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SC/14856
7 April 2022
9012th Meeting (AM)

Amid Executions, Forced Disappearances in Mali, Mission Head Tells Security Council Little Progress Made towards Implementing Peace Agreement

A year and half after the military took power by force in Mali, there has been “no notable progress” in implementing the 2015 peace agreement, the top United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today, as delegates called for an independent investigation into reports of summary executions of civilians in the town of Moura in March.

El-Ghassim Wane, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), said March saw several deadly attacks by Islamic State in the Greater Sahara around Menaka, and in the south, near Gao, leading to the death of 40 civilians and displacement of 3,640 households.

He said Malian armed forces have stepped up their counter-terrorism efforts in the country’s centre to break the chokehold of extremist groups — efforts that appear to have led to a decrease in clashes between community defence forces and terrorist groups, vehicle hijackings and abductions.

Noting that last week’s offensive by Malian armed forces against Katiba Macina elements in Moura village, south of Mopti, falls within the scope of these operations, he said MINUSMA had received reports of serious rights abuses against civilians during the course of events.  It conducted a reconnaissance overflight on 3 April.  However, despite “extensive engagement” with national authorities, authorization for an “integrated mission” has not been issued.

He pressed authorities to cooperate with MINSUMA so it can access the site of alleged violations, noting more generally that the Mission has opened 17 investigations into charges of indiscriminate attacks against civilians, extrajudicial arrests, mistreatment, forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

On the political front, he said the lack of respect for the peace agreement — known formally as the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali — is compounded by the fact that the Agreement Monitoring Committee has not met since October 2021.

Recalling that the political transition was to have concluded in March — in line with the 18‑month timetable negotiated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) after the August 2020 coup d'état — he said the non‑completion of the transition within the agreed timelines led the bloc to impose economic and financial sanctions last January.

On that point, Bouaré Bintou Founé Samaké, President of Women in Law and Development in Africa in Mali, said the withdrawal of Barkhane forces — a counterinsurgent operation led by France since 2014 — has created mistrust among Westerners, in the face of cooperation with the Wagner Group.  She recommended that the Council strengthen the gender language in MINUSMA’s mandate on security sector reform and specify actions to be taken by the Mission in support of Government efforts to provide more gender-sensitive security services.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates urged Mali’s transitional leaders to maintain dialogue with ECOWAS and to fulfil their promises of a swift return to constitutional order.  “The people of Mali are yearning for peace in their country and so are the Member States in the region,” said Ghana’s representative, speaking also for Gabon and Kenya.  A swift return to constitutional order would give the elected Government the legitimacy to lead implementation of the peace accord.

“Fresh impetus is needed,” added France’s delegate, who also called on leaders to propose a strategy for addressing the crisis in the country’s centre and for protecting civilians.  He was among those who expressed extreme concern over alleged violations by elements of the Malian armed forces and the Wagner Group.

On that point, the representative of the United States condemned an attack that killed three Egyptian peacekeepers, stressing that those involved — and more broadly, those planning, directing or committing human rights violations — may be subject to Council sanctions.  Further, credible investigations must look into links with the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group.  “Malians deserve answers to what happened in Moura,” he said, objecting also to authorities’ disregard of the status of forces agreement with the Mission, especially in the south.

Countering those claims, the Russian Federation’s delegate pointed out that Mali’s authorities “do not have a hidden agenda”.  They have conducted a national process to prepare for elections and even established a dialogue group.  It was, in fact, France’s military withdrawal that created a security vacuum in the north, an “extremely irresponsible” move made without consulting Bamako.  Claims about the involvement of Russian mercenaries are part of “a sordid geopolitical game”.

Offering a national perspective, Mali’s representative said transitional authorities are embarking on “major reforms” to ensure the stability of institutions.  Minimum security conditions must be created so that elections can be held.  He called for the lifting of sanctions by ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union, stressing that they punish the Malian people for their political choice in favour of a regime change.

Responding to claims that the Government is using a private security company, he said Mali has made no such commitment and has instead maintained a “fruitful” bilateral relationship with the Russian Federation since 1960.  He went on to note that Moura is a terrorist sanctuary, stressing that the military prosecutor has opened an investigation into charges of abuse against civilians.  Pending its conclusions, he called on all stakeholders to refrain from accusing the Malian armed forces of massacres.

Also speaking today were representatives of India, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Albania, Norway, China, Ireland, Brazil and the United Kingdom.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:06 p.m.

