Electoral Plans Move Forward in Mali Amid Unabated Humanitarian Crisis, Officials Tell Security Council, as Members Weigh Strategic Review of Peacekeeping Mission
Foreign Minister Calls for Respect for His Country’s Sovereignty, Points to Reduction in Human Rights Violations as State Presence Expands
Weeks ahead of a referendum meant to move Mali closer to constitutional order, the senior United Nations official in the country — emphasizing that the situation stands at a critical juncture, amid sustained security and humanitarian crises — welcomed a new strategic review of the Organization’s peacekeeping mission as a fresh opportunity to chart the best way forward.
El-Ghassim Wane, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Mali and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), told the 15-member Council that 2023 is a critical year for Mali with several elections scheduled and the recent completion of the Mission’s internal strategic review (document S/2023/36). Presenting that document as well as the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in Mali (document S/2023/21), he said the country warrants sustained international engagement, particularly from the Council, which requested the strategic review in June 2022 when it last renewed MINUSMA’s mandate.
He outlined some of the Mission’s activities, including its recent work, alongside other members of an international mediation team, to promote dialogue between the signatories of Mali’s landmark 2015 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation and overcome a current political impasse. It is also working to respond to a humanitarian crisis, which resulted largely from extremist group attacks, and which saw some 412,000 internally displaced people in December 2022. Around 8.8 million people need humanitarian aid, up 17 per cent from the beginning of 2022, and leaders are working to hold a range of scheduled elections throughout 2023 — with the first planned for 19 March — to keep Mali on track to restoring constitutional order by 2024.
Deployed in Mali for nearly a decade, he said, MINUSMA has accomplished much. However, the objectives set by the Council have not been fully achieved and the operational landscape has seen significant changes. The Mission’s strategic review provides an opportunity to chart the best way forward, he said, not just for Mali’s benefit but for that of the entire Sahel region.
Aminata Cheick Dicko, civil society representative, also briefed the Council, highlighting her responsibility to “carry the voices of the voiceless” — the sons and daughters of her country — and warning that Mali continues to face complex security challenges. She cited attacks from improvised explosive devices that have targeted public transport, humanitarian convoys and United Nations peacekeepers, adding that terrorist groups are committing abductions and executions, preventing farmers from going about their business, depriving local communities of their livelihoods and forcing them to flee their villages.
In the ensuing debate, delegates acknowledged the critical juncture facing Mali in the midst of its security and humanitarian crisis. The representative of France said the coming months will be decisive and all stakeholders must discuss the options available. Without clear commitments and concrete action, rebuilding trust and re-establishing a dynamic partnership will not be possible, she warned, urging the Council to rethink its collective approach in the Sahel region. She added that the Secretary-General’s parameters to push MINUSMA’s work forward must be translated into concrete gestures by the Malian transitional authorities — a requirement that is all the more urgent as several major troop contributors have already chosen to withdraw from the Mission.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates said the situation in Mali remains alarming after more than a decade of United Nations engagement. A comprehensive response is needed as extremism continues to spread and counter-terrorism operations must be carried out in tandem with the extension of State authority and the provision of basic services. On MINUSMA’s future configuration, she stressed that the Council’s decision “should not merely be the lowest common denominator of our respective positions” but, rather, should be a significant, results-oriented push in support of Mali’s people.
Emphasizing that the Mission is facing a critical moment, the United States’ delegate said the extremely volatile operating environment has become more dangerous, with restrictions imposed by the transitional Government. He demanded that it lift all restrictions on MINUSMA and let all Mission personnel operate freely and safely. He hoped that future United Nations reporting on Mali will be candid about the threat to Malian civilians posed by Russian Federation-backed Wagner Group forces, emphasizing that the United Nations must provide honest, transparent analysis of the destabilizing role played by criminal organizations in places where its field missions operate.
The representative of China said the political and peace processes in Mali require the international community’s attention and support. Political transition cannot be achieved overnight, he said, calling on relevant actors to address their differences through dialogue. Stressing that supporting Mali’s counter-terrorism efforts is a way to safeguard regional peace, he called on the international community to support these efforts through increased financing, equipment, intelligence and logistics. Partners must also respect Mali’s sovereign right to engage in external security cooperation. Turning to MINUSMA, he urged the Council to strengthen the Mission’s top-level design, streamline its mandate, focus resources on the most urgent tasks and accommodate Mali’s legitimate concerns.
