In the tumultuous weeks following Mali’s most recent coup d’état, robust regional leadership and a new transition plan have emerged as promising signs that the country can emerge from its “hellish cycle” of mistrust, violence and repeated Government overthrows, a senior United Nations told the Security Council today.
“There is every reason to hope for a successful political transition,” said Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Describing a situation long characterized by socioeconomic tensions and loss of trust in political actors, he said that resulted, in mid‑August, in the paralysis of Mali’s State institutions and ultimately the resignation of President Ibrahim Keïta. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned the coup and instituted sanctions, demanding a civilian‑led transition.
In response, he said, Mali appointed former Defence Minister Bah N’daw as its new transitional President and adopted a charter for the way forward. ECOWAS lifted its sanctions, much to the relief of people across the region. A new Government was formed on 5 October, which regrettably does not meet the gender quotas required by Malian law. However, he expressed hope that those engaged in the transition — which, notably, include various signatory groups to the country’s 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement — will fully implement the crucial political, administrative and electoral reforms laid out in the charter. “The ball remains in the court of the Malian people,” he said.
Following the briefing, delegates — who convened in the Security Council Chamber, divided by plastic screens, for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — took the floor to express their views. Many praised the quick formation of a transitional Government, facilitated by decisive regional leadership and MINUSMA’s good offices. However, some speakers said the priorities outlined in the transitional charter must now be translated into concrete results. Others drew attention to Mali’s most urgent challenges — including ongoing terrorist attacks and high numbers of people in need of humanitarian assistance — while pointing out that they have only been exacerbated by COVID-19.
“This transition offers a new, fresh start for Mali,” said the representative of Germany. Expressing hope that the new authorities will not let down the Malian people, he urged them to address widespread grievances through more inclusive governance, justice sector reform and the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement. Reiterating his country’s support for Mali, he nevertheless voiced concern that — on the month of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a landmark global agreement on gender equality — Mali only appointed four women to its 25-person Government.
France’s representative was among those speakers who hailed recent diplomatic and good‑offices efforts in Mali, while welcoming the country’s new provisional structures and the release of individuals detained during the coup. The goal now must be a stronger and more legitimate democracy, inclusive of all constituents, including women and young people. Noting that the fight against terrorism must continue through the transitional period, he underlined the importance of cooperation between Mali and its international partners, called for renewed support for MINUSMA and emphasized the need for initiatives that fully respect human rights.
The representative of Niger — who also spoke on behalf of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Africa and Tunisia — expressed concern about the upheaval in neighbouring Mali. Echoing the importance of regional cooperation, institutional reform and counter‑terrorism as critical priorities for the transitional period, he called on all stakeholders to help restore constitutional authority. Noting that peace in Mali is critical to maintaining stability across the region and the world, he called for accelerated sustainable development, accountability for human rights violations and enhanced international support for the activities of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) joint force.
Having listened to the Council members’ remarks, the representative of Mali pledged to faithfully relay them to his country’s new transitional leaders. While the recent period was indeed marked by turmoil, it prompted the launch of an inclusive dialogue process and a “candid diagnosis of the shortcomings of our system”. The new transitional charter now calls for the restoration of State authority, good governance, stronger education, legitimate elections, a pact for social stability and the full implementation of the 2015 peace agreement. Calling for more funding for the G5 Sahel force — including from the United Nations under Chapter VII of its Charter — he thanked ECOWAS for its decisive action and the international community for its support. “The people of Mali will never forget it,” he said.
Also speaking were the representatives of China, Viet Nam, Estonia, United Kingdom, United States, Belgium, Dominican Republic and the Russian Federation.
The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 11:35 a.m.
MAHAMAT SALEH ANNADIF, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), briefed the Council via videoconference and introduced the latest report of the Secretary-General on the situation in that country (document S/2020/952). Emphasizing that Mali is at a critical moment in its history, he said the period covered by the report — June through mid-September — was marked by a series of major changes on the ground. Previous briefings have already touched on the factors driving those changes, including a loss of confidence in Mali’s political actors and a rise in the status of religious leaders; the lagging implementation of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement; a worsening socioeconomic climate and a deteriorating security situation which has resulted in human rights violations.