Briefings

EL-GHASSIM WANE, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), said “no notable progress” has been made in implementing the peace agreement, and despite “considerable” efforts, there is still no consensus on the length of the transition.

Providing an overview of security conditions, he said March saw several deadly attacks by Islamic State in the Greater Sahara around Menaka and in the south, near Gao, leading to the death of 40 civilians and displacement of 3,640 households.  In response, MINUSMA intensified its patrols in Menaka to allow Mali’s security and defence forces to mobilize.  South of Gao, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara elements continue their attacks in Tessit, including against Malian armed forces.  The Mission has deployed three mobile task force units between Ansongo, Labezanga and Tessit, while another unit is now patrolling the border with Niger, and still another is doing the same on the eastern side of the Niger River.

Noting that on 22 March, a helicopter of Mali’s armed forces, in a deterrent operation, opened fire on a MINUSMA patrol, which fortunately led to no injuries, he said the same patrol continued to survey the Tessit area and later, forced armed groups to flee.  Stressing that these incidents are “occurring in the context of the withdrawal of the Barkhane and Takuba forces”, he underscored the imperative that troop levels be maintained and responses are found to the challenges of insufficient capacity and the caveats of police-contributing countries.  More broadly, he said Malian armed forces have stepped up their counter-terrorism efforts in the country’s centre to break the chokehold of extremist groups over large swaths of the region.  While still too early to assess their long-term impact, they appear to have led to a decrease in clashes between community defence forces and terrorist groups, vehicle hijackings, abductions and attacks on local infrastructure.

Noting that last week’s offensive by Mali’s security and defence forces against Katiba Macina elements in Moura village, south of Mopti, falls within the scope of these operations, he cited a 1 April communiqué by the forces that they had neutralized terrorist elements controlling the area, adding that MINUSMA also received reports of serious rights abuses against civilians during the operation.  It sought access to the area and conducted a reconnaissance overflight on 3 April.

It is imperative that Malian authorities cooperate with MINUSMA so it can access the site of alleged violations, he stressed, adding more generally that the Mission has opened 17 investigations on allegations of indiscriminate attacks against civilians, extrajudicial arrests, mistreatment, forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

He went on to stress that military and security operations must be conducted in a manner that minimizes civilian harm, upholds human rights and international humanitarian law, and complements practical steps focused on the causes of the conflict.  In that context, he urged Mali’s Government to finalize and implement its strategy for the centre of the country, noting that the Mission will continue to carry out its protection tasks in Ogossagou and along the Douentza-Petaka road.

On the political front, “no tangible progress was made in the peace process”, he said, a situation compounded by the fact that the Agreement Monitoring Committee has not met since October 2021.  Instead, the past three months were marked by “worrying actions and rhetoric” that contravene the spirt of the Agreement.  Further, tensions remain between the Government and signatory movements over the issue of the Cadre strategique permanent — the structure put in place by the signatory movements with the stated aim of reconciling northern communities.

Against that backdrop, he said the Mission — in coordination with Algeria, as Chef de File of the international mediation — continues to encourage the parties to advance with the long-delayed high-level decision-making meeting, expected to facilitate consensus on the critically important issues of global disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and institutional reforms.  Recalling that the political transition was to conclude in March, in line with the initial 18-month timetable negotiated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) after the August 2020 coup d'état, he said the non-completion of the transition within the agreed timelines led the bloc to impose economic and financial sanctions last January, in addition to the individual measures decided a month earlier.  “The impasse has, unfortunately, persisted,” he said, exacerbating tensions between Mali and ECOWAS.

As part of the Local Transition Follow-up Committee, the Mission has worked to arrive at an acceptable timetable for holding elections.  While some progress was made, with Mali requesting an additional 24 months to bring the transition to an end, this was deemed to be too long at the ECOWAS extraordinary summit, held in Accra, on 25 March.  “No effort should be spared to achieve agreement on the transition,” he emphasized.  This would allow for the lifting of sanctions, a critical measure, but also create a more propitious environment to pursue Mali’s stabilization.

Over the last year, he said he had “criss-crossed” the Mission’s area of deployment, traveling to the far north locations of Tessalit, Aguelhok and Kital; to Timbuktu, Ber and Goundam, as well as to Mopti, Dounetza, Bandiagara and Segou in central Mali, and other areas in the north-east.  Throughout, there is a clear frustration at the prevailing insecurity, and understandably, criticism at the shortcomings of the actions taken over the last decade.  He described a “strong yearning for peace and better governance”, pressing political stakeholders to collectively internalize this sentiment and to live up to the expectations of their people.

