With security conditions in Mali worsening at an alarming rate, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations today called on the Government and signatories to the historic 2015 peace agreement to uphold their commitments as he unveiled “ambitious” plans in the Security Council for a mobile task force able to adapt to changing power dynamics.
“The rapid and thorough implementation of the peace agreement remains the only viable path for the stabilization of Mali,” said Jean-Pierre Lacroix, presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2019/983). The Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali provides the framework for political and institutional reforms to restore and decentralize State authority and to build a nation that reflects the diversity of all its citizens.
Progress in breaking deadlock among signatories was made during a recent national dialogue, he said, thanks in part to the involvement of the Coalition des mouvements de l’Azawad. The Government must now “hold out its hand” to the opposition, paving the way for the adoption of timelines for elections and constitutional reforms.
Such efforts are vital against the backdrop of an alarming security situation, he said. With terrorists proliferating in Ménako and Gao, and improvised explosive devices injuring “blue helmets” on a near daily basis, redeployment of the reconstituted units of the Malian Defence and Security Forces to the north remains an urgent priority. The first reconstituted battalion, deployed from Bamako to Kidal via Gao on 6 January, is expected to arrive by the end of the month.
However, it is not feasible for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to carry out its additional strategic priority in the centre without additional resources, he said. Attempting to do so has resulted in dangerous gaps in areas in northern Mali where the Mission’s presence is critical. As such, MINUSMA has developed a plan that provides for the establishment of a mobile task force, which will enhance the Mission’s ability to implement its mandate — most importantly through additional air mobility — which he called “indispensable” for it to deliver on its mandate.
In the ensuing debate, delegates reiterated that the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali is the sole framework for achieving a lasting solution. The heavy casualty numbers reflect an urgent need to act. France’s delegate highlighted a recent summit in Pau, where G5 Sahel joint force countries — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — along with his country, decided to establish a Sahel coalition to quash terrorist activities and restore State institutions.
Niger’s delegate, who also spoke for South Africa and Tunisia, agreed that concerted efforts are required to help Mali’s security and defence forces, particularly in improving intelligence capacities. Cross-border terrorist attacks remain a grave concern. He called for accelerated implementation of the peace agreement and respect for commitments to the G5 Sahel joint force.
Turning to MINUSMA, the representative of the United States called for de-prioritizing the Mission’s role in facilitating implementation of the peace agreement and evaluating how MINUSMA can complement other actors in the region. If the signatories are serious about MINUSMA’s continued support, they can work to meet the benchmarks set under resolution 2480 (2019), she said, noting that any changes to the mandate must be considered as part of a regional security strategy.
The representative of the Russian Federation, however, said his delegation is not ready to consider options for reforming the parameters of MINUSMA’s operations or drawing them down. The situation in Mali — and indeed the region — is beset by “the consequences of the Libyan factor”. The Liptako–Gourma triangle is the juncture for most challenges and he welcomed operations carried out by the G5 Sahel joint force, underscoring the need to seek African solutions to African problems.
Offering the national perspective, Mali’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation underscored the Government’s diligent efforts to uphold the peace agreement, with accelerated efforts to be made from 19 January onwards, when the deployment plan will be validated, under which 1,300 former combatants designated by the signatories will be deployed, and a monitoring mechanism set up in the four regions of the north.
In the same vein, he said the President of Mali on 12 December 2019 signed a decree appointing 100 ex-combatants to various officer ranks within the army, noting that security sector reform has been stepped up and a positive outcome reached to ease tensions among signatories in Ménaka. The Government also has increased its contact with MINUSMA at all levels so that “its forces know that we are in solidarity with them at all times”, he said.
Also speaking today were representatives of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia, Estonia, Belgium, China, United Kingdom and Viet Nam.
The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and concluded at 11:56 a.m.
JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said the security situation in Mali is deteriorating at an alarming rate, with 18 peacekeepers injured in an attack against the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) camp in Tessalit and 89 Nigerian soldiers killed following an attack on their base near the border. On 4 January, 14 children died in a bus attack. Terrorists are proliferating in Ménako and Gao regions amid growing use of improvised explosive devices that have injured “blue helmets” on a near daily basis. While measures taken by the force have limited the number of deaths, terrorism continues to feed communal violence in central Mali, and there are now more displaced people suffering from hunger in the Mopti region than in the past.
