posted on Sat 21 Oct 2017 9:01 PM
Dispatches from the Field: Meetings in Mali

(Bamako, Mali) Today (21 October), Council members had a full day of meetings in Bamako. These focused on two key objectives of the visiting mission: to highlight the urgency of implementing the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Mali and the operationalisation of the joint force of the G5 Sahel.

This morning, Council members met with the Comité de Suivi de l’Accord (CSA), the main follow-up mechanism to the Agreement. The CSA includes members of the government, representatives of the Coordination and Platform coalitions of armed groups, and representatives of the International Mediation led by Algeria. At the meeting, Council members delivered several key messages to the CSA. They stressed the need to prevent the gains achieved in Mali from being reversed. Reiterating the substance of their 6 October press statement, they encouraged the parties to take urgent and concrete action to fully deliver on their obligations under the Agreement. Some Council members raised with the CSA the importance of political will and leadership in making difficult decisions. Others emphasised the significance of national ownership, noting that support for Malian efforts cannot be a substitute for the engagement of Malians themselves. Council members also explained the designation criteria in resolution 2374, which targets individuals and entities engaged in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security or stability of Mali.

Government representatives in the CSA acknowledged delays in the implementation of the agreement, even though the parties were working on a timeline (“chronogram”) for its implementation. They said that progress had been made in terms of institutional reforms and expressed the expectation that the overdue deployment of mixed patrols in Kidal (through the establishment of the Operational Coordination Mechanism there) could contribute to renewed momentum on cantonment and on the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of combatants.

The Coordination and the Platform submitted a joint document to the Council outlining key unaddressed demands, a unified message from the two coalitions of armed groups who had agreed a cessation of hostilities on 20 September after several months of violations of a previously agreed ceasefire. Their demands include the operationalisation of the interim authorities, the need to expedite the appointment of an international commission of inquiry, and direct consultations with the government on key decisions (such as the design of development plans for the north and their concurrence on legislation regarding commitments made in the Agreement). The two groups further emphasised the need to ensure security sector reform and to accelerate efforts to reconstitute the Malian Defence and Security Forces, prior to the Council’s consideration of support for the joint force of the G5 Sahel.

The Chair of the CSA, Algerian Ambassador Ahmed Boutache, underscored the importance of according to armed groups that were not original signatories to the Agreement but that adhered to it later an opportunity to participate in the different mechanisms emanating from it. The parties to the Agreement have so far failed to agree on this matter.

Council members received a briefing from EU military officials in Mali. Brigadier General Bart Laurent, the Commander of the EU Training Mission to Mali, briefed members on the status of training of the Malian Defence and Security Forces. Brigadier General Philippe Rio, Commander of the EU Capacity Building Mission in Mali, spoke about efforts to build the capacity of Malian internal security forces.

A meeting with the leadership of French Operation Barkhane focused on its work in building the initial capability of the joint force of the G5 Sahel. A representative of Operation Barkhane stressed the joint force’s urgent need for logistical and operational support (i.e. air transportation, medical and casualty evacuation capacities, and life-support services) that can only be provided through an in-theatre presence. Currently only the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and Operation Barkhane are able to provide such support.

The last meeting of the day was with representatives of women organisations, who raised concerns about the limited participation of women in the political process. Despite legislation requiring that at least 30 percent of elected or appointed officials should be female, the representatives noted the absence of women in the CSA and the limited number of women in key institutions such as the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission and the DDR Commission. They further criticised the very limited number of women peacekeepers in MINUSMA. More broadly, these representatives expressed concern at the lack of basic services in northern regions, the deterioration of the security situation in the country, and the growing number of incidents of gender-based violence.

The day ended with a press conference at which the co-leads of the visiting mission—Council President Ambassador François Delattre (France), Ambassador Tekeda Alemu (Ethiopia) and Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi (Italy)—highlighted the willingness of G5 Sahel governments to allocate resources to fight against a terrorist threat that has implications beyond their borders, and the request by a broad range of stakeholders regarding the need to support the joint force multilaterally through the Security Council. Asked about the kind of UN support all Council members could agree on, Delattre stated that the circumstances for Council support seem more favorable than during the negotiations of resolution 2359 in June, given the progress made in operationalising the joint force in just a few months.