“For the sake of the Malian people,” he said, MINUSMA should be given all the resources it requires to close the gap between what it is mandated to do, and what it can actually do.

BOUARÉ BINTOU FOUNÉ SAMAKÉ, President of Women in Law and Development in Africa in Mali, said she is trained as a lawyer and had served as former Minister for the Promotion of Women, Children and the Family.  Her organization is a pan‑African network of 25 civil society groups that promote and protect the rights of women.  It has signed a framework agreement with Mali, and is a member of the Coalition on Gender, Climate Change and Security.  Noting that women are disproportionately affected by impacts of climate change, she said their traditional roles as main consumers of natural resources oblige them to find the resources that are often threatened by climate change.

Mali faces a crisis of political, security, cultural and institutional dimensions.  The withdrawal of the Barkhane operation has created mistrust among Westerners, in the face of cooperation with the Wagner Group.  In addition, intensive fighting is ongoing between the Malian armed forces and terrorist groups in the country’s centre and north.  In these contexts, it is difficult for non‑governmental organizations to move around to carry out their work.  The security context worsens inequalities and deepens gaps in access to resources and governance for women and youth.

She recommended that the Security Council coordinate its efforts with the Government of Mali towards building a more inclusive, efficient, transparent, sustainable and accountable security sector.  The Council should help strengthen the gender language in MINUSMA’s mandate on security sector reform and specify key actions to be undertaken by the Mission in support of the Government’s efforts to provide more gender-sensitive security services.  The Council should also help increase representation of women in the security sector.  The Mission’s mandate should recognize climate change as an element affecting the security of populations, especially women and children.  She also called for an effective accountability mechanism to end impunity for all forms of violence against women.  The Council should undertake an assessment to identify barriers to the participation of women in the national security sectors, particularly in the decision-making bodies.

Statements

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) expressed extreme concern over increased violence against civilians in the country’s centre, as well as over violations by elements of the Malian armed forces and the Wagner Group.  Recalling that France, the European Union and ECOWAS expressed their concerns in December 2021 when the Wagner Group was deployed, he called for undertaking investigations, as some crimes might be war crimes.  He urged MINUSMA also to carry out its own investigation, unhindered, in order to establish the facts, and to use all means at its disposal to protect civilians.  Mali’s authorities, meanwhile, must ensure the Mission’s free movement.  He expressed concern over the offensive by Islamic State in the Greater Sahara in the three-border area.  He called on transitional authorities to focus on the peace agreement, which is still an adequate response for creating good relations between signatories and authorities in Bamako.  “Fresh impetus is needed,” he said, also calling on leaders to propose a strategy for addressing the crisis in the country’s centre and protecting civilians, and to finalize the political transition and return to constitutional order.

RAJESH PARIHAR (India), citing the use of drones by hostile elements to monitor the movements of peacekeepers, called for respecting Security Council resolution 2589 (2021), which outlines the need for enhanced accountability for crimes perpetrated against peacekeepers.  Noting reported recent advances made by armed forces against terrorists, he went on to stress that the political and security situation has seen no significant progress and that stakeholders have yet to reach agreement on any meaningful timeframe for the transition.  The challenges are rooted in long‑standing imbalances in the country’s constitutional, security and administrative set up, which have been left unaddressed for decades.  They must be tackled in a manner that involves implementation of the 2015 peace agreement.  Noting the critical role of the Group of Five for the Sahel — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — he called for a Mali-owned and ‑led process, seen as inclusive by the people of Mali themselves.  He also called for reaching agreement on an acceptable timeline for the transition, stressing that MINUSMA must be given requisite resources to fulfil its mandate.  He also noted India’s close engagement with Mali, notably on infrastructure construction, and its assistance to capacity-building programmes.

HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), speaking also for Gabon and Kenya, said that the people of Mali are yearning for peace and so are the States in the region.  A swift return to constitutional order would give the elected Government the legitimacy to lead the process of the comprehensive implementation of the peace accord.  Welcoming the mediation role of MINUSMA, including for the provision of training, technical and humanitarian assistance, he looks forward to the renewal of the Mission’s mandate in June with elements that would enhance its logistical capabilities and effectiveness in dealing with the challenges in Mali.  Expressing concern about the slow progress in implementing the peace accord and the absence of a finalized timetable for the return to constitutional rule, he recalled that ECOWAS in March urged the transitional authorities to adhere to the additional transitional period of 12 to 16 months.