Against that backdrop — which ultimately paralysed Mali’s national institutions, including the Connotational Court and the National Assembly — he recalled that former President Ibrahim Keïta resigned his post on 18 August. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned the coup and instituted a range of measures against Mali, including suspending all its financial transactions and cross-border activities until a civilian-led political transition was launched. In response, Mali adopted a transitional charter to complement its current Constitution. Former Defence Minister Bah N’daw was appointed as the country’s transitional President on 21 September, and former Foreign Minister and diplomat Moctar Ouane was subsequently appointed transitional Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, he said, outgoing President Keïta listed several priorities for the upcoming 18-month transitional period. Those include strengthening the capacity of Mali’s defence and security forces; bolstering the fight against impunity; organizing free and transparent elections; and expediting implementation of the 2015 peace agreement. On 5 October, a new Government was formed — comprising 25 ministers and 4 women — which regrettably falls far short of the 30 per cent quota for women called for by Malian law. However, he welcomed the fact that, for the first time since 2015, the country’s various signatory groups have officially started a political transition process. Such progress demonstrates not only the openness of the new authorities, but also the effectiveness of MINUSMA’s good offices functions.
He noted that the people of Mali and its neighbours have all welcomed, with relief, the lifting of the ECOWAS sanctions imposed following the coup. “The year 2020 in Mali has been marked by tumult on several fronts, and political uncertainty,” he said, noting that the country’s many challenges have only been exacerbated by the arrival of COVID-19 and its socioeconomic repercussions. The pandemic worsened the humanitarian crisis which was already latent in Mali. However, MINUSMA and other United Nations actors present on the ground have remained committed to their work, including supporting the strategy aimed at stabilizing the situation in the centre of the country. Among other activities, MINUSMA continues to press forward with its patrols and the installation of civilian protection bases.
“Now, with the lifting of sanctions, there is every reason to hope for a successful political transition,” he went on. Such a process will depend on the implementation of political, administrative and electoral reforms as laid out in the transitional charter. Indeed, the latest developments in Mali present an opportunity for its people “to emerge from the hellish cycle […] of coup d’états, one after another”. In that vein, he urged the international community to lend its full support, declaring: “The transition’s success is within reach, and the ball remains in the court of the Malian people.”
NICOLAS DE RIVIERE (France), hailing the efforts of the African Union and MINUSMA on the situation in Mali and welcoming progress in the provisional structures in that country, along with the release of prisoners, said he looked forward to restoration of the constitutional order and the holding of timely elections. That the goal must be nothing less than a stronger and more legitimate democracy, inclusive of all constituents including women and young people. During the transitional period, in addition, the fight against terrorism must continue. Welcoming the involvement of the Malian army and the Group of 5 for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) in that effort, he stressed the importance of an integrated approach in coordination with international partners. There is no substitute for reconciliation among Malians, however. He therefore called for progress in implementing the peace process and stressed that MINUSMA must be fully enabled to assist in that effort. In stabilizing the central region, a framework that respects human rights must be enforced, along with accountability for all those who have perpetrated crimes. He called on Member States to respond to MINUSMA’s needs, particularly its need for helicopters. Support for the transition must be strong, as well. His country will propose a presidential statement to that effect, he added.
NIANDOU AOUGI (Niger), speaking also on behalf of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Africa and Tunisia, said that the upheaval in Mali is of great concern to his country. He welcomed, in that light, the progress that has been achieved recently allowing the ECOWAS sanctions to be lifted. The fight against terrorism, cooperation with countries in the region and reforms that result in strong institutions must advance in the transitional period. Implementation of the reconciliation agreement is of particular importance and must encompass genuine dialogue within the its framework. Expressing his group’s full support to Mali, he called on all stakeholders to help restore constitutional authority with the participation of MINUSMA. For that reason, support to the Mission is vital. In order to retain progress made, support should also be strengthened for restoring stability in the North. He encouraged ECOWAS to continue to support the implementation of the road map for that purpose, in close coordination with the United Nations.
