Situation in Mali Remains Volatile amid Escalating Clashes between Armed Groups, Official Tells Security Council, Calling for Sustained International Engagement
Representative Cites Progress on Reform Efforts, Pledges Bamako’s Commitment to Human Rights, while Rejecting Politicization
Amid surging clashes between non-State armed groups, massive displacement and a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation, the United Nations continues to offer the best framework for the lasting stability of Mali and the larger Sahel region, the Organization’s senior official in that country told the Security Council today, as he detailed recent developments on the ground.
El-Ghassim Wane, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Mali and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2023/236), told the 15-member Council that the situation remains volatile. More than 30,000 people have been displaced to Ménaka, in eastern Mali, since the beginning of 2022 as a result of the clashes between two non-State armed groups, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, known as JNIM.
“Listening to those displaced persons who were begging us literally for drinking water was a shocking experience,” he said, also noting the urgent need for food, medicine and shelter. In this increasingly complex environment, MINUSMA has continued to protect civilians through its patrols with Malian Defence and Security Forces. It also promotes reconciliation and social cohesion activities and calls on local authorities to provide basic social services. Improvements to MINUSMA’s freedom of movement and its coordination with Malian troops will be critical for the Mission to meet the legitimate expectations of the Malian people and authorities, he said, insisting that MINUSMA must retain its full operational capability and have the required uniform personnel.
He also called on signatory parties to the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali to respond to the profound aspirations of the Malian people by rising above their own interests. While the authorities have yet to communicate a new date for the constitutional referendum that was initially scheduled for 19 March, they have nevertheless stated that the delay will not compromise the restoration of constitutional order. For their part, the Security Council must continue its support and all parties must extend the necessary electoral assistance. The resilience of the Malian people is proof that the situation can be turned around through sustained engagement and commitment, he pointed out.
As Council members took the floor, many paid tribute to the peacekeepers who have lost their lives in service of MINUSMA. Delegates also called for enhanced cooperation with the Mission, as many voiced their concerns over the country’s political, humanitarian, security and human rights situations, and outlined their views.
The representative of Brazil, for one, welcomed the Malian authorities’ inclusion of women, trade unions, political parties and civil society representatives in the commission tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution. He also praised its cooperation on electoral support and efforts on gender, capacity-building and election-related violence prevention. While those developments are remarkable, he stressed that they cannot set a sound foundation for durable peace without the implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. All Malian political forces must redouble their efforts to address the root causes of conflict, he emphasized.
Building on those sentiments, Ghana’s delegate — also speaking on behalf of Gabon and Mozambique — called for broader investments in Mali’s inclusive development. The role of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, especially its climate-related peace and development interventions and its promotion of community-based dispute resolution mechanisms, should be encouraged. Peace dividends in Mali can be realized if all stakeholders consider the solution to the crisis as a shared responsibility, he underscored.
The representative of the United Kingdom pointed out that it is the Malian authorities who have the primary responsibility to implement the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement and must therefore take the first step. The Secretary-General’s latest report has clear indications that progress against the four parameters for MINUSMA to remain effective and relevant has not been made, she noted, citing the continuation of ground and air restrictions, persistence of tensions between signatory parties and expulsion of the Mission’s human rights director from the country. With no visible signs from Malian authorities of a commitment to these parameters, it cannot be “business as usual” for MINUSMA’s upcoming mandate renewal in June, she stressed.
China’s representative, encouraging Council members to listen attentively to Mali’s own wishes and priorities, urged the international community to remain patient as it undertakes practical steps to support the parties, resolve differences and ensure the smooth conduct of elections. The world must support Bamako’s efforts in countering terrorism, maintaining stability and protecting civilians through increased funding, equipment, intelligence and logistical assistance. However, any linking of human rights with such assistance would be counterproductive, undermine national sovereignty and amount to an intervention, he warned.
Echoing those points, the representative of the Russian Federation stressed that MINUSMA’s operations must be carried out with respect for the host country’s sovereignty. The postponement of the constitutional referendum took place for valid reasons, he said, highlighting the need to ensure the security of Malians in light of recent troop withdrawals. States which have reacted negatively to Moscow’s offer of support in Mali must renounce their own “neo-colonial habits”, he added, stressing: “This region does not belong to you — let Malians resolve their own problems with the partners they themselves have chosen.”