The exacerbating impact of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic on the humanitarian situation require careful attention, he said, welcoming measures aimed at addressing the developmental challenges in Mali.  He commended the Peacebuilding Commission for its interventions in Mali, stressing that its role remains critical in addressing the underlying challenges.  He also welcomed the investment of $8.4 million from the Peacebuilding Fund into initiatives targeting youth, women and agricultural self-employment.  A quick return to constitutional rule, as well as a comprehensive implementation of the peace accord, is the surest way of bringing lasting peace to Mali.  Time is of the essence.

AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) encouraged intensified national efforts to set a timetable for elections as soon as possible and in line with the aspirations of the people of Mali.  The Security Council should provide support for national and regional efforts at this critical juncture.  Stressing the importance of promoting the effective, meaningful and equal participation of women in all ongoing political processes, she commended the efforts made in this regard, including to increase the number of women in the Peace Agreement Monitoring Committee and its subcommittees.  Considering the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Mali, which has disproportionally affected women and children, the international community must continue to provide humanitarian aid and basic services for the 7.5 million people who are in urgent need of assistance.  In this regard, she highlighted that addressing the security threats associated with climate change would help ensure food and water security and contribute to achieving stability and development in Mali.

JUAN GÓMEZ ROBLEDO VERDUZCO (Mexico) said there are serious questions about the approach to stabilizing Mali.  He recognized renewed efforts by Mali’s security forces to fight terrorist groups, who are the main cause of violence against civilians, noting nonetheless that the legitimacy of the fight against extremism does not exempt the State from its obligations to ensure human rights and to respect international humanitarian law.  He voiced extreme concern over reports of civilian victims caused by a recent operation in Moura, and called on transitional authorities to cooperate with MINUSMA to determine what happened.  “Rigorous investigation is needed” in order to ensure people’s trust in the armed forces.  Authorities must also work hand in hand with ECOWAS and the African Union to agree on an electoral timetable, which would allow for enacting long-standing reforms, notably decentralization of the civil service and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants.  He also called for ending the historic exclusion of certain groups from the national political scene and countering impunity through a system of independent justice.  In that context, he pressed authorities to implement the recommendations offered by the International Investigative Commission in 2020.

RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) urged the transition Government to make progress on the 2015 Algiers peace agreement and to ensure that women are on the ballot, registered to vote and participate in all parts of the electoral process.  He expressed his deepest condolences to the family and friends of three Egyptian peacekeepers killed in attacks in March, condemning all attacks against peacekeepers.  Those involved, or those planning, directing or committing human rights violations, may be subject to Council sanctions.  The Government must carry out credible investigations and hold perpetrators responsible, while links to the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group must be investigated and those responsible held to account.  Malians deserve answers to what happened in Moura.  He urged Mali’s authorities to allow MINUSMA access to the area, a task mandated by the Council itself, citing his delegation’s broad warning for countries not to partner with the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group, which is associated with execution-style killings in the Central African Republic and elsewhere.  Mali’s authorities are responsible for the actions of their security partners, he said, highlighting their disregard of the status of forces agreement with the Mission, especially in the south.  He called the 24 March incident “an affront to all those serving in peacekeeping missions”, stressing that restrictions limit MINUSMA’s ability to respond to threats against civilians.  “These restrictions must end,” he assured, welcoming the strong action by ECOWAS in defence of democracy in January.  He called for dialogue that produces an acceptable electoral calendar, voicing deep disappointment over the lack of political will by the transitional Government towards organizing elections.  He urged it to keep its pledge to return Malians to democracy as soon as possible.

ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) said today’s discussion is particularly timely as February should have marked a close to the transition period and a return to constitutional order for Mali.  “Instead, we have witnessed a severe escalation in security threats, a dire humanitarian situation and a dramatic shrinking of civic space,” she lamented.  The rapid expansion of terrorist attacks in Mali presents a serious concern, with armed Islamist groups proliferating — seizing entire villages, perpetrating targeted killings, imposing illegal taxes and committing other crimes with impunity.  The lack of State presence is creating a security vacuum conducive for non-State actors to further expand towards the country’s south and the wider coastal countries of the Gulf of Guinea.  She expressed deep concern about the methods adopted by the Russian-affiliated Wagner Group operating in Mali and the wider region.  The Security Council must maintain a strong and articulated commitment in Mali, strengthening its support for the population and the resilience of local communities.  However, it is the responsibility of the Malian authorities to take ownership and finalize a comprehensive politically led strategy to reach a durable solution to the conflict.

