13 January 2021

Special Representative Voices ‘Cautions Hope’ for Transition in Mali, Despite Delays, Resurgence of COVID-19

Permanent Representative Voices Concern over Terrorists in Central Region as Delegates Stress Need for Continued International Engagement

Despite a resurgence of COVID-19 and delays in Mali’s political transition following the August 2020 coup d’état, a newly revised Transitional Road Map and strong international support are cause for cautious hope, the senior United Nations official in the country told the Security Council during a videoconference meeting today.

“While the year 2020 was one of risks for Mali, 2021 deserves to be seen with optimism,” said Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).  Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation (document S/2020/1281), he said the period under review was marked by delays in the political transition and in appointing several critical officials.

Whereas the Transitional National Council remains committed to reforms that are vital for the return to constitutional order, he added, it nevertheless failed to muster the necessary political consensus on some items, resulting in a further unravelling of the socioeconomic situation.  He reiterated his hope that the current transitional period will help Mali escape the “vicious cycle” of political instability.

He went on to praise the strong support demonstrated by, among other partners, the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, all of which stand ready to support the transition.

Like other countries, Mali has seen a resurgence of COVID-19 in recent months, which resulted in the deaths of Pierre Buyoya, former African Union High Representative to Mali, and former opposition leader Soumaïla Cissé, he said, adding that the coronavirus has not spared MINUSMA staff.

Turning to counter-terrorism efforts, he said that, despite the success of international forces, recent months have seen a recurrence of deadly attacks in Mali’s border regions, including one in which more than 100 Nigerien civilians were killed.  In central Mali, MINUSMA stands committed to supporting security by intensifying its civilian protection patrols, he emphasized, saying that the Mission, alongside other United Nations entities, is also supporting reconciliation and conflict prevention teams on the ground.

Concluding his remarks, he welcomed the fact that all transitional bodies are now operational and the parties have agreed to a revised Transitional Road Map for implementation of the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali.  He said the transition’s success relies on the implementation of critical reforms and the holding of credible elections, the outcome of which is accepted by the majority of Malians.  “The process will only be viable if it is the result of the will of Malian political actors,” he emphasized, warning that international support — while critical — will not be enough.

As Council members took the floor, many welcomed the support demonstrated by MINUSMA, ECOWAS, the “Group of Five” for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) joint force and other regional entities in helping Mali’s transitional authorities restore stability.  Several also welcomed the agreement on a revised Transitional Road Map, while underlining the need for the global community to remain engaged in Mali’s political process and in counter-terrorism efforts across the wider region.

The representative of France recalled that, in October 2020, the Council reiterated that political and institutional reforms leading to elections, stabilization of the central region and counter-terrorism are among the goals for Mali.  Noting that the current climate is conducive to implementation of the peace agreement, he said the Agreement Monitoring Committee has restarted and that parties have agreed on a road map involving the integration of former rebels into the army and development of the northern regions, among other things.  “The Council is expecting specific results up until the mandate of MINUSMA is renewed,” he added.  Initial results on combating impunity in the centre are encouraging, but more must be done.  “The picture is basically a good one,” he said, noting that terrorists, including senior leaders, have been taken out, and coordination among Operation Barkhane, Mali’s armed forces and the G5 Sahel joint force has improved.  Outlining shortcomings, he said the conflict has taken deep root in the centre, emphasizing the need for efforts in the area of security to be accompanied by a return of Government services, which will help to rebuild trust and combat the hold of terrorists on the area.  Development projects and humanitarian assistance will require particular attention.  He went on to encourage Mali to step up the efforts of its Takuba Task Force, and noted that the G5 Sahel joint force warrants greater United Nations support.  Implementation of MINUSMA’s adaptation plan must continue, he stressed, encouraging contributing countries to respond positively to the Secretariat’s calls to plug budget gaps.  France supports the stocktaking by ECOWAS in relation to Mali’s plans for organizing elections, he said.

The representative of Estonia, pointing out that Mali is a little more than four months into its 18‑month transition period, urged all parties to work together towards peace and to ensure the inclusion of all social groups in such efforts.  In preparation for presidential and parliamentary elections, the transitional authorities should step up implementation of the necessary institutional and governance reforms, he said, underscoring the importance of upholding the rule of law and constitutional order, and respecting the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in that process.  Regional organizations can play an indispensable role in the political transition, he added.  Expressing extreme alarm over coordinated attacks against the international and national security presences, and the deliberate targeting of civilians by armed groups, he emphasized that Estonia will maintain its support for the fight against terrorism through MINUSMA, Operation Barkhane and the Takuba Task Force.  A stable, long‑lasting and adequate State presence can only be achieved through political will and full cooperation by all parties in Mali, he said, stressing that the Algiers Agreement remains the foundation for resolving the conflict.  Urging an end to the cycle of impunity, he strongly urged the transitional authorities to fully investigate all attacks on civilians.

