Implementation of the 2015 peace agreement in Mali is the only path to stabilisation the head of UN peacekeeping told the Security Council.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix updated ambassadors on developments in the West African country, where a UN operation, known by the French acronym MINUSMA, supports political processes and restoration of state authority against a backdrop of insecurity, intercommunal violence and increasing displacement.
The UN mission was established following fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels in January 2012, leading to the occupation of northern Mali by radical Islamists.
Authorities and coalitions of two armed groups signed the peace deal three years later.
“The rapid and thorough implementation of the peace agreement remains the only viable path to stabilise Mali. It provides a framework for political and institutional reforms to restore and decentralise State authority to build a Malian state reflecting the diversity and interests of all citizens,” Lacroix said.
“The peace agreement provides mechanisms to address grievances of Malians excluded from political life and economic development and who see little hope for their future.”
Despite slow starts and disagreements, between and among all sides, the UN peacekeeping chief reported progress in Mali, including an inclusive national dialogue in December.
Foreign Minister Tiébilé Dramé characterised it as a milestone.
“The national dialogue was important in the life of the nation: a point at which national consensus was forged with lively solidarity,” he said, speaking via videoconference.
“For his part, the President of Mali took the commitment of doing all in his power to ensure resolutions and recommendations of the national dialogue, pursuant to current law, be implemented.”
Another step forward is disarming and integration of former combatants into the national defence and security forces.
Lacroix said redeploying reconstituted army units to the north remains an “urgent priority”, with a first battalion expected in the region by the end of the month: an important step toward restoring state authority nation-wide.
At the same time, the UN increased its presence and activity in Mopti, central Mali, which has contributed to de-escalating inter-communal violence and massacres.
This meant diverting assets from the north, leading to what Lacroix described as “dangerous gaps” in some areas. To address the challenge, MINUSMA will make adaptations in authorised troop strength.
“The plan provides for the establishment of a mobile task force, which will enhance mission ability to implement mandate and protect civilians. It will make MINUSMA more agile, flexible and mobile with tailored units and enhanced capabilities, most importantly additional air mobility”, he said.
Support for the Sahel
Lacroix started his briefing addressing the “alarming” deteriorating security situation in Mali and the wider Sahel.
In a week, 89 Nigerien soldiers were killed and 18 peacekeepers injured in two separate attacks. There is also a rise in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against UN convoys.
“Terrorism continues to feed into inter-communal violence in the centre of Mali. There are now more displaced people suffering from hunger in Mopti region than in the past.”
The UN supports the G5 Sahel regional body, which brings together Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, all experiencing rising extremist violence.
French ambassador Nicolas de Rivière told the Council following a recent summit, the G5 and its international partners established a coalition for the Sahel.
“The aim is to step up support for countries of the G5 Sahel and to incentivise them to engage in reform: security reform as well as governance and human rights reform. With these conditions being met, we can eradicate terrorism.”