The representative of the Russian Federation said Mali is facing many security challenges as it attempts to achieve political stability. Pledging solidarity with the Malian authorities as they address the central issue of security, he said the hasty withdrawal of European and French troops left a security vacuum, allowing terrorist groups to attack Malian civilians and peacekeepers. Expressing regret that many troop-contributing countries decided to withdraw their support in Mali, he said the successful implementation of MINUSMA’s mandate is only possible if support is also extended to the Malian defence forces. The Russian Federation is providing such support at the request of the Malian Government, he said, rejecting the blame cast on his delegation by colleagues.
Abdoulaye Diop, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali, assured the Council of his Government’s commitment to the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement and highlighted progress on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration as ex-combatants are integrated into national defence and security forces. He regretted that the Secretary-General’s report did not mention efforts by Malian defence and security forces to protect civilians, combat terrorists and provide security. Citing a sharp drop in rights violations across the country, he voiced his firm opposition to any instrumentalization or politicization of the human rights issue and appealed to the international community to give the Sahel the same humanitarian attention it has shown to other regions.
Also speaking today were representatives from Ghana (also on behalf of Gabon and Mozambique), Malta, Albania, United Kingdom, Brazil, Ecuador, China, Switzerland and Japan.
The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 12:09 p.m.
EL-GHASSIM WANE, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Mali and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), said the world’s collective efforts to promote lasting peace in Mali are at a unique juncture. MINUSMA is currently at the midway point of its mandate, which was renewed in June 2022. At that time, emphasis was placed on support for the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, the country’s transition process and efforts to ensure stability. Noting that 2023 is a critical year for those efforts as Mali returns to constitutional order and several elections are scheduled, he also pointed to the recent completion of MINUSMA’s internal strategic review — as requested by the Council — and the submission of various proposals for the Mission’s reconfiguration.
Turning to Mali’s highly complex security environment, he said extremist groups have been able to undertake intricate attacks, resulting in a humanitarian crisis. Some 412,000 people were internally displaced in December 2022, while 8.8 million needed humanitarian aid, up 17 per cent from the beginning of 2022. Regarding human rights, he said MINUSMA will continue to investigate alleged human rights abuses and rely on the cooperation of the Malian authorities. Noting that Mali is less than two months away from a constitutional referendum that would mark the first of a series of polls — expected to culminate in the restoration of constitutional order in March 2024 — he said the Malian authorities have shown their commitment to holding elections on time. He cited such recent strides as the establishment of new electoral institutions, the adoption of a new electoral law in June 2022, the elaboration of a preliminary draft constitution and an update to the electoral register. However, turnout has remained low and challenges remain.
He recalled that, in December 2022, Mali’s transitional President established a 51-member committee to finalize the draft Constitution and ensure sufficient buy-in by Malian society. Meanwhile, two other aspects will determine the electoral process’s trajectory. The first is the availability of necessary financial and logistical resources, he said, noting that only 60 per cent of the resources needed for the United Nations Basket Fund for electoral support has been mobilized. MINUSMA, working with the United Nations country team, is providing technical and logistical support to the electoral process and plans to increase its support. In addition, the country’s security situation impacts all stages of the electoral cycle. Pledging MINUSMA’s support to the Malian authorities, he noted with regret that new disagreements have emerged in recent months over the suspension by various parties of their participation in sessions of the follow-up Committee to the Peace Agreement, known as the CSA.
Against that backdrop, he said MINUSMA, along with the other members of the international mediation team, has worked to promote dialogue between the signatories to overcome the current impasse. Noting that they hold primary responsibility for the success of the peace process, he stressed: “The ongoing transition offers a unique opportunity to advance the [Peace Agreement] that cannot, and should not, be squandered.” The situation in Mail warrants sustained international attention and engagement, particularly from the Council. Deployed in Mali for nearly a decade, MINUSMA has accomplished much, yet the objectives set by the Council have not been fully achieved and the operational landscape has seen significant changes. The Mission’s strategic review provides an opportunity to chart the best way forward, he said, not just for Mali’s benefit but for that of the entire Sahel region.