On the political front, he said implementation of the peace accord has been slow and irregular, due to disagreements among the signatories. Yet progress has been made through the inclusive national dialogue, which concluded nine months after it was announced. While arduous, the consultations were in-depth and open to all. He commended the Government and all parties that participated in a peaceful and constructive manner, stressing that “their ideas, opinions and concerns must be considered moving forward”. He also welcomed the high number of women who took part in the dialogue and involvement by the Coalition des mouvements de l’Azawad. He expressed regret, however, over the absence of opposition parties, calling on the Government to now implement the results and “hold out its hand” to the opposition, which would pave the way for the adoption of an electoral timeline and constitutional reform.
“The rapid and thorough implementation of the peace agreement remains the only viable path for the stabilization of Mali,” he said, providing the framework for political and institutional reforms to restore and decentralize State authority, and to build a nation that reflects the diversity and interests of all its citizens. The Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali also provides for mechanisms to address the grievances of those Malians who feel excluded from political life and economic development. The redeployment of the reconstituted units of the Malian Defence and Security Forces to the country’s north remains an urgent priority, noting that the first reconstituted battalion from Bamako was deployed to Kidal via Gao on 6 January and is expected to arrive by the end of the month. “This is an important step towards restoring State authority across the country,” he assured, which will pave the way for the redeployment of a more effective State administration and public services — most importantly justice officials, teachers and health workers in the north.
He welcomed MINUSMA’s support for the accelerated disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, demonstrating its critical role in creating conditions for the peace process to unfold. The Mission has done its utmost to implement its second strategic priority in the centre, while carrying out tasks in support of its primary strategic priority in the north. Its increased activity in Mopti region has helped to prevent further escalation of intercommunal violence and large-scale massacres. The establishment of temporary operating bases increased its ability to provide security, protect people and facilitate the return of the national security forces and Government services to Koro, Bankass and Bandiagara cercles. Its added focus on central Mali required it to divert air assets, its quick reaction force and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets from Gao to Mopti.
However, “it is not feasible for MINUSMA to implement its additional strategic priority in the centre without additional resources,” he insisted. Attempting to do so has resulted in dangerous gaps in areas in northern Mali where the Mission’s presence is critical. To address this challenge, MINUSMA has developed a plan to adapt its uniformed components within the authorized troops and police strength. It is an integral part of an overarching strategy to enhance the Mission’s good offices, mediation, reconciliation, capacity-building, technical and logistical support to Malian authorities. The plan provides for the establishment of a mobile task force, which will enhance MINUSMA’s ability to implement its mandate, making it more agile, flexible and mobile with tailored units and enhanced capabilities — most importantly additional air mobility. The plan is ambitious and its implementation hinges on support from the Security Council, as well as from troop- and police-contributing countries, the host Government and other partners.
“Obtaining the required capabilities is going to be challenging but I insist that this is indispensable for MINUSMA to deliver on its mandate,” he said, calling on all partners to help the Secretariat mobilize the required resources. The Mission also urgently requires access to additional land in Gao and Mopti, and he urged the Government to make it available as quickly as possible. He likewise reiterated the call on Mali’s leaders to work together, stressing that MINUSMA has provided the G5 Sahel joint force with operational and logistical support, and acceded to all its requests.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), referring to the shifting security situation, said the heavy casualties civilians have sustained reflect an urgent need to act. France recently organized a summit involving key actors that resulted in a decision to establish a Sahel coalition to quash terrorist activities and restore State institutions. Calling on all States to join the initiative, he said the strategy aims at, among other things, restoring stability to the region and fostering social and economic development. Inclusive national dialogue has been a milestone, boding well for the future. As the redeployment of the Malian army continues, he commended a forthcoming meeting of the Agreement Monitoring Committee to make further strides. The Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali is the sole framework to achieve a lasting solution for the country’s people. Regarding criticism aimed at international partners, he said MINUSMA remains a linchpin, including its protection of civilians and logistical support to the G5 Sahel joint force.