Mali’s delegate emphasized that there is no desire to restrict MINUSMA’s movement. Contrary to what is conveyed in the Secretary-General’s latest report, those movement requests did not comply with agreed upon procedures. He assured the Council that his country is working to implement political, institutional and electoral reforms within the framework of a transparent and inclusive process. Mali will also continue to tirelessly promote and protect human rights, he pledged, adding that his Government will oppose any politicization with equal vigour. Against that backdrop, he appealed for greater international solidarity on his country’s humanitarian situation.
Also speaking were the representatives of France, United Arab Emirates, Albania, Ecuador, Switzerland, Malta, United States and Japan.
The representatives of France, Ecuador and Mali took the floor a second time.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 11:59 a.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), presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2023/236), said the security situation in the country remains volatile. Since the beginning of 2022, there has been an upsurge in clashes between Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, known as JNIM, as those non-State groups compete to extend their spheres of influence and control supply lines. Malian security forces have conducted operations around the town of Ménaka and in areas further south in response, and Niger’s special forces have announced cross-border operations to pursue Islamic State elements. Despite this, the security and humanitarian situation remains catastrophic, with more than 30,000 people having been displaced to Ménaka.
“Listening to those displaced persons who were begging us literally for drinking water was a shocking experience,” he said, also noting the urgent need for food, medicine and shelter. In that increasingly complex environment, MINUSMA has continued to protect civilians through its patrols with Malian Defence and Security Forces; promote reconciliation and social cohesion activities; and call on local authorities to provide basic social services. The Mission has also carried out protection measures in the Gao and Centre regions, he added, noting that most of the incidents related to armed conflict in the past three months have occurred in the Mopti and Ségou regions. While operations in these areas have forced extremist groups to disperse into the surrounding areas of Timbuktu and Gao, they have nevertheless carried out surprise attacks on police stations along main supply routes and increasingly used improvised explosive devices to hamper the movements of Mali’s forces. MINUSMA will continue its protection activities in Ogossagou and Douentza, protect critical infrastructure and continue its attention to the human rights situation.
For their part, he said, Malian authorities must make every effort to ensure that military operations against terrorist and extremist groups are conducted in full compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law, that violations and abuses are transparently and promptly investigated and that perpetrators are brought to justice. In light of the current security challenges, he stressed the need for closer coordination between Malian forces and MINUSMA, so as to allow for a more judicious use of existing resources and greater effectiveness. Equally important is the Mission’s freedom of movement, especially as it continues to encounter challenges. Improvements in those areas will be critical for MINUSMA to meet the legitimate expectations of the Malian people and authorities for enhanced effectiveness, he said, insisting that the Mission must retain full operational capability and have the required uniformed personnel and capabilities in order to make a meaningful contribution.
He provided an overview of recent political developments, which included the submission of proposals from the international mediation to accelerate the implementation of outstanding provisions of the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali. Signatory parties must consider these with the required spirit of compromise, refrain from any action that may heighten tensions or undermine ongoing efforts and respond to the profound aspiration of the Malian people by rising above particular interests, he said, underscoring the importance of continued Council support. While the authorities have yet to communicate a new date for the constitutional referendum which was initially scheduled for 19 March, they have nevertheless stated that this delay will not compromise the restoration of constitutional order within the agreed timeline. Spotlighting the continued support of the United Nations Integrated Electoral Team, he called on all parties to extend the necessary assistance.
While the challenges in Mali are many, he emphasized the importance of not overlooking the advances that are being made — even if what has been achieved after a decade of intense international engagement is below expectations, not least those of the Malian people. They are proof that, with sustained engagement by the international community and commitment from stakeholders, the situation can be turned around. “The United Nations offers the best framework to support the lasting stabilization of Mali and the larger Sahel region, in close partnership with the African Union and [the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)],” he pointed out, adding: “We have all the tools required, ranging from peacekeeping to peacebuilding and development.”
