UN approves new peacekeeping force for Mali


The UN Security Council has approved a 12 600-strong peacekeeping operation to take over from the African-led mission in Mali on July 1, and has authorised the blue helmets “to use all necessary means” to carry out security-related stabilisation tasks, protect civilians, UN staff and cultural artefacts and create conditions for the provision of humanitarian aid.

“We know it’s going to be a fairly volatile environment,” the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, said in New York after the 15-member Council unanimously adopted resolution 2100 establishing the UN Multi-dimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
“This is not an enforcement mission. This is not an anti-terrorist operation,” he stressed.

MINUSMA’s core task is to support the political process in Mali, in close co-ordination with the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
“The mission will help the Malian authorities to implement the transitional roadmap towards the full restoration of constitutional order, democratic governance and national unity. This includes holding elections in July, confidence building and facilitation of reconciliation at the national and local levels,” he said.

While officially established this week, MINUSMA troops will not be on the ground until July 1, when they will take over from the African-led force (AFISMA) and begin an initial 12-month mandate. That start date is subject to review and could be delayed in the event of a major international military operation or a continued threat from terrorist forces on the civilian population or international personnel, according to the resolution.

MINUSMA will however assume responsibility for the mandated tasks being carried out by the UN Office in Mali (UNOM), which deployed in January and provides good offices aimed at facilitating contacts between government and those groups that wish to take part in the search for a political solution to the crisis.

In the resolution, the Security Council called on member states to provide troops and police with “adequate capabilities and equipment in order to enhance the capacity of MINUSMA to operate and discharge its responsibilities effectively.”

Ladsous said meetings are planned with potential troop-contributing countries over the next few days.
“Human rights are one of the core elements of the mandate. We will do some vetting of the personnel and we will increase their training in human rights and international humanitarian law. We want our people to be impeccable.”

The Council also authorised secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to approve inter-mission co-operation between MINUSMA and the UN Missions in Liberia (UNMIL) and Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) for temporary sharing of troops, assets and logistic and administrative support without endangering the operational capabilities of those missions and also to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of the missions in West Africa.

It also requested Ban to appoint a special representative for Mali who would also head MINUSMA. This envoy would also be responsible for co-ordinating the activities of UN agencies, funds and programmes in Mali, as well as use his or her good offices and co-ordinate activities of the international community in support of the mission’s mandate.

Ladsous gave no hints about who might head MINUSM, but said an appointment “is being worked on.”

Acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Council authorised the UN’s newest peacekeeping mission to “use all necessary force” to “stabilise key population centres, especially in the north of Mali… to deter threats and take active steps to prevent the return of armed elements to those areas,” as well support the transitional authorities to extend and re-establish State administration throughout the country.

Northern Mali was occupied by radical Islamists after fighting broke out in January 2012 between Government forces and Tuareg rebels. The conflict uprooted hundreds of thousands of people and prompted the Malian government to request assistance from France to stop the military advance of extremist groups.

In parallel to MINUSMA, the Council authorised French troops “within the limits of their capacities and areas of deployment, to use all necessary means” to intervene in support of the mission when under imminent and serious threat on Ban’s request.

France’s Ambassador to the UN, Gerard Araud, said his government expects to keep 1 000 troops in Mali until the end of the year.

While the protection of civilians is a key component of the mission’s mandate, the Council reminded the transitional authorities in Mali the primary responsibility to protect civilians rests with them. They also noted while UN peacekeepers have the authority to use force in certain cases, the Malian Defence and Security Force will continue to assume full responsibility for providing security throughout the country.

On the humanitarian front, UN troops have the right to use force “to create a secure environment for the safe, civilian-led delivery of humanitarian assistance, in accordance with humanitarian principles, and the voluntary return of internally displaced persons and refugees in close co-ordination with humanitarian actors.”

The Council also authorised the use of force to assist the transitional authorities in protecting from attack the cultural and historical sites, in coordination with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

It also reiterated its call on all parties within Mali and on all member states, particularly those in the area, “to co-operate fully with the deployment and activities of MINSUMA” and “to ensure the free, unhindered and expeditious movement to and from Mali.”