I welcome this opportunity to brief the Security Council on the deeply troubling situation in Mali.
Since the start of the crisis earlier this year, four months ago, we have seen the situation take one alarming turn after another, reaching seemingly new depths with every passing week.
We have seen a regional pillar of democracy fall steeply off the constitutional path, undermining years of progress.
We have seen an already horrendous food and nutrition emergency grow even worse, exposing many thousands more people to acute shortages of food, water and basic services.
And in areas where there was once stability and coexistence, we have seen rising extremism, criminal activity and violations of human rights.
These grave developments have brought enormous suffering to the people of Mali. They also pose a widening threat to international peace and security.
With last month’s adoption of resolution 2056, this Council has expressed its concern.
Today, as we consider the latest developments, it is clear that more may be required of you.
In Bamako, limited progress has been made in restoring constitutional order. Mali’s socio-political forces remain divided over support for the transitional arrangements and, more broadly, over future prospects for the country.
The military junta reportedly maintains a strong influence on the transitional process. It has retained control over the security and defence forces, and continues to violently repress fellow soldiers suspected of having supported the attempted counter-coup of 30 April.
ECOWAS Heads of State and Government have called for a more inclusive Government, and mandated the ECOWAS Mediator to urgently engage in consultations with Malian stakeholders. They also decided to deploy an ECOWAS Standby Force to Mali and to send a Technical Assessment Mission to Bamako to prepare for the deployment of this Force. I understand that the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, has submitted the mission’s report and other relevant documents to this Council.
One positive development has been the return of President Dioncounda Traoré to Bamako. His presence enhances the constitutional legitimacy of the transitional arrangements and can ensure that Malians play a central role in leading the transitional process.
I commend the steps the President is taking to ensure the formation of a government of national unity. I also welcome his announcement of the creation of the National Transition Committee, the National Dialogue Committee, and the High Council of State, which he plans to chair.
Let me turn now to the situation in the North, where the security situation remains volatile and unpredictable.
The Ansar Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, which are reportedly linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, have taken control after pushing out the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, and have illegally imposed Sharia Law on the residents. With the influx of regional and international Jihadists, there is reason to be concerned that the North is becoming a safe haven for terrorists and criminal elements.
The ECOWAS Mediator, President Blaise Compaoré, has taken initial steps to meet with representatives of the MNLA and Ansar Dine. After travelling to northern Mali yesterday, Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole met with leaders of Ansar Dine and requested that they cut ties to terrorist movements before any peace talk could begin. But no meaningful dialogue has commenced between the Government of Mali and any of the groups in the north. With the establishment of President Traore’s National Commission for Negotiations, it is expected that a Malian-owned dialogue process, with the assistance of ECOWAS and neighbouring countries, will commence shortly.
For my part, I have used my good offices to help address the crisis through my Special Representative for West Africa, Mr. Said Djinnit.
From the outset of the mediation process led by ECOWAS, Mr. Djinnit has been in close contact with the mediation team. He has conducted good offices missions to Mauritania and Algeria and participated in ECOWAS Summits and other meetings on Mali.
Here at headquarters, the Department of Political Affairs is consulting with Permanent Representatives of ECOWAS Member States, the “Pays du Champ” and other partners. UN military planners have participated, in an advisory capacity, in the ECOWAS Technical Assessment Mission.
As the Malian transitional authorities prepare to initiate a national dialogue, the United Nations stands ready to offer its considerable expertise in designing such processes and facilitating such dialogue.
The conflict in Mali has exacerbated a perilous humanitarian situation. More than 174,000 people have been internally displaced, and more than 253,000 have sought refuge in neighboring countries. A severe food security and nutrition crisis is now affecting 4.6 million people in Mali and more than 18 million people across the Sahel region.
I am also extremely concerned about reports that armed groups in the north are committing serious human rights violations, including summary executions of civilians, rapes and torture.
Moreover, the Ansar Dine group deliberately destroyed 9 of the 16 mausoleums in Timbuktu, in callous disregard of sites that have been classified by UNESCO as part of the indivisible heritage of humanity.
I encourage the Security Council to give serious consideration to the imposition of targeted travel and financial sanctions against individuals or groups in Mali engaged in terrorist, religious extremist or criminal activities.
The crisis in Mali is complex and multidimensional. Its resolution requires a holistic and comprehensive approach, rather than partial and disconnected measures.
I strongly encourage the Government of Mali to develop an over-arching political strategy to return the country to constitutional order and reestablish state authority in the North.
The strategy should clearly spell out responses to genuine socio-economic and political grievances, the modalities for political dialogue and negotiations, and the aims of eventual military action against extremist forces in the North.
Looking ahead, it is essential for Malians to take ownership and show leadership.
ECOWAS, the African Union, the European Union, key regional countries and bilateral partners should all assist in this endeavor.
Many challenges lie ahead. If we are to succeed in restoring peace in Mali and the wider Sahel region, there must be unity of vision and close coordination.
The United Nations will continue to do its part.