The representative of the Russian Federation welcomed the fact that the transitional authorities are taking the proper steps to restore order and that the National Transitional Council has begun its work.  He urged them to continue their dialogue with all stakeholders and to ensure that the time frame for the transitional period is respected.  Stabilizing Mali depends on implementation of the Algiers Agreement, he said, expressing hope that dialogue with the signatory groups will continue.  A second phase of the process to reintegrate former combatants has also been agreed, he added, emphasizing that governance reforms should continue.  Stressing that terrorists cannot be allowed to capitalize on the current difficulties, and likewise pointing to chronic intercommunal clashes in Mopti and Segou, he said the number of Malians needing food assistance has substantially increased.  Expressing support for the political mediation efforts by the African Union and ECOWAS, he called upon Mali to cooperate with neighbours in the region and expressed hope that its armed forces will continue to participate in the G5 Sahel joint force.  He went on to underline the need to support for the African Union Commission proposal to deploy standby forces in the Sahel, and welcomed MINUSMA’s assistance in building bases in Gao, Timbuktu and elsewhere.

The representative of India, urging the Council not to lose sight of the fact that the seeds of the conflict in Mali were sown in Libya in 2011, noted that, despite MINUSMA’s eight-year-long presence and the continued efforts of the international community, particularly France, Mali is still experiencing coups d’etat and instability.  Terrorist groups such as Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wal Muslimin and Islamic State in Greater Sahara are growing in strength and attacks against civilians continue unabated, he said, pointing out that MINUSMA is overburdened with a huge mandate, but lacks commensurate resources.  Whereas political developments in the last three months are cause for cautious optimism, with the Transitional Government showing commitment to advancing implementation of the Peace Agreement, he noted that security challenges in central Mali remain a source of grave concern and deserve the close attention of the authorities.  India supports expeditious progress on institutional, political and electoral reforms, for restoring State authority and for the work of the African Union’s Transitional Support Group, he emphasized, adding that, to further support MINUSMA, his country will positively consider the Secretary‑General’s proposal for the deployment of air assets.

The representative of Niger, speaking also on behalf of Kenya, South Africa and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said the transitional authorities have worked hard in recent months to improve the security situation.  Praising the strong support demonstrated by neighbouring countries, as well as by ECOWAS, the G5 Sahel joint force and other regional entities, he welcomed the agreement on the establishment of transitional bodies and on the Revised Transitional Road Map.  Major progress was also made in the fight against impunity and in stabilizing the situation in central Mali, he noted.  “In this crucial transitional period, Mali needs the support of everyone,” he said, underlining the need to ensure that the upcoming elections are credible and fully inclusive.

Welcoming the stated desire of the transitional authorities to reinvigorate the army’s role in supporting peace and stability, he went on to praise MINUSMA’s far-reaching efforts.  He condemned the unabated terrorist attacks that have recently led to the deaths of civilians and MINUSMA staff members, expressing particular concern about the worrisome increase in the use of improvised explosive devices on main supply routes.  He called for heightened vigilance and a “reassessment and adjustment” of the international community’s counter-terrorism strategy in the Sahel, advocating the establishment of a United Nations support office devoted to the G5 Sahel joint force, to be funded through voluntary contributions.

The representative of Mexico urged the transitional authorities to establish the institutions necessary for organizing elections, encouraging MINUSMA to exercise its good offices to guarantee that the transition is inclusive and does not foster hostilities.  It is appropriate for the Mission to cooperate closely with the African Union and ECOWAS, he added.  Noting that nine women participated in the meeting of the monitoring committee, he said that amounted to a 31 per cent representation.  “Their participation should go beyond a specific quota,” he emphasized, requesting more qualitative information to help assess women’s role in political life.  Unequivocally condemning the recruitment of children by armed groups, he called upon the transitional authorities to investigate and punish the offenders.  On access to justice, he urged the international community to support the consolidation of national institutions, stressing that coordination among all international actors working with Mali is key to preventing violence.  As Chair of the Council’s Sanctions Committee on Mali, Mexico is interested in maintaining the ongoing dialogue with regional organizations and neighbouring countries, he said, noting that the sanctions regime should serve as a support for Mali’s administrative process.

The representative of China urged all the parties to forge a consensus on institution‑building and election preparations, underscoring the importance of implementing the peace agreement, speeding deployment of the armed forces and promoting development in the north, among other efforts.  The United Nations and international partners, meanwhile, must strengthen cooperation with regional and subregional organizations.  Emphasizing the importance of continuing counter‑terrorism efforts, he pointed out that terrorists are still rampant in northern Mali and elsewhere and expressed support for Mali’s participation in G5 Sahel efforts in that regard.  He went on to call for full implementation of resolution 2518 (2020) to strengthen security measures for peacekeepers, and for continued efforts to root out the causes of violence.  Meanwhile, the Special Coordinator for development in the Sahel must work with other United Nations actors to promote development in a coherent manner and to eliminate the root causes of instability.  He went on to outline China’s efforts, citing its aid commitment to the African Union.