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), stressing the need for the Council’s unanimous efforts to effectuate the full implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, said it is, however, “in greater danger than ever”. The resumption of fighting would be bad for the population and play into the hands of terrorists, he said, adding that the Council must call on all parties to support the mediation efforts by Algeria and MINUSMA. Turning to the political transition, which must take place within the scheduled timetable, the Council should be attentive to monitoring efforts by the African Union and ECOWAS. Noting the postponement of the constitutional referendum, he underscored the need for political actors to be able to express themselves freely and participate in the electoral campaign. He also emphasized the important role of MINUSMA, which has a significant budget allocation of $1 billion and a robust mandate that must be implemented. The Mission has a human rights mandate, which it must be allowed to carry out without hindrance. On that front, it is unacceptable that no further information has been released about the 2022 massacre in Moura, which involved the Wagner Group. Voicing concern over restrictions on the Mission’s operations, he said it cannot carry them out without the use of drones. Mali and the Council must respond to issues raised in the Secretary-General’s strategic review released in January before MINUSMA’s mandate renewal, he added.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) stressed the need for a comprehensive approach to address the political, security, humanitarian and developmental facets of the challenges facing Mali, and for the Council’s continued support in the context of discussions on the upcoming renewal of MINUSMA’s mandate. “We hope that the Council will speak with one voice, in the interest of the Malian people, taking into account the regional perspectives on this matter,” she added. She underscored the need for continued cooperation with host countries in order to allow peacekeeping forces to carry out their mandate safely and looked forward to the Department of Peace Operations’ joint study on the capabilities of the military and police forces. Turning to the political process, she stressed the need for progress — particularly on electoral arrangements for 2024, as well as the related constitutional steps — in line with the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. She voiced her hope that international mediation efforts will help the signatories communicate constructively to address outstanding issues and overcome the obstacles preventing the Agreement’s implementation. On the security front, she stressed the need for regional and subregional cooperation to address complex challenges, particularly trans-border ones, as well as to address the root causes of violence and extremism. Progress is also needed in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, she said, noting additional concerns about the humanitarian situation and the impact of climate change.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania), voicing concern over the multidimensional crisis facing Mali and the outstanding benchmarks to facilitate its transition to constitutional order by March 2024, acknowledged progress achieved by the Transitional Authorities in recent months, including through advancement on the constitutional review. That draft must now be adopted with broad-based consensus, and the return to constitutional order facilitated within the timelines agreed ECOWAS, she said, adding: “The constitutional reform should not be a reason to delay the elections.” Moreover, the stalled implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement is a major concern, she said, urging all parties to demonstrate commitment in implementing it. On the security front, which remains concerning, she noted that the Gao and Ménaka regions have become the epicenter of hostilities by violent jihadist groups targeting civilians. Since the Malian Defense and Security Forces started conducting military operations with the Wagner Group, violations and abuses have deplorably increased, she said, calling for operations to be carried out within the framework of international humanitarian law. Turning to MINUSMA, she regretted that the Mission faces major restrictions on its freedom of movement and the effective implementation of its mandate. Against that backdrop, she called for the release of the report on atrocities committed in 2022 during the Moura operations and called on the authorities to end their restrictions and respect the status-of-forces agreement ahead of MINUSMA’s mandate renewal in June.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), also speaking on behalf of Gabon and Mozambique, called for the early convening of the seventh high-level session of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement’s monitoring committee to address implementation differences and encourage the safeguarding of civic space. While Malian authorities have made notable efforts to restore constitutional order, unresolved differences over the draft constitution and the postponement of the referendum are nevertheless concerning. The remaining time must be effectively organized to realize institutional reforms and fulfil electoral commitments, he stressed, urging all signatory parties to remain united and show political will, as lack of unity undermines the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. Turning to the worrying security situation, he condemned the persistent terrorist attacks and called for stronger commitments in the implementation of the strategy to stabilize Mali’s centre. As the Council awaits the outcome of the joint military and police capability study, it must urgently address logistical and operational constraints facing the MINUSMA. Ensuring adequate troop strength, enhancing counter-terrorism strategies and removing land and air restrictions are essential for the Mission to respond to evolving security challenges. Coordinated action is also needed to manage the threat posed to Mali’s stability by the return of foreign terrorist fighters and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
