali, in New York today:

Thank you for this opportunity to brief the Council.  I welcome his Excellency Prime Minister [Soumeylou Boubèye] Maïga.

We have all been appalled by the recent upsurge in violence in central Mali, particularly the killing of at least 160 civilians last weekend in Ogossagou village in Mopti region.  This appears to have been a premeditated massacre in which whole families, including mothers and young children, were hacked to death in their homes which were then set alight.  And while this is the worst attack of its kind, it is not the first.  I express my deepest condolences to the families of the victims, and to the people and Government of Mali, and wish those who were injured a speedy recovery.

Impunity only fuels the cycle of violence.  This attack must be investigated urgently, and the perpetrators brought to justice.  I urge the Malian authorities to step up efforts to end the violence and bring back peace and stability to central Mali.  But as these attacks become deadlier and more frequent, we must take stock of how the international community can do more to support the Malian authorities and protect all of Mali’s people, including the Fulani who were targeted in this massacre.

Particularly in the centre of the country, the security situation is deteriorating rapidly.  Terrorist and militia groups are expanding and have become more agile and mobile.  The expansion of extremist movements has exacerbated long‑standing communal tensions between ethnic groups over access to land and water.  The proliferation of small arms and light weapons and the arming of ethnically based self-defence groups have increased violence against civilians.

If these concerns are not addressed, there is a high risk of further escalation that could lead to the commission of atrocity crimes.  There were over 240 attacks on civilians, representatives of the Malian Government, and national and international forces last year, up from 183 in 2016.  The number of people forced to flee their homes increased from 40,000 a year ago to 123,000 in February, and the use of improvised explosive devices in central Mali more than tripled from 29 in 2017 to nearly 100 in 2018.

We owe Special Representative Mahamat Saleh Annadif, and his military and civilian staff, our gratitude for their work in this most challenging and dangerous mission.  Eighteen United Nations peacekeepers from Chad, Guinea and Sri Lanka have lost their lives in Mali in the past 18 months.  I express my deepest condolences to their families and friends.  Their sacrifice is not in vain.  MINUSMA has enhanced its capacity to respond to attacks, even when heavily outnumbered.

But, as extremists expand their activities and use more sophisticated weapons, Malian and international forces must also step up and strengthen our response.  MINUSMA works in close coordination with the Malian defence and security forces and the international forces present in Mali — the G-5 Sahel [Group of Five for the Sahel] joint force and the French force, Barkhane.  I highly appreciate the recent operations led by Barkhane and the G-5 Sahel, and this Council is aware of my view on what is needed to make the G-5 Sahel joint force operational at full strength.

While the security situation is deteriorating, there have been some important steps in the past six months towards accelerating implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Mali.  More than 1,400 former combatants in Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu have joined the Malian army as part of the accelerated disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process — an important sign of commitment.  Interim administrations have been established in all five northern regions.  Discussions on enhancing the participation of women in the peace process are under way.

The Government has launched a comprehensive political and administrative reform process, laying the groundwork for dialogue on how Mali’s institutions can best serve the interests of its people.  I encourage the Government to promote reconciliation and intercommunal dialogue, aimed at inclusivity, strengthening resilience and creating social cohesion from the ground up.  I welcome efforts by the Government to make this process as broad as possible by including political leaders from across the spectrum, the signatory movements and armed groups, experts and members of civil society.

The recent meetings initiated by President [Ibrahim Boubacar] Keïta with the leaders of the democratic opposition, including Soumaïla Cissé, show a willingness on both sides to rise beyond partisan politics and support the reforms.  I urge all Malian parties to redouble their efforts, address differences through dialogue and listen to the voices of the Malian people, so that these gains are irreversible.  I also urge the international community to continue its 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.  We can only prevent increased violence and instability by tackling root causes — poverty, climate change and competition for resources, underdevelopment and lack of opportunities for young people.  Some 2.4 million people need food assistance in Mali.  There are just 3 health workers per 10,000 people in the north and central regions.  More than 800 schools are closed and nearly a quarter of a million children have no access to education.

MINUSMA and United Nations agencies, funds and programmes have now adopted an integrated strategic framework that will help to prioritize tasks and define responsibilities to support broader and longer-term sustaining peace efforts by the Malian Government.  There are several important international initiatives under way, including the Sahel Alliance launched by France, Germany and the European Union, which aims to invest €9 billion across the region by 2022.  The G‑5 Sahel held a successful partners and donors’ conference in Nouakchott last December.  But, while I welcome such initiatives, they are insufficient.  I call on all to strengthen efforts to address the root causes of instability and insecurity in Mali through humanitarian aid and support for sustainable development, including programmes on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The situation in Mali is a test of the international community’s ability to mobilize in support of peace and stability.  This is not a question of charity; it is one of enlightened self-interest.  Security in Mali has an impact on the entire Sahel, which, in turn, affects global stability.  The entire Sahel region faces severe transnational challenges, from climate change and drought to growing insecurity, violent extremism and the smuggling of people, weapons and drugs.  You are aware of the growing threat to stability in Burkina Faso.

We cannot stand by while the humanitarian situation deteriorates, development gaps increase and security risks become unsustainable.  I call on all national, regional and international actors to step up efforts to tackle the multiple threats facing Mali and the entire Sahel region.  Investing in peace in Mali is investing in global security.  I urge your continued full support to MINUSMA and to United Nations humanitarian and development agencies and to our partners on the ground.

However, this support will never be sufficient.  There is no substitute for political will.  I call on the Government of Mali, the leaders of the political opposition and the signatory movements to redouble their efforts to overcome the challenges the country is facing.  Now is the time to work together to bring back peace and stability to Mali.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.