The representative of the United Kingdom joined others in commending steps towards implementing the peace agreement, tackling impunity, launching the next phase of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process and holding elections within 18 months.  However, she expressed concern over reports of human rights abuses, including gender-based violence, and the recruitment of child soldiers.  “The cycle of violence can be broken only by justice and reconciliation,” she said, underlining the need to monitor human rights.  The security of MINUSMA peacekeepers is also paramount, she added, calling for the prosecution of those responsible for attacks against Mission personnel.  All parties must have a sense of owning the peace process in order for it to be successful, and women must be meaningfully involved in all related matters, she said, encouraging an inclusive approach to such issues as the recent labour strikes.  The United Kingdom joined an international effort to step up humanitarian support in the wider Sahel region, she added, noting that it recently committed an extra $10.5 million in emergency aid.

The representative of Ireland, noting that Mali is at an important juncture, welcomed the progress made while calling upon the transitional authorities to hold inclusive, transparent, free, fair and credible elections within 18 months.  “There is now, in Mali, a real opportunity to make progress towards inclusive and lasting peace,” she said, underscoring the importance of reconciliation and the inclusion — for the first time — of civil society representatives in the transitional cabinet.  MINUSMA’s continued support to mediation and communal reconciliation is also vital to conflict prevention and peacebuilding, she emphasized.  Praising the increased engagement of women, she said they must now be actively encouraged to participate in the upcoming elections as both voters and candidates.  Echoing concerns raised about intercommunal conflict and terrorist attacks, she called for greater efforts to tackle the root causes of instability, including through sustainable development, good governance, the rule of law and protection of human rights.  She also noted the report of the International Commission of Inquiry and encouraged the Government to respond comprehensively in order to end the cycle of impunity.

The representative of Viet Nam stressed the importance of implementing the peace accord, also recognizing the representation of the signatory movements in the transitional Government as an important step towards advancing the peace process.  Echoing the Special Representative’s call for a peaceful, inclusive transition to institutional and electoral reforms before the anticipated elections, he called for increased and meaningful participation of women in the political process.  Commending MINUSMA for promoting the presence of State authority in northern and central Mali, he also underlined the need to redeploy the reconstituted units of the national armed forces, especially in the north.  Viet Nam advocates a coherent and integrated approach to address security, as well as humanitarian and socioeconomic development challenges, he said, also expressing his country’s support for the efforts of the United Nations, African Union, ECOWAS and the international community in facilitating the transitional process towards peace and security in Mali.

The representative of Norway noted that, five months after the coup, the Malian people must start to feel a sense of improvement during the transition.  Inclusive political processes are essential, and women’s participation is necessary for sustainable outcomes, she said, welcoming the inclusion of nine women in the Agreement Monitoring Committee.  Civilians, including children, must be protected, she added.  Norway is again deploying a transport aircraft to MINUSMA and a specialized police team to help Mali build capacity in its fight against impunity, she noted.  To ensure viable and long-term solutions to the country’s complex challenges, there is a need to address comprehensive security goals beyond fighting armed groups, she said, emphasizing that a swift return of State authority and basic services across the country, including quality education, is essential.  “Mali cannot afford a lost generation.”

The representative of the United States said the transition Government has a window of opportunity to lay the foundation for a more democratic country, and commended the steps taken to advance that goal.  Expressing support for the transition agenda — focused on security, governance, a renewed social compact and implementation of the Algiers Agreement — he urged the transition Government to focus on priority issues in order to ensure progress by April 2022.  Free and fair elections must be organized on time, he emphasized.  He urged Mali to tackle impunity, address human rights violations and demonstrate its commitment to inclusive governance, notably by implementing service programmes in the north.  Welcoming assurances that the timeline for legislative and presidential elections will be respected, he stressed that all elections must be organized through a credible, transparent and inclusive process.  Mali should designate election authorities perceived as independent and technically competent, he added.  The United States urges the transitional Government to complete transparent investigations and prosecute claims of human rights abuses, he said, expressing hope that women will participate fully and meaningfully in all processes going forward.

The representative of Mali thanked the Special Representative — whose briefing was his last in that capacity — for his unfailing support.  Recounting recent positive recent developments since the Council’s last meeting, he cited the resumption of the work of the monitoring committee overseeing the 2015 Peace Agreement, which had stalled following events in August.  The Revised Transitional Road Map, agreed earlier this month, includes several important improvements, including settling the question of civilian and military quotas and further advancing the second phase of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, he said.  Additionally, the northern Mali development zone was established and a round table will be held in February to invite support from international donors.  Turning to Mali’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, he said the Government gathered more than 19,000 witness statements from victims, adding that, during a court session held from September to December 2020, numerous sentences were handed down for serious crimes, including terrorism.  However, he expressed grave concern about the situation in Mali, saying that terrorists in the region, supported by criminal networks, continue to perpetuate attacks against civilians and security personnel.

For information media. Not an official record.