On the humanitarian situation, he appealed to donor partners to increase their funding. Despite the efforts made by host authorities on human rights — including the establishment of a human rights division within the Ministry of Justice — grave human rights violations against women and children, including conflict-related sexual violence and abductions, have continued, mainly at the hands of armed groups. Against that backdrop, the authorities must expedite investigations and facilitate the speedy arrest and prosecution of perpetrators so that justice may prevail. Investments in inclusive processes for socioeconomic development to address the root causes of instability must also be prioritized. In that regard, the role of the Peacebuilding Commission in climate-related peace and development interventions, as well as in the promotion of community-based dispute resolution mechanisms, should be encouraged. Peace dividends in Mali can be realized if all stakeholders consider the solution to the crisis as a shared responsibility and demonstrate strong political will in fulfilling their respective obligations, he underscored.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador) voiced concern about persisting security challenges and little progress in improving the situation in Mali, calling for a deeper analysis of MINUSMA’s mandate ahead of its renewal in June. Stressing the need for the implementation of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, he welcomed the mediation efforts by Algeria and by MINUSMA on 13 March and issued an appeal for the resumption of meetings of the organs tasked with implementing the Agreement, especially the Monitoring Committee. He went on to emphasize the need for State authority to be reestablished throughout the country to ensure peace, inclusion, the defense of human rights and the return of internally displaced persons. MINUSMA must be allowed to implement its mandate, including through Malian authorities’ respect for the status-of-forces agreement, by allowing freedom of movement, the authorization of reconnaissance flights and the use of drones, against the backdrop of asymmetric threats. Further, enhanced regional and subregional cooperation is needed in the context of porous borders. He underlined the need to adopt the draft constitution in a timely manner, while condemning the verbal slander and defamation against the civil society representative who briefed the Council on 27 January, attacks which demonstrate the shrinking of Mali’s civic space. The disinformation campaigns against MINSUMA and the opposition are deplorable, as is the expulsion from Mali of the Mission’s Human Rights Division Director, which demonstrates the manipulation of human rights issue, he said.
ZHANG JUN (China), underscoring the need to support Mali’s efforts on countering terrorism, maintaining stability and protecting civilians, called for increased assistance in terms of funding, equipment, intelligence and logistics. Since the ultimate purpose of counter-terrorism operations should be to protect civilians’ right to life and security, China objects to using human rights as a political instrument. Linking human rights with counter-terrorism support and assistance would amount to intervention, undermine national sovereignty and be counterproductive to the protection of human rights, he warned. Turning to the implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, he called on MINUSMA to ensure compliance with the ceasefire arrangement; advance the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process; and provide capacity-building support to national security forces. For its part, the international community must remain patient as it takes practical steps to support parties in seizing the opportunity of a political transition, resolve differences through dialogue and ensure the smooth conduct of elections. He encouraged the Council to listen attentively to the views of Mali’s Government as members consider streamlining MINUSMA’s mandate to enhance its operational performance. He also commended the Mission’s recent tweet showcasing the typical day of a female Chinese paramedic, which projected a positive image of peacekeeping operations.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland), condemning violence and attacks against peacekeepers, Malian armed forces and civilians, underscored the importance of “winning with women” by ensuring their participation in elections as both candidates and voters. Since the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement must remain the central framework to avoid a resumption of hostilities, she encouraged the Government and signatory parties to resume dialogue in a regular manner. While the launch of a stabilization strategy for the country’s centre region and its related action plan is an important step to strengthen security, the challenge now is its immediate implementation, in close collaboration with MINUSMA. All actors must pull in the same direction, coordination with Malian Defence and Security Forces must be increased and MINUSMA’s freedom of movement must be guaranteed. International humanitarian law and human rights must also be respected in all circumstances, she underscored, voicing her concern over the growing number of grave violations against children and the increasing reports of sexual and gender-based violence. All parties to the conflict must immediately end these violations and release all children in their ranks. For their part, the authorities must combat impunity by prosecuting perpetrators, she insisted, emphasizing that no lasting peace is possible without accountability and respect for fundamental rights.