AMINATA CHEICK DICKO, civil society representative, highlighted her responsibility to “carry the voices of the voiceless” — the sons and daughters of her country — and warned that Mali continues to face complex challenges as terrorist groups pose grave threats. She detailed attacks resulting from improvised explosive devices that have targeted public transport, humanitarian convoys and United Nations peacekeepers. Terrorist groups are committing abductions and executions, preventing farmers from going about their business, depriving local communities of their livelihoods and forcing them to leave their villages. Noting that 80,000 households are now internally displaced and some 200,000 Malian refugees have fled to other countries in the region, she said women continue to be the hardest hit and subjected to all sorts of violence. “They have no hope, they have no opportunities,” she stressed, citing limited response mechanisms. The situation is further exacerbated by food insecurity — a result of conflict, climate change and the forced withdrawal of some humanitarian actors.
Observing that the Malian army has increased its military operations combating terrorists, she nevertheless said these operations must be regularly reassessed, given the mixed results that they have produced on the human rights front. The presence of military partners of the Russian Federation — alongside the Malian armed forces — “does not make things easier”, she said, stressing that these actors are involved in serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. She called on the Malian judiciary to take concrete action to bring perpetrators to justice, including the perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence. Recalling that the Malian army recently received additional equipment, she stressed the importance of transparency.
“A balance must be struck in the breakdown of the national budget,” she continued. Noting that the implementation of the Peace Agreement has not seen significant headway, she added that despite the adoption of a quota law requiring 30 per cent of elected or appointed officials be women — which was widely perceived as a serious victory — much remains to be done in that regard. She also advocated for a greater role for Malian women in the implementation of the Peace Agreement, specifically through its various mechanisms. Calling on the international community to work together with Mali on these reforms and look for opportunities to achieve sustainable development, she further called on the Malian authorities to reinforce their collaboration with MINUSMA.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) underscored that a peacekeeping operation cannot be effective without credible political prospects and the sincere cooperation of the host State. Citing the Secretary-General’s observations, she stressed that the presence of the Wagner Group — as reflected in regular violence against the Malian civilian population and increasing obstacles to MINUSMA — is unacceptable. The Secretary-General lists the essential parameters for MINUSMA to continue its mission: The implementation of the Algiers Peace Agreement, which remains the main instrument for lasting reconciliation; continuation of the political transition, which must take place according to the agreed upon timetable with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); freedom of movement and action for all MINUSMA assets; and the implementation of MINUSMA’s mandate in its entirety, including the human rights component. These parameters must be translated into concrete gestures by the Malian transitional authorities, she emphasized, adding that this is all the more urgent as several major troop contributions have already chosen to withdraw from the Mission. As the coming months will be decisive, discussions on options must be held with all stakeholders. Without clear commitments and concrete action, rebuilding trust and re-establishing a dynamic partnership will not be possible, she warned, urging the Council to rethink its collective approach in the Sahel region.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), noting that the situation in Mali remains alarming after more than a decade of United Nations engagement, underlined the need to maintain open channels of communication and create space for dialogue in the Council, Mali and the wider region. Further, good neighbourly relations will be critical to overcoming interdependent regional challenges, and ECOWAS, the African Union and MINUSMA remain key partners in supporting national statebuilding efforts. She went on to stress that, as extremism continues to spread, a comprehensive response is needed. Political and social challenges are inextricably linked to the deteriorating security situation, and counter-terrorism operations must occur in tandem with the extension of State authority and the provision of basic services in order to be effective. She urged the Council, as it focuses on Mali’s most-pressing needs, to also prioritize medium- and long-term planning, which will lay the groundwork for rebuilding a resilient, sustainable Mali. On MINUSMA’s future configuration, she stressed that the Council’s decision “should not merely be the lowest common denominator of our respective positions” but, rather, should be a significant, results-oriented push in support of Mali’s people.
