Progress in the political process in Mali over the last three months has been “fairly modest”, with fighting continuing despite talks in Algiers marking the first occasion when armed groups and government engaged in direct conversations, the head of United Nations peacekeeping operations told the Security Council this week.
“We can say the inter-Malian peace process is at a crucial stage,” Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, said appealing to all parties to resolve outstanding issues in a fresh round of talks scheduled for February.
“This appeal is to everyone. There needs to be a decisive spirit here. There needs to be leadership. And there must be a willingness to compromise to reach an agreement. No one should fear that,” he said.
Talks held so far have resulted in a draft peace agreement all parties are currently examining and Ladsous said an “extremely volatile” security situation in the north of the country with “serious fighting” in recent days, including an attack on Malian troops in the Ségou region, where 10 were killed, and disturbances in Gao where three were killed, have not made matters any easier.
“The situation on the ground remains difficult, each side trying to escalate,” he said, pointing out MINUSMA forces had been deployed in response to the violence, facing a “dire and costly situation” for MINUSMA troops.
“No mission has been as costly in terms of blood,” he said, noting 33 MINUSMA soldiers had been killed and 109 injured and adding the Mission’s peacekeepers face assaults on a virtually daily basis, in the form of rocket attacks on bases and targeted attacks with improvised explosive devices.
He called on all parties to respect the ceasefire and to show good faith, both on the ground and at the negotiating table in Algiers. That required some parties to accept the need to move from their opening positions, something not everybody had done.
He said the crisis in Mali had persisted for 50 years, largely because its roots had never been addressed. That created “fertile ground for terrorism and transnational crime” and it was vital to tackle the conflict’s causes. The direct involvement of the international community, specifically the UN, made it possible to re-establish the Malian State and create lasting solutions.
“Let’s try not to fall into the mistakes of the past,” Ladsous said calling for courage, determination and vision.
The implementation plan would be vital for the ceasefire’s credibility and MINUSMA would support the implementation, he said, acknowledging once parties reached agreement, time would be needed for them to explain and “sell” the agreement to their constituents. The spotlight was now falling on the parties involved to show political will and energy.
MINUSMA was established by Security Council resolution 2100 in 2013 to support political processes in Mali and to carry out security-related tasks. The Mission was asked to support Mali’s transitional authorities in the stabilisation of the country and implementation of the transitional roadmap.
In June 2014, the Council adopted resolution 2165, further deciding the Mission should focus on ensuring security, stabilisation and protection of civilians, as well as supporting national political dialogue and reconciliation. It also works to assist the re-establishment of State authority, the rebuilding of the security sector and the promotion and protection of human rights.