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), reiterating her support for MINUSMA and condemning attacks against peacekeepers, welcomed the mediation efforts spearheaded by Algeria in support of the implementation of the 2015 Peace Agreement. Ahead of MINUSMA’s mandate renewal, she took note of relative progress in the political sphere through the launch of the Strategy for the Stabilization of the Centre and the consultative process towards the drafting of the constitution, while recognizing the need for further deliberations. Timelines for the holding of the referendum should be established and respected. She expressed concern about grave security threats due to persisting terrorist activities and commended MINSUMA’s cooperation with the Malian armed forces in that regard. Stressing the need for ancillary acts to respect international law, she condemned all violations against civilians by armed groups and private military companies such as the Wagner Group, calling for accountability for all such abuses, including the massacre in Moura in 2022. Turning to the humanitarian situation, she noted that needs increased by 17 per cent in 2023, with 8.8 million people requiring assistance, accompanied by large-scale displacement. She voiced concern about gender-based violence and an uptick in grave violations against children. On MINUSMA’s operations, she called for the lifting of any restrictions of movement and access, adding that any imposed hindrance on the Mission’s work constitutes a violation of the status-of-forces agreement.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) pointed out that the Secretary-General’s latest report has clear indications that progress against the four parameters for MINUSMA to remain effective and relevant has not been made. Ground and air movement restrictions continue to hinder peacekeepers, with a quarter of flight requests rejected by authorities during the reporting period. MINUSMA’s human rights director was also expelled following dangerous criticism directed at the civil society representative who briefed the Security Council in January, reflecting a worrying disregard for the Mission’s mandate. Since the Council counts on MINUSMA’s investigation of and reporting on human rights, she urged the immediate release of the report on the alleged massacre of civilians in Moura by Malian armed forces and Wagner Group personnel in March 2022. Tensions continue to persist between signatories to the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, she added, calling on those parties to engage with the international mediation’s proposals. Malian authorities must take the first step, since they have the primary responsibility to implement the Agreement and reforms must not impede the timely transition to constitutional rule. With no visible signs from Malian authorities of a commitment to the Secretary-General’s parameters, it cannot be “business as usual” for MINUSMA’s mandate renewal in June, she said.
JEFFREY DE LAURENTIS (United States), underscoring the importance of the four parameters for MINUSMA’s mandate implementation set out in the Secretary-General’s latest report, urged the Malian authorities to make progress on implementing the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation and to ensure MINUSMA’s freedom of movement and access, which are crucial for the implementation of its mandate. He deplored the denial of 300 flight requests, which threaten the security of peacekeepers and hinder their ability to carry out their mandate, calling on the transitional authorities to comply with their obligations under the status-of-forces agreement. The United States is gravely concerned by the decision to expel MINSUMA’s human rights chief and condemns the obstruction of their human rights mandate. Further, he voiced concern about the denial of visas to the United Nations Panel of Experts on Mali — which impacts the activities of the Council’s sanctions committee — and called for accountability for the civilian massacre in Moura, voicing disappointment that the United Nations has not yet released its report about the incident. Noting the postponement of the constitutional referendum, he went on to voice the United States full support for MINUSMA’s work, including ahead of elections.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) stressed that the best way forward towards achieving lasting peace in Mali is to strengthen cooperation among all stakeholders — domestically, regionally and internationally. Securing a safe political and civic space for all concerned parties to engage in political dialogue is essential as the country prepares to conduct free, fair and transparent elections by March 2024. As the only existing framework to achieve durable peace and reconciliation, the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement’s implementation must go hand in hand with the democratic transition, with the international mediation’s role now more important than ever. For its part, the Council must hear the diverse voices of a variety of actors, including civil society leaders, he said, stressing that no one should experience intimidation before or after briefing the organ. On the alarming and worsening security situation, he said his country remains disturbed by continued human rights violations allegedly committed by Malian and foreign security personnel. Fostering social cohesion, addressing structural fragility, delivering basic services and ensuring respect for human rights and international humanitarian law must accompany security operations, he emphasized, underscoring the importance of enhanced cooperation between the transitional authorities and MINUSMA.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), reiterating his firm condemnation of terrorism, called on the Council to renew its efforts to protect the most vulnerable and support the Malian armed forces. So far, no solution has been reached for the resumption of unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights, despite MINUSMA’s adoption of agreed measures. He urged the authorities to urgently work with the Mission on the review procedure for such drone flights. Since regional cooperation can be beneficial in paving the way to a successful transition process, he voiced his hope that dialogue with ECOWAS mediators will lead to closer collaboration on a transition plan. The Malian authorities have notably added legitimacy to that exercise by bringing women, trade unions, political parties and civil society representatives to the drafting commission, he said, also welcoming the cooperation on electoral support, gender promotion, capacity-building and election-related violence prevention. Although these developments are remarkable, they cannot set a sound foundation for durable peace without the implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. Against that backdrop, he urged all Malian political forces to redouble their efforts and underscored the need to address the root causes of conflict, which should guide the Council in adjusting and reviewing MINUSMA’s mandated tasks.