RICHARD M. MILLS JR. (United States), while welcoming MINUSMA’s continued mandate delivery, expressed concern over the significant political, operational and capacity constraints limiting its success. Emphasizing that the Mission is facing a critical moment, he said the extremely volatile operating environment is made even more dangerous by restrictions that the transitional Government continues to impose, which needlessly put peacekeepers — and the civilians they seek to protect — at risk. The 237 instances cited by the Secretary-General’s report in which Malian authorities denied or failed to respond to MINUSMA flight requests are unacceptable. This means that, on 237 separate occasions, the transitional Government prevented the Mission from deterring or responding to terrorist attacks, investigating alleged human rights abuses or ensuring the safety of travelling convoys. Describing that as an existential issue for the Mission and a crisis for the Council, he demanded that the transitional Government lift all restrictions on MINUSMA and allow all Mission personnel to operate freely and safely. He went on to express hope that future United Nations reporting concerning Mali will be candid about the threat to Malian civilians posed by Wagner Group forces, adding that the United Nations must be able to provide honest, transparent analysis of the destabilizing role played by criminal organizations — such as the Wagner Group — in places where its field missions operate.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), also speaking on behalf of Gabon and Mozambique, said the restoration of constitutional order remains critical to creating peace in Mali. Welcoming the submission of a draft constitution as well as the adoption of a new electoral law — both as part of the broader reforms needed to move the country’s political transition forward in line with the Peace Agreement — he called all signatories to remain engaged in the accord’s implementation, including by helping to fund the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. He reaffirmed support for the decisions reached by ECOWAS leaders at the group’s sixty-first and sixty-second ordinary sessions, while encouraging international support for national efforts to hold elections by March 2024. Also voicing deep concern about Mali’s security situation and the unabated attacks by terrorist groups on military and civilian targets, he noted the important role played by MINUSMA in areas with little or no State presence. The Malian authorities should work with the Mission to urgently address misinformation and disinformation, which threaten the safety of Mission personnel and undermine their impact on the ground.
Voicing his hope that the Council will be able to reach agreement on the recommendations laid out in the Secretary-General’s internal review of MINUSMA, he also expressed hope that the upcoming independent report of the high-level panel, led by former President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, will leverage the best elements of regional initiatives and create a robust response to the Sahel’s security challenges. “We underscore our position for adequate, sustainable and predictable funding for these regional mechanisms, who in essence are acting on behalf of the international community,” he said. Turning to the deteriorating humanitarian situation, he said the closure of thousands of schools and increasing incidents of sexual exploitation of women and girls are undermining fundamental human rights in Mali. The authorities must keep clamping down on such violations, including through speedy investigations and prosecutions. In addition, he reiterated the Secretary-General’s call for increased funding support from donors, partners and the international community in order to help meet the humanitarian needs of more than 5.3 million Malians.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) said that full implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali remains vital, expressing regret that progress towards this end has been lacking. She called on all parties to focus on strengthening dialogue and taking pragmatic steps, with the support of the Malian public, in hopes of restoring their trust. Welcoming the submission of the draft Constitution and the appointment of women to the National Transition Council, she emphasized the need for consensus to remain the driving force behind the drafting and adoption of the former and for full, equal and meaningful participation by the latter. The Malian authorities should continue their engagement with MINUSMA, ECOWAS and the African Union to meet the transition deadline of March 2024. She went on to point out that conflict-driven food insecurity is emerging as a major threat in a region already impacted by climate-related issues, such as reduced rainfall and desertification. The humanitarian consequence of both conflict and climate change will be a worsening of existing inequalities, and she called on all actors to respect and facilitate rapid, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access in Mali. She also expressed concern over the proliferation of violence and human-rights abuses committed against civilians by armed groups and private military companies, such as the Wagner Group.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania), stressing that the implementation of the electoral calendar within the agreed ECOWAS timelines must be a priority, urged Malian authorities to focus on advancing outstanding legislative matters and the constitutional process, including the establishment of a single legislative management body. On the growing violent extremism and alarming terrorist threat, she voiced her concern over the changing security architecture’s potential to create security vacuums that will destabilize Mali and the region. The presence of the Wagner Group in particular poses a significant threat to the safety of peacekeepers and civilians, she pointed out, as she condemned its serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Malian authorities should reassess their partnership and release the findings of ongoing investigations, she insisted. She also expressed her regret over the signatory movements’ decision to suspend their participation in the Agreement Monitoring Committee, stressed the importance of the peace agreement for the situation’s stabilization and called for enhanced engagement and coordination among relevant stakeholders. Malian authorities must work with MINUSMA and allow it to operate safely and freely without obstacles, including in human rights monitoring, she emphasized, before welcoming the Secretary-General’s internal review of the Mission.