ABDOU ABARRY (Niger), also speaking on behalf of South Africa and Tunisia, commended the work of the G5 Sahel joint force and MINUSMA. He highlighted progress in the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali emanating from the Algiers process, including an inclusive national dialogue, legal texts and development projects. However, concerted efforts are required to help security and defence forces, particularly in improving intelligence capacities. Welcoming MINUSMA efforts, he said resolution 2480 (2019) renewed its mandate with a focus on civilian protection. However, cross-border terrorist attacks remain a grave concern, he said, recalling recent deadly incidents and emphasizing that the implementation of the peace agreement must speed up. Calling on partners to honour commitments to the G5 Sahel joint force, he also invited the international community to support the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) plan of action for 2020-2024.
CHERITH NORMAN-CHALET (United States) said there has been little meaningful progress made in the peace process. Civilians are being killed and abducted with impunity and the number of displaced people has doubled within the last year. Thirty per cent of the population is malnourished, while a lack of access raises concerns about upholding humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law. Terrorists are taking advantage of ungoverned spaces and exploiting communal conflict, and Malian armed forces are suffering critical losses. The Council has spent years asking signatories to make progress. Yet, there is inaction and a deteriorating security environment persists. It is time for the Council to develop an alternate approach to addressing growing instability in Mali. Peacekeepers are not the answer to the growing terrorist threat. An assessment must be made as to how the Mission complements other actors in the region, as must an evaluation of progress on the Algiers agreement, as both sides have been unwilling to implement the accord. She called for de-prioritizing MINUSMA’s role in facilitating implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation, allowing it to redeploy to areas where it can have an immediate impact and further, reduce its size. If the signatories are serious about MINUSMA’s continued support to the Agreement, they can work to meet the benchmarks set under resolution 2480 (2019). The sanctions committee must sanction those individuals who meet the designation criteria. The Council must ensure the Mission receives troop and police contingents, and she expressed concern about capability shortfalls and an unwillingness among its leaders to take risks or comply with orders. She called on the Secretary-General to increase reporting on troop and police requirements in line with resolution 2436 (2018), before MINUSMA’s mandate expires in June. Any changes to the mandate must be considered as part of a transparent regional security strategy. The United States looked forward to seeing how such initiatives enhance regional security, she said, noting that her country is the largest financial contributor to MINUSMA.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) expressed deep concern over the worsening security conditions in many parts of Mali, calling on parties to implement the 2015 peace agreement to stabilize the situation. Some progress has been achieved, notably in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. He expressed hope that operational units will be deployed as quickly as possible to the north, urging Mali’s authorities to build the armed forces and reclaim its positions in Ménaka and Gao. While praising the national dialogue as a unifying platform to determine Mali’s future, he said inter-ethnic tensions, terrorist attacks and delays in restoring State governance in the centre and north are factors that can undermine the positive changes that have taken place. While troubled by the humanitarian situation, he welcomed measures taken by authorities and the Mission to resolve inter-ethnic strife. He said the situation in Mali — and the region — is beset by “the consequences of the Libyan factor”, calling the Liptako–Gourma triangle the juncture for most challenges, with terrorism spilling into countries in West Africa. He welcomed operations carried out by the G5 Sahel joint force to combat terrorism, underscoring the need to seek African solutions to African problems, as a cornerstone for nation-building. The Russian Federation supports Sahelian countries bilaterally, he said, stressing that MINUSMA needs comprehensive support to fulfil its mandate in the centre and the north. At present, the Russian Federation is not ready to consider options for reforming the parameters of MINUSMA’s operation or a drawdown.
INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) stressed the importance of successful regionalism and deepened integration that is built on security cooperation and the humanitarian, development and peace nexus, urging partners and the international community to explore all options to bring investment to this region. Preventing violent extremism and the proliferation of armed groups requires inclusion, open dialogue and the restoration of State authority to the affected areas. She commended MINUSMA’s efforts to increase the representation of women in peace and political processes. The Mission’s mobility challenge can be solved through the introduction of air assets. Turning to the impact of climate change on peace and security, she encouraged resilience building and long-term strategies for adaptation in Mali.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic), condemning the recent alarming wave of attacks, highlighted several positive developments, including the inclusive national dialogue. The role of women is critical in all internal processes, as they, alongside young people, pay the highest price in conflict. Recalling that the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict visited Mali in December, he called on the Government to continue to work to protect children through legislation. With more than 1,000 schools closed, cutting off 244,000 children from education, he called for Government action and for armed groups to end attacks on teachers. Concerned about security in the north, he said particular attention must be paid to the people’s desperation and the existing vacuum that can lead to armed groups moving in to take advantage of the situation. In addition, efforts must focus on supporting the peace process and promoting reconciliation.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) said the drivers of violent extremism must be understood and addressed. Part of the population has legitimate grievances, which must also be addressed. Respect for human rights, a restoration of State institutions and the protection of children are among a range of actions needed. When schools close, violence levels rise, he said, emphasizing a need to improve access to education for the thousands of students out of school. The role of women must also be broadened. Recalling the Council’s visit to Mali, he said men held most positions locally. Turning to other matters, he said climate insecurity must be tackled through building resilience. At the same time, MINUSMA cannot provide security on its own, but only as a partner of the Government of Mali. Support must be based on a comprehensive strategic development plan made by the Malian authorities. More must be done on the communication of the Mission’s mandate, with the Government playing a role in this regard. The Council, for its part, must ensure that MINUSMA has the adequate means at its disposal.
MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia), calling on all parties to continue their endeavours in advancing the peace process and key reforms, said efforts must aim at speeding up the Agreement’s implementation, including by ensuring that local authorities are functioning and addressing outstanding matters related to the northern development zone. Concerned about terrorist activities and the spread of militias, he said efforts must also focus on improving the deteriorating security situation. Commending MINUSMA for supporting the peace process, he said the Mission must take a more sustainable approach. In addition, the root causes of instability must be tackled, he said, adding that support for the peace process and security-related assistance will only be obtained if they are translated into improved living conditions for the people of Mali. Critical steps towards this goal include poverty alleviation, food insecurity and the provision of such opportunities as income-generating activities.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) said his delegation believes that full implementation of the peace agreement remains the basis of the successful political process in Mali, including the participation of women and youth, as a lasting solution will not be possible without them. For MINUSMA to successfully implement its mandate, it is important to effectively engage the local community and thus gain their trust. Counter-terrorist efforts in Mali require effective cross-border cooperation between regional and subregional organizations, the region’s States and international actors. Mali and the neighbouring States should take full ownership of the fight against terrorism.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said that despite a number of positive shifts, Mali is still facing delays in extricating itself from its crisis. The priorities set out in Council resolution 2480 (2019) are clear and that the perpetrators of delaying tactics are exposing themselves to sanctions. He acknowledged growing disaffection not only with MINUSMA, French forces and the G5 Sahel joint force, but also with the absence and ineffectiveness of State institutions. The Council must remain seized of that situation, which puts its credibility at stake while playing into the hands of the adversaries of peace. Democracy in Mali must be deepened, with priority going to political and administrative decentralization, to counter the societal model promoted by jihadists. On MINUSMA, he said Belgium supports plans to make the Mission more mobile, agile and flexible to protect civilians. He went on to brief the Council on the visit to Mali by the Working Group on Children and Conflict, which he chairs, on 8 to 11 December 2019.
WU HAITAO (China) said the only viable path to lasting peace and stability in Mali lies in speeding up implementation of the Agreement. That requires sustained Government effort. Mali must enhance regional cooperation to address cross-border terrorism through holistic means, he said, adding that the Government must truly and effectively undertake its primary responsibility to protect its territory and people, enhance its counter-terrorism capacity and gradually take charge of security in the country’s north and centre. Describing MINUSMA as one of the most dangerous United Nations peacekeeping operations, he encouraged the Government to collaborate fully with the Mission and to work with it to enhance the security of peacekeepers.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said recent developments in Mali testify to the urgent need for the international community and the Government to work together for long-term peace and stability in the country and region. Five years on, the Agreement has still not been implemented in full, while MINUSMA is suffering casualties and the situation in the region is getting worse. Benchmarks set by the Council must be set, otherwise there will be consequences, including sanctions. “Implementation of the peace agreement must happen, and it must happen more quickly,” he said. He commended plans for MINUSMA to adopt a more mobile, flexible and agile posture with high-end capabilities. The United Kingdom’s planned deployment of 250 troops to the Mission testifies to the important role it is playing, he said, echoing the Secretary-General’s call for the swift resolution of land issues that are hampering deployment.
DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam), Council President for January, spoke in his national capacity, saying all relevant parties must continue to implement the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali. He urged relevant parties to uphold their responsibilities to protect civilians in the midst of armed conflict, and to bolster the participation of women and youth in political and economic decision-making in the country. He welcomed international efforts to sustain peace in Mali and expressed support for the efforts being made by MINUSMA, the African Union and ECOWAS. He went on to call on regional and international partners to speed up implementation of the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel and its support plan and welcomed joint cooperation between France and the G5 Sahel force aimed at protecting civilians and preventing the spread of terrorism.
TIÉBILÉ DRAMÉ, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali, speaking via videoconference, underscored the Government’s diligent implementation of the peace accord, pointing out that the agreement monitoring committee will resume its work on 19 January in Bamako, after having been suspended. The signatories and the Government meanwhile held fruitful discussions during the inter-Malian dialogue, and the parties are “once again in agreement” on the major issues around implementation of the accord. Participation by the Coalition des mouvements de l’Azawad was key to the success of the dialogue, as the group had suspended its efforts in the preparatory work.
“I can assure you that all Malian parties are now committed to moving through the last important steps towards implementation of the Agreement,” he said. “We will move into an accelerated period as of 19 January.” The national dialogue was a total success — with union and employer groups, women and young people taking part and its conclusions adopted on 22 December 2019. The focus now is on four of the conclusions: organization of legislative elections on the basis of the current districts, to represent Mali’s diversity in Parliament; organization of a referendum to reform the Constitution; redeployment of reconstituted defence and security forces — with the adoption in 2020 of legislation of chieftaincies and religious structures; and a review of provisions in the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, in accordance with the Algiers process.
While concerns were raised during the national dialogue about how the Agreement will be examined, he said such questions provided greater legitimacy to the accord — and commitment to implement it, breaking the “logger head” that had emerged between signatories and the Government. The President of Mali pledged that the recommendations produced by the national dialogue will be implemented, pursuant to current law, and a monitoring mechanism soon will be set up. More broadly, he said the technical security commission met in November 2019 on the redeployment of security and defence units to the north, while the signatories and MINUSMA created a deployment plan which will be validated on 19 January, paving way for 1,300 former combatants designated by the signatories to be deployed and a monitoring and coordination mechanism positioned in the four regions of the north.
In the same vein, the President on 12 December 2019 signed a decree appointing 100 ex-combatants to various officer ranks within the army. “They are now back working in the same uniforms under the same flag as their brothers in arms,” he said, noting also that security sector reform has been stepped up with the formation of a national council responsible for that undertaking. A positive outcome has been reached to ease tensions among signatories in Ménaka, while the Government in 2019 provided $72 million to a fund set up to pursue sustainable development strategies in the north. On national reconciliation, he said the Justice, Truth and Reconciliation Commission recorded 16,000 testimonies and public hearings were launched on 8 December 2019. The law of national understanding, promulgated in July 2019, exonerates those involved in crimes stemming from January 2012 events — in line with recommendations from the Conference of National Understanding — excluding war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes deemed to be “indescribable”.
He cited worsening security conditions in the centre, intercommunal tensions and a lack of financial resources among the challenges ahead, stressing that terrorists, drug traffickers and other hostile forces are determined to destabilize Mali. The Government has devised an integrated security plan and political framework for the centre and appointed a high representative. The Government is determined to respect — and ensure respect for — human rights, aware of its primary responsibility to protect civilians. Citing the lack of competent public services and expertise as other challenges, he said the Government is assuming its responsibilities to manage the humanitarian crisis and ensure the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes, per the peace agreement. It also has increased its contact with MINUSMA at all levels so that “its forces know that we are in solidarity with them at all times”, he said, assuring that Malia’s people appreciate the support of international forces.
He said the proliferation of terrorist attacks — particularly in the tri-border region — underlines the urgent need for international investment in the G5 Sahel joint force to ensure it has the human, material and financial resources to fulfil its mandate. He welcomed the summit held by the joint force Heads of State and the President of France, noting their focus on terrorism in the tri-border region, formation of national armies, restoration of State authority — particularly in Kidal — and synchronized efforts to achieve peace throughout the Sahel.