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity, commending the Government of Mali’s systematic efforts to stabilize the security situation and lay the groundwork for elections within the stipulated timeframe. Discussions are also under way regarding a road map, electoral laws and the drafting of a new constitution. The postponement of the constitutional referendum on 10 March took place for valid reasons, he said, underscoring the need to ensure the security of Malians, due to the withdrawal of French Barkhane Mission troops and the European Union’s Takuba force. The Malian Government is committed to the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, including the work of the monitoring committee, he said, noting that negotiations towards the integration of former combatants are complicated. Stability is not possible in the Sahel without the stabilization of the situation in Mali, where groups of terrorists carry out regular raids against the population. Despite such difficulties, the Malian armed forces had demonstrated their capability in effectively combating terrorism, he said, adding that MINUSMA’s operations must be carried out in close coordination with the host country and with respect for its sovereignty. He voiced regret about the decision of some troop-contributing countries to end or suspend participation in the Mission, while noting the negative reaction of some States to the Russian Federation’s own support. Such countries must renounce their “neo-colonial habits”, he said, stressing: “This region does not belong to you — let Malians resolve their own problems with the partners they themselves have chosen.”
ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali) said his Government is working to implement political, institutional and electoral reforms within the framework of a transparent and inclusive process. Notably, the planned referendum on the finalized draft constitution has been postponed in order to prevent fraud, including by introducing a biometric national identity card, creating the conditions for effective participation and facilitating the operationalization of the independent electoral management authority. The Government is currently disseminating the draft among its population and will continue implementing the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. To date, 2,750 ex-combatants have been reintegrated into national defence and security forces; the Council of Ministers has adopted texts on the creation of a reparations management authority for victims; and the Government will approve a centre for the promotion of peace and unity. Dozens of terrorists have also been neutralized and their sanctuaries destroyed, while large quantities of military ordnance have been seized and many perpetrators brought to justice.
He emphasized that these actions have collectively made it possible to strengthen the State’s presence, lift terrorists’ grip on northern and central regions and promote the provision of basic social services. All operations have been conducted in strict compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law, he noted. While Mali will continue to tirelessly promote and protect human rights, it will also stand up with equal vigour against this issue’s politicization, he asserted, addressing the delegates of France and Ecuador, in particular, for having a “selective memory” on those matters. Appealing for greater international solidarity on Mali’s humanitarian situation, he said that, contrary to what is conveyed in the Secretary-General’s latest report, there is no desire to restrict MINUSMA’s movements, as its requests did not comply with agreed upon procedures. The Mission should work more closely with Government authorities. Turning to MINUSMA’s future, he said the conclusions in its internal review did not meet the expectations of the Government and the Malian people. While Mali remains open to dialogue on that issue, Bamako expressly requested a change of penholder, in light of the numerous documented acts that France is guilty of committing.
The representative of France, taking the floor a second time, said he did not intend to cause controversy with his remarks. He recalled the circumstances of early 2013, with which he was well acquainted due to his previous role, when France intervened at the request of the Malian Government to stave off an offensive by Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb — which would have taken over the country in 24 or 48 hours if it had not been for the intervention of the French army. Since 2013, 50 French soldiers have fallen to defend Mali’s sovereignty and peace, he added. On the situation pertaining to the wedding in Bounti, he said that the representative of Mali did not describe the incident accurately. Initial reports by the United Nations were not accurate, he stressed, adding that he looks forward to the release of a report on the incident in Moura, which left 300 people dead.
The representative of Ecuador, taking the floor a second time in response to a reference to his country, stressed that human rights should not be politicized since they concern all of humanity and are not the property of any one country. Ecuador today is a democracy where no journalists, prosecutors or judges are persecuted, he pointed out, suggesting that Mali’s representative may have forgotten that the Government under Ecuador’s former President Rafael Correa completed its term four years ago.
The representative of Mali, taking the floor again, said the human rights situation in his country is a cause for concern and is linked to the security situation. Nonetheless, he opposed the statement by the representative of France, urging him to re-read available documents and reports on the issue he addressed. He also voiced concern over continued violations of his country’s airspace and asked delegates to refrain from politicizing the issue of human rights.