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), voicing his deepest condolences following the deaths of two MINUSMA personnel in December, condemned any attack on peacekeepers. The Malian people deserve the support of the international community to address the challenges they have faced in recent years, he said, stressing that MINUSMA cannot continue as it currently stands, with restrictions hindering its operations and without the full cooperation of the host Government. The safety of peacekeepers is at stake, as well as the reputation of the United Nations, if the Mission cannot effectively deliver on its mandate and uphold its human rights principles. Calling for tangible progress on the political transition and renewed dialogue on the Peace Agreement, he urged the Malian authorities to adhere to the Status of Forces Agreement, including ensuring freedom of movement for peacekeepers. Stressing the need to re-evaluate the support provided by MINUSMA to the Malian Defence and Security Forces, he warned that a number of military operations have been marred by allegations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. He also voiced concern over the presence in Mali of the Russian Federation-backed Wagner Group.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), expressing regret over the casualties of two peacekeepers from the terrorist attacks against MINUSMA on 16 December, reiterated his country’s firm condemnation of terrorism. It is the Council’s duty to seek safer conditions for peacekeepers and civilian personnel as they perform their tasks, he emphasized, as he underscored the need to develop MINUSMA’s strategic communications component. Welcoming the settlement on the liberation of Côte d’Ivoire’s troops, he voiced his hope that transition authorities will handle the contingent rotations going forward in a swifter manner. He encouraged improved collaboration with MINUSMA and called for further coordination with the G5 Sahel since cross-border problems often require regional responses. At this political level, such cooperation can be equally beneficial to Mali, he said, articulating his support for confidence-building measures among political forces and ECOWAS’ decision to continue dialogue. The return to democratic normality is a collective endeavour which must include women, youth and ethnic and religious minorities. Malian political forces must redouble efforts towards the full implementation of the Algiers Peace Agreement. On the dire humanitarian situation, he underscored the need to address the root causes of conflict and pointed out that the Council can draw valuable lessons from the Peacebuilding Commission’s and the Peacebuilding Fund’s engagement with the Sahel.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador) condemned disinformation and misinformation campaigns in Mali, particularly those targeting MINUSMA, and voiced over concern the increased use of improvised explosive devices. Deploring restrictions on MINUSMA’s movement — which impede intelligence collection, jeopardize peacekeepers’ safety and undermine civilian protection — he said the Malian authorities must provide all possible support in line with the Status of Forces Agreement. Condemning the terrorist attacks that have left hundreds dead and displaced thousands in northern Mali, he expressed further concern over the illicit trade in small arms and encouraged more work on the border management and security strategy, as well as the prevention of radicalization and violent extremism in prisons and the strengthening of the specialized judicial unit to fight terrorism and crime. He went on to echo the Secretary-General’s call on parties that have suspended their participation in the Algiers Peace Agreement to cooperate, adding that the full, equal and meaningful participation of women must be ensured. For its part, the Council should build MINUSMA’s capacities, especially on personnel, equipment, transport and supplies.
DAI BING (China), stating that Mali has made major strides in promoting political transition and combating terrorism, stressed that the political and peace processes in that country are at a “critical juncture” and require the international community’s attention and support. A constitutional process has been initiated and election preparations have advanced, but political transition cannot be achieved overnight. He therefore called on relevant actors to address their differences through dialogue and create conditions conducive to the constitutional and electoral processes. He went on to note that Mali has been conducting counter-terrorism operations to maintain local stability and protect civilians. These efforts merit full recognition, but terrorist forces remain rampant throughout the country and security threats are spilling over into neighbouring States. Stressing that supporting Mali’s counter-terrorism efforts means safeguarding regional peace, he called on the international community to support such efforts through increased financing, equipment, intelligence and logistics. Partners must also respect Mali’s sovereign right to engage in external security cooperation. On MINUSMA, he urged those present to strengthen the Mission’s top-level design, streamline its mandate, focus resources on the most-urgent tasks and accommodate Mali’s legitimate concerns.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) stressed that the implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement remains the cornerstone for peace and democracy in Mali. A continued commitment by the signatory parties to revive that process remains urgent, she said, calling among other things for the resumption of regular dialogue between the parties. She also voiced concern over persistent insecurity, including the threat of terrorism, asserting: “Peace efforts are undermined by insecurity and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, for which the civilian population pays a high price.” Non-State armed groups, including violent extremist groups, as well as State actors and foreign security personnel, are responsible for such violations. Noting that humanitarian needs have increased, she said insecurity and climate change are contributing to a worsening food crisis and forced displacement, as well as an even more precarious security situation. In that context, she reiterated that to fulfil its mandate and effectively support Malian efforts, MINUSMA must have the necessary resources. It must — together with the Malian authorities — be able to create a security environment that allows it to operate effectively, she said, emphasizing that the Mission's freedom of movement is essential.
