Briefing by Mr. Mongi Hamdi Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Mali
Throughout this period, MINUSMA directed political and military efforts to overcome these challenges. First, military resources were directed to the protection of civilians in Kidal and Anefis. Second, an enhanced effort was undertaken to survey the movement of armed groups. Third, and most importantly, to address the violations of the ceasefire, which often lead to serious human rights and international humanitarian law violations, I used my good offices to persuade the parties to abide by their commitments and avoid an escalation of tensions.
It bears particular mention that, on 28 August, President Keïta called for the Plateforme’s withdrawal from Anefis without conditions. His determined efforts, added to those of MINUSMA and the rest of the international community, succeeded in persuading the Plateforme to eventually withdraw.
The return of the CMA to Anefis on 18 September was not coordinated in the context of the Comité Technique de Sécurité, CTS, as sought by the international Mediation. CMA’s return to Anefis, although justified according to the provisions of the disengagement plan, raised tensions unnecessarily at a time during which the paramount goal was to ensure that the parties returned to “the logic of the peace agreement”.
When confrontation broke out near In Khalil not far from the Algerian border at the beginning of September, MINUSMA was deeply concerned that this could lead to the end of the peace process. In response, I called the leadership of CMA and Plateforme and met with them separately to address the situation. On 23 September, I facilitated a joint meeting in Bamako of the Plateforme and CMA leadership to break the political stalemate. This involved MINUSMA bringing together for the first time the top military leadership of both movements.
At that meeting, the parties agreed on the following. First, to cease hostilities, including provocative troop deployments. Second, the in-principle return to their initial positions prior to the 20 June signature of the peace agreement. Third, a return to the peace process, including participation in the Comité de Suivi and its subsidiary bodies. Fourth, agreement on the circulation of people without arms. Lastly, there was a general agreement to continue dialogue among the communities and resolve problems peacefully.
I am pleased to report that the ceasefire and the terms of these agreements are now holding. The CMA and the Plateforme have continued discussions and participated in a joint visit, with Government Ministers to Anefis on 27 and 28 September.
The difficulties of these last two months show the importance of determined international engagement to prevent escalation and bring the peace process back on track. They also show the urgency of making decided progress in the work of the institutions established by the peace agreement. The international community, with MINUSMA playing a key role, must remain engaged in political efforts to defuse tensions.
There is a particularly urgent need to advance in the cantonment process, and this is in fact happening now. Reconnaissance missions are ongoing of cantonment sites proposed by the Plateforme. As soon as the CMA turns in their proposed sites, similar reconnaissance missions will take place.
Over the past few months, criminals—along with opportunistic elements—have been resorting to looting and banditry. This fosters insecurity and fear among the population, while reducing faith in the peace process. In some cases, there have been calls for the formation of self-defence groups—a move that could create added security challenges further down the line.
The priority at present is to rebuild trust among the Malian parties and to promote national reconciliation and fight impunity. To this end, MINUSMA is supporting a Conference d’entente nationale that will be organized by the Government of Mali.
Redress for victims of human rights and humanitarian law violations is key today to the consolidation of peace and national reconciliation. Those responsible for serious human rights and international humanitarian law violations must be held accountable.
I welcome the commitment of the Malian Government to establish transitional justice mechanisms and call for a more transparent and inclusive process that places victims at the centre of discussions.
To contribute to a more secure environment, MINUSMA is seeking to deploy longer range Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. It is also hoping to free up troops previously dedicated to the protection of supply lines through the deployment of a Combat Convoy Battalion. These moves would help the Mission to expand its presence in key areas of the north and to take timely dissuasive action within the framework of its mandate.
I also appeal to troop and police contributing countries to provide elements with appropriate equipment to allow MINUSMA to reach its mandated Force and Police levels. In order to ensure gender mainstreaming within the Mission, troop and police contributing countries are encouraged to include women in the contingents.
The deployment of Military Observers (MILOBS), most of which are expected to be operational by the middle of this month, will help in the task of observing and reporting on ceasefire violations. In light of recent experience, such reports could form the basis of discussions on implementing sanctions against spoilers of the peace agreement.
I would like to stress the importance of statements coming from the Council on its support for MINUSMA and its role in the implementation of the peace process. I welcome the conclusions of the aforementioned Ministerial Consultative Meeting on the Malian Peace Process, which took note of the Security Council’s readiness to consider targeted sanctions against those obstructing or threatening the implementation of the agreement.
There is a strong need to ensure the delivery of peace dividends, especially to the population of conflict-affected areas. MINUSMA has been seeking to provide improved water access, supporting expanded electricity supply, ensuring the return to school for children whose education has been thwarted by the conflict, and encouraging the voluntary return of internally displaced persons or refugees to their communities of origin. There I am pleased to note the efforts of the Government in coordination with MINUSMA to help children from Gao and Timbuktu to return to school.
In addition, it is imperative to involve civil society closely in this phase of implementation, including women, youth, and traditional leaders, ensuring broad ownership of the Peace Agreement. MINUSMA is strongly committed to raising awareness and disseminating the Peace Agreement, in partnership with civil society.
While we regret the delays in the implementation of some provisions of the agreement, it is important to stress that the concerted action of MINUSMA, the Government of Mali and the international Mediation was successful in bringing the parties back to the logic of the peace agreement.
I also took note of the recent decision of the Malian authorities to postpone local elections. The postponement offers an opportunity to bring the electoral calendar in line with the terms outlined in the peace agreement.
In closing, Mr. President, I should say that the process is back on track. Nonetheless vigilance will be necessary. It my strong conviction that promoting the implementation of the agreement, through close support to the authorities, the CSA and its subsidiary bodies, provides the best opportunity for Mali to address its multiple challenges.
I thank you, Mr. President.