posted on Tue 4 Dec 2012 5:48 PM
Mali Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (5 December), the Security Council will receive a briefing from Jeffrey Feltman, head of the Department of Political Affairs, on the Secretary-General’s 29 November report on the situation in Mali (S/2012/894). The briefing is scheduled to be followed by closed consultations. No immediate outcome is expected, although Council members are anticipating that a draft resolution on Mali may be circulated as early as this week authorising an African-led support mission under Chapter VII.

Council members have been awaiting the Secretary-General’s recent report with anticipation and there will likely be keen interest in the Mali discussions tomorrow. However, the lengthy report is still being studied in detail by Council members. The report recommends that the “strategic operational framework”, a document which was jointly prepared by the AU and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and formally endorsed by the AU on 13 November, “could provide a useful basis” for the Council to authorise the Chapter VII mission for an initial period of one year. The AU/ECOWAS framework planned for the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) comprising 3,300 military personnel who would take “all measures necessary, as appropriate, to assist the Malian authorities” to retake the north of the country.

The Secretary-General’s report notes, however, that “further planning and preparations” for the mission are ongoing. The report endorses key aspects of the AU-endorsed framework, including that the AU would provide political and strategic leadership for the mission, and that its military and police components would be generated from the ECOWAS Standby Force, as well as contributions from other countries.

The Secretary-General’s report also raises serious questions about the AU’s request for the Council to provide a “support package” for AFISMA to carry out offensive military operations. The tools available to the UN, it says, involve strict procedures to ensure accountability of funds, and “could pose significant restrictions” on its ability to support offensive operations. Funding for the military operations phase would have to be raised voluntarily, possibly through a donors’ conference. But once that objective has been achieved, according to the report, the Council “could consider the option of providing” a UN logistics package to assist AFISMA “during stabilisation operations”. The report notes that the Secretary-General, for his part, was taking immediate steps to strengthen the UN presence in the capital city, Bamako, “with a strong human rights capacity” and suggests this presence “could evolve into a multidimensional” UN mission with a mandate to provide Mali with long-term stabilisation and peace-building assistance.

Council discussions on some of these seemingly convoluted recommendations are likely to be robust in the Council. All members seem to be on the same page as far as the need to reinforce the territorial integrity of Mali and to “reunify” the north with the rest of the country. It seems that France, which has been most active in supporting a stabilisation force, had expected a fairly straightforward report recommending authorisation of the mission without many caveats. (Among others, the UK and the US have been supportive of the military assistance option as have African Council members South Africa and Togo, the latter being both a member of the AU and ECOWAS.)

Some other members are perhaps more circumspect about a support mission and place a greater premium on the possibility of dialogue with the rebels in the north. They may highlight some of the Secretary-General’s apparent unease regarding offensive military operations and this may delay the adoption of a resolution—expected to be introduced by France by end of this week or early next week—authorising the mission. The Secretary-General’s report recognises the possibility of fruitful dialogue with separatist Tuareg rebels under the banner of the Mouvement national pour la libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) and their ally, Ansar Eddine, but suggests that this may not be the case with the Mouvement pour l’unité et le jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO) and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

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