VASSILY NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said Mali is facing many security challenges as it attempts to achieve political stability. The country is undergoing a transition that includes constitutional revisions aimed at aligning with the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, which remains the foundation for lasting peace. Pledging solidarity with the Malian authorities as they address the central issue of security, he said the hasty withdrawal of European and French troops left a security vacuum, allowing terrorist groups to attack Malian civilians and peacekeepers. Mali has shown it can achieve results, he said, also voicing support for the work of MINUSMA personnel, who face grave threats. Expressing regret that many troop-contributing countries decided to withdraw their support in Mali, he said the successful implementation of MINUSMA’s mandate is only possible if support is also extended to the Malian defence forces. The Russian Federation is providing such support at the request of the Malian Government, he said, rejecting the blame cast on his delegation by colleagues. The goal of Moscow’s cooperation with Mali is to find a long-term solution to the crisis and to fight terrorism, he stressed, describing attempts by others to use the Council “to settle scores” as both irresponsible and a sign of disrespect.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan), Council President for the month, spoke in his national capacity to underscore that a return to constitutional order and the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law are imperative for Malians to decide their future. Noting the political progress made — including the presidential decree in December to establish a committee to finalize the draft constitution — he commended ECOWAS’ efforts to assist the Malian authorities to meet the transition deadline of March 2024. The 2015 Peace Agreement remains the only existing framework to achieve sustainable peace and ensure the territorial integrity of Mali, he asserted. Voicing deep concern over the worsening security situation in the country, he acknowledged the continued efforts by the Malian forces to address insecurity. However, he decried United Nations documentation of human rights violations allegedly committed by Malian and foreign security personnel. He further commended the efforts of MINUSMA amidst its continuing high toll of casualties. Recognizing the unprecedented difficulties MINUSMA faces, he called on the Malian authorities to allow for the Mission’s secure movement so that it may fulfil its mandate.
ABDOULAYE DIOP, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali, said his Government implements political and institutional reforms within an inclusive and transparent framework. Among other things, it has continued its consultations towards a draft constitution, which it hopes to submit through a referendum in March 2023. It has also scheduled a number of elections and adopted six draft laws accelerating its territory’s administrative reorganization. Assuring the Council of his commitment to the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, he spotlighted progress on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration through the integration of ex-combatants into national defence and security forces; the establishment of an ad hoc commission to resolve outstanding issues on integrating senior signatory movement officials within Government institutions; and the enhanced development of the country’s northern regions.
Despite such progress, he said, the reporting period regrettably saw the suspended participation of several signatory groups. Also voicing regret over the silence of the Secretary-General’s report on Malian defence and security forces’ efforts to protect civilians, combat terrorists and provide security, he said that — contrary to that report’s figures — Mali is strengthening its presence in the Douentza and Mopti regions as part of a new integrated strategy to improve basic social services. He highlighted a 58 per cent reduction in human rights violations, which is a direct result of increased State presence throughout the country. Against that backdrop, he voiced his firm opposition to any instrumentalization or politicization of human rights and appealed to the international community to give the Sahel the same humanitarian attention it has shown to other regions, while pledging his Government’s continued assistance to people in need.
Regarding MINUSMA’s internal review, he pointed out that the Secretary-General’s proposals do not account for the legitimate expectations of the Malian people and are limited to either altering the number of Mission personnel or transforming it into a special political mission — which is not far from the status quo. Instead, there is a need to change MINUSMA’s mandate and its rules of engagement in order to better adapt it to Mali’s security environment and ensure coordination and synergies between the Mission and Government forces. Bamako will cooperate with all partners who stringently respect Mali’s sovereignty, its strategic choices and its people’s interests, he said, stressing that he will not continue to justify its choice to engage in State-to-State cooperation with the Russian Federation. He then noted his surprise over the participation of a Malian civil society briefer, voicing scepticism over her credibility, and warned the Council against instrumentalizing civil society on behalf of hidden agendas.