MONA JUUL (Norway) expressed hope that the appointment of 15 more women to the Agreement Monitoring Committee can bring a focus on gender, climate change and security even higher on the agenda.  She welcomed the seemingly reduced distance in positions between Bamako and ECOWAS on the transitional timeline.  She urged Mali’s transitional leaders to maintain dialogue with ECOWAS, and to fulfil their promises of a swift return to constitutional order.  She expressed particular concern over increasing reports of the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, closed schools and the severe risk of acute malnutrition, and more broadly, over the “drastic” increase in human rights violations, underlining the State’s primary duty to ensure accountability.  She reiterated the call by the Malian National Human Rights Commission for independent investigations into allegations in Moura, stressing that MINUSMA must be given full access to investigate all claims.  On the need to ensure the safety of peacekeepers, she pointed to certain conditions and safeguards that only the host country can guarantee.  “These responsibilities should not be taken lightly,” she said, “and must start with a fundamental respect for MINUSMA and its mandate.”

DAI BING (China), noting the efforts made by the transitional authorities, said Mali faces multiple challenges and the international community should continue to support the country for the sake of regional stability.  Commending the mediation efforts by ECOWAS, he emphasized the importance of supporting Mali on its reform and development path.  With terrorists taking advantage of the withdrawal of foreign forces, this is not the time for slackened counter-terrorism measures.  Regarding allegations of human rights violations by the Malian armed forces during their operations against terrorists, he urged members to avoid rushing to accusations before the conduct of investigations.  With people in Mali facing extreme poverty and malnutrition, Africa’s development should not be marginalized.  China remains a partner for Africa and is implementing its Global Development Initiative.

BRIAN PATRICK FLYNN (Ireland) expressed deep concern in Mali over increasing reports of killings of civilians, human rights violations and abuses, and violations of international humanitarian law.  On reports of a massacre in the village of Moura in the Mopti region recently, following a counter-terrorism operation by the Malian armed forces, he called for a thorough and transparent investigation into these allegations and unfettered, timely and safe access to the area.  Calling on the Malian authorities to tackle impunity and ensure that measures taken to combat terrorism comply with international law, he also expressed concern about reports of the presence of the Wagner Group in Mali, and the increased number of civilian casualties as a result of attacks by armed extremist groups in the Tri‑Border area.  The 57 per cent increase in violations against children documented in the Secretary‑General’s report is simply unconscionable, he noted, pointing to the deeply troubling violations and abuses against women and girls, including conflict-related sexual violence.  Urging all parties to accelerate action to implement the 2015 peace agreement, he called on the transitional authorities to agree an acceptable timeline for the return to constitutional order and the holding of elections.

ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation), citing the restoration of constitutional order as a priority, said Mali’s authorities have conducted a national process to prepare for elections and even established a dialogue group, demonstrating that they are taking a constructive approach and “do not have a hidden agenda”.  She shared their concerns over the worsening situation in the north, where France’s military withdrawal has created a security vacuum, stressing that the withdrawal of the Barkhane operation was done without consulting Bamako; an “extremely irresponsible” move that has widespread negative consequences.  It also is not yet clear what the withdrawal of operations Barkhane and Takuba will have on the readiness of G5 Sahel joint force.  Stressing that the situation in Mali stems from the intervention into Libya, she said Mali is the key to creating stability in the region.  “Malians are basically left alone” to face cross-border challenges, she said, and the transitional authorities are working to help their people.  They have the sovereign right to decide with whom they would like to work.  Mali’s armed forces are committed to human rights and Bamako is committed to investigating incidents of rights violations.  She described claims about the involvement of Russian mercenaries as part of “a sordid geopolitical game”, stressing that Moscow is extending assistance according to bilateral agreements.  There are 200 military and 9 police personnel being trained in her country.  She denounced sanctions as a hindrance to stability, countering claims that the Russian Federation is provoking famine in the Sahel by stressing that Mali’s borders are closed, and trade routes are blocked.