Peace and stability in Mali are critical to maintaining peace and stability in the entire region and the whole world, he said. For that reason, sustainable development must also accelerate in the region, in a manner that is person-focused and fosters ownership of the Malian people. Noting the country’s vulnerability to terrorism and human rights abuses, he called for perpetrators to be held to account. He also called for increased international support to the G5 Sahel, welcoming improvements made in support mechanisms under relevant Council resolutions. Such support will allow MINUSMA to redouble its efforts for its core mandate. New threats such as COVID‑19 and floods require additional support for an integrated approach with stronger partnerships during this critical period.
ZHANG JUN (China) said that his delegation was pleased with the appointments of leaders of the Transitional Government, also welcoming the lifting of sanctions against Mali by ECOWAS. Noting that many challenges remain, such as the stalled peace agreement and the deteriorating security situation in central Mali, he urged the concerned parties to stay on track during the transition period. It is important to continue to implement the peace agreement and the Malian parties must renew their commitment to it. Fighting terrorism is another priority, he emphasized, encouraging the transitional Government to employ all means to combat that scourge. Sustainable development must also continue to remove the root causes of instability, and the transitional Government should invest in socioeconomic projects.
DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam), speaking also for Indonesia, reaffirmed their support for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Mali, taking note of the recent appointments of the President and Prime Minister of the Transitional Government. Joining other Council members in welcoming ECOWAS’s mediation efforts, he also commended efforts of MINUSMA and called for enhanced support for its early warning capability and rapid response. However, his delegation remains concerned about the security situation in central Mali, especially terrorist and extremist attacks. The success of the transition to civilian rule depends on building mutual trust among Malian parties, including the meaningful participation of women in that process. He also stressed the importance of a coherent and integrated approach to security and development, which also addresses climate change.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) welcomed the framework for the transitional period in Mali and stressed the importance that rule of order be restored without delay. Commending ECOWAS for its role in recent progress, he welcomed its lifting of sanctions. Emphasizing the importance of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, he urged the parties to take the necessary steps for progress in its implementation. In that context, societal grievances must be addressed in earnest, and the participation of women will be of key importance. At the same time, it is critical to continue to fight terrorism. His country will continue to support progress while emphasizing that true progress in Mali can only be made by the country’s people itself. Allegations of human rights abuses, particularly those against the Malian armed forces, must be thoroughly investigated, since building trust among Malians is a priority for all efforts.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) welcomed the framework for the transition in Mali, as well as the role of ECOWAS in fostering it. He also stressed the importance of transitional authorities’ ownership of the 2015 peace agreement. In that context, he welcomed the participation of signatories to the agreement in the Transitional Government. However, he regretted the lack of progress in implementing the overall agreement since 2015. “There is no time to waste. There can be no more evasion of responsibilities,” he stated. Securing the entire country and provision of services are critical for that purpose. In the months to come, he said he hoped to see concrete steps in implementation of the agreement, State presence and services in all of the country, action against impunity and progress in institutional reforms to prepare the ground for elections. Genuine evidence of progress is needed in all those areas, he stressed, noting his country’s bilateral contributions of over $100 million in addition to its participation in European and international support. He commended MINUSMA for its work under constraints and stressed that Mission will have a vital role to play in progress in the transitional period. International partners are here to support Mali, but expect to see tangible progress in the period ahead, he affirmed.
KELLY CRAFT (United States), commending the vital role of ECOWAS and MINUSMA in responding to the August coup, described the establishment of the Transitional Government as “only the first step” and urged the authorities to honour their commitments. The Security Council must use all available tools if these commitments are not implemented. Rejecting military rule and any delay of elections, she called for strict adherence to the 18-month transitional period and the holding of fair elections within that period, with the full participation of women, internally displaced persons, youth and marginalized northern groups. She also encouraged MINUSMA to work closely with the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2374 (2017) concerning Mali. The country’s long‑standing shortcomings, such as poor governance, must be addressed, she said, adding that, without justice and accountability, no international support will be helpful. Calling for full implementation of the Algeria accord, the United States expects MINUSMA to help Mali restore State authority and services — a key factor in the Mission’s future exit.
PHILIPPE KRIDELKA (Belgium) said his country’s troops are serving in Mali under the German flag, symbolizing European cooperation. Condemning the 18 August coup as adding another trial to the already difficult situation in Mali, he commended that ECOWAS reacted to the event immediately and took important steps to re-establish constitutional order. The European Union is exploring a resumption of military and police operations in Mali. Emphasizing that combat against terrorism requires State legitimacy, he underlined the need to fight impunity, including criminal prosecution of crimes committed by the defence and security forces against civilians and attacks on MINUSMA personnel. Expressing regret that few women are appointed in government, he called for their increased and meaning participation. Lastly, he stressed the need to maintain humanitarian assistance, noting that Niger and Belgium recently hosted meetings to raise awareness of the consequences of climate change in the Sahel.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) said Mali’s new transitional arrangements must be implemented, not only in terms of a timeline, but also translated into concrete results on the ground. “This transition offers a new, fresh start for Mali,” he said, expressing his hope that the new authorities will not let down the population. Indeed, the country’s new leaders must work to address the grievances of the people through more inclusive governance. Expressing concern that, on the month of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Mali only appointed four women to its 25-person Government, he went on to underline the continued importance of implementing the 2015 peace agreement and reforming the country’s justice sector. “Impunity is no option,” he stressed, adding that regaining the people’s trust depends on holding accountable those who are responsible for serious crimes. Germany stands committed to supporting Mali, including through stronger engagement on police matters and in implementing the stabilization mechanism for the centre of the country, he said.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) agreed with other speakers that Mali stands at a critical juncture, having just recently been on the brink of a “political abyss”. While well-managed by ECOWAS, the impact of the coup d’etat risks undermining Mali’s previous gains and further fragmenting its fragile socioeconomic situation. Welcoming the deft diplomatic efforts led by ECOWAS, he hailed the country’s speedy move towards a political transition and called for a full return to constitutional order. All segments of society must be empowered to take part in the transition, and the international community should support the implementation of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement with renewed dynamism. Efforts are also still needed to combat terrorism; restore State authority through the redeployment of national security forces; combat the challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic; and tackle the root causes of conflict. Calling for sanctions to be imposed on spoilers, he also asked donor countries to increase their support through official development assistance (ODA) and debt‑relief programmes aimed at countries most affected by COVID-19. In addition, he stressed, any future vaccine must be distributed equitably to all nations.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), Council President for October, spoke in his national capacity, highlighting the importance for the 15-member organ to focus attention on developments in Mali. A return to the constitutional order requires the resumption of national dialogue, he stressed, noting positive steps taken, including appointments of the President and Prime Minister of the Transitional Government, as well as the release of Government officials arrested on 18 August. All parties must strictly adhere to the 18-month transitional period preceding the elections. Progress in implementing the peace agreement is essential to prevent terrorists from feeling more confident. He expressed support for the role of ECOWAS, calling on the Malian authorities to cooperate with regional stakeholders, as the situation in Mali affects regional stability. It is essential that Bamako and MINUSMA coordinate efforts, he said. However, the main responsibility to protect civilian rests with the Malians themselves.
ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali) promised to faithfully convey the words of the Council to his country’s new transitional leaders. The recent period has indeed been marked by political and socioeconomic turmoil, with civilian protests leading to a military intervention and ultimately to the dissolution of the National Assembly. Following President Keïta’s resignation, the new National Committee for the Salvation of the People launched an inclusive dialogue process and produced a transitional charter that doubles as a “candid diagnosis of the shortcomings of our system”. Among its priorities, it calls for the recovery of the State and the restoration of State authority; laying the groundwork for good governance; a pact for social stability; a stronger education system; the organizing of legitimate elections; and the full implementation of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement.
He pointed out that four signatory groups that originally joined the 2015 agreement are now taking part in the transition, as are representatives from all social strata in Mali. Just weeks after the coup, a new President, Vice‑President, Prime Minister and political road map are all in place. On 7 October, all those detained in connection with the coup were all released. He reassured Mali’s partners that the new authorities are determined to uphold all international commitments, and will tirelessly defend human rights and pursue the 2015 peace agreement. Welcoming the growing strength of the G5 Sahel force, he called on its partners to honour their funding commitments and further called for the Council to impose a Chapter VII mandate allowing the force to enjoy predicable funding through the United Nations. Concluding, he thanked ECOWAS for its decisive action and the international community for its support, adding that “the people of Mali will never forget it”.