MAITÊ DE SOUZA SCHMITZ (Brazil) voiced support for Mali’s transitional authorities in countering the terrorist threat, in coordination with the G5 Sahel joint force, emphasizing that the human rights of the country’s people must not be compromised in those efforts.  She urged authorities to allow an impartial investigation of reports of summary executions of civilians in Mora, allegedly carried out by members of the country’s armed forces, with support from foreign fighters.  If the allegations are confirmed, it is essential that those involved answer for their actions.  “The presence of foreign mercenaries on the ground is not a solution,” she assured.  The violence is directly related to the “near paralysis” in efforts to implement the peace agreement and she encouraged transitional authorities, along with other political forces, to fulfil their commitments.  She also expressed support of the holding of elections within a realistic timeframe, urging transitional authorities to finalize the comprehensive, politically led strategy for the centre and to collaborate with ECOWAS so that the sanctions can soon be lifted.  MINUSMA must have the resources necessary to support implementation of the peace agreement and the political transition, and to protect civilians.

JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), Council President for April, speaking in his national capacity, said a reported incident indicating that hundreds of people were killed in Moura last week — following a counter-terrorism operation carried out by the Malian armed forces with the alleged involvement of the Wagner Group — needs an urgent, transparent and impartial investigation.  The Government must grant MINUSMA full access to Moura without further delay.  The latest reports from Moura follow a clear trend in a surge of human rights abuses since the deployment of the Wagner Group to Mali.  As of early 2022, around 1,000 Russian mercenary personnel have been stationed across Mali.  Just as the presence of Russian mercenaries drove an increase in human rights violations and abuses in the Central African Republic in 2021, the same is now being seen in Mali.  This underlines the extent of Russia’s malign activity globally, which serves to damage efforts to address peace and security in contexts beyond Ukraine.  Only last month, his country’s peacekeepers came under fire from a Malian armed forces helicopter, he said, seeking the outcome of the United Nations investigation into this concerning incident.  The United Kingdom continues to support ECOWAS’s dialogue with the Malian authorities on a revised timeline for elections, so that sanctions can gradually be lifted and attention turned towards election preparations.

ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali) said that the transitional Government is embarking on major reforms to ensure the stability of institutions and a better future for the people of his country.  It is necessary to create minimum security conditions for elections to be held.  The Government remains engaged with ECOWAS in this regard, including on the transitional period.  In this regard, he called for the lifting of sanctions by ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union.  These measures punish Malian people for their political choice in favour of a regime change.  The Government continues to recruit personnel for the Malian defence and security forces to strengthen their operational capacities.  These actions have yielded encouraging results.  Since December 2021, the Malian defence and security forces have inflicted heavy losses on extremist groups and destroyed several terrorist bases.  As a result, 80,000 internally displaced persons have returned.  His country will intensify these military actions, with the goals of protecting people and restoring State authority, and basic services throughout the country.  This in turn will help create the necessary conditions for the holding of credible, inclusive elections.

Responding to several members, who accused the Government of using a private security company, he said Mali has made no commitment of that nature.  His country has maintained a fruitful bilateral relationship with the Russian Federation since 1960.  Mali continues to procure military equipment from the Russian Federation for its security.  Russian trainers and instructors advise on how to use equipment.  Mali remains ready to cooperate with all its traditional partners, who are willing to help restore peace and security.  Regarding the need to accelerate the implementation of the peace agreement, the Government remains fully committed to that task.  On participation of women in the peace process, he informed that the Government has communicated the list of 15 additional women to join the Agreement Monitoring Committee and its four subcommittees.

Until 2012, Mali was an example for the respect of human rights, he said.  The complex crisis, unfortunately, created the conditions for violations.  However, there is no deliberate will on the part of the Malian authorities to allow impunity.  The Malian justice system is seized of each human rights violations.  Regarding the ongoing military operations in Moura, he said the area was a sanctuary for terrorists.  The military prosecutor decided to open investigations into the allegations of abuse against civilians in late March.  Pending the conclusions of this investigation, he called on all stakeholders to refrain from accusing the Malian armed forces of massacres.  The crisis in Mali has a far-reaching impact on the stability of West Africa and the Sahel region.  It remains complex and challenging.  The lasting solution lies in the hands of Malians, he said, seeking the understanding of partners while requesting the immediate lifting of the sanctions.

For information media. Not an official record.