A year and half after the military took power by force in Mali, there has been “no notable progress” in implementing the 2015 peace agreement, the top United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today, as delegates called for an independent investigation into reports of summary executions of civilians in the town of Moura in March.
El-Ghassim Wane, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), said March saw several deadly attacks by Islamic State in the Greater Sahara around Menaka, and in the south, near Gao, leading to the death of 40 civilians and displacement of 3,640 households.
He said Malian armed forces have stepped up their counter-terrorism efforts in the country’s centre to break the chokehold of extremist groups — efforts that appear to have led to a decrease in clashes between community defence forces and terrorist groups, vehicle hijackings and abductions.
Noting that last week’s offensive by Malian armed forces against Katiba Macina elements in Moura village, south of Mopti, falls within the scope of these operations, he said MINUSMA had received reports of serious rights abuses against civilians during the course of events. It conducted a reconnaissance overflight on 3 April. However, despite “extensive engagement” with national authorities, authorization for an “integrated mission” has not been issued.
He pressed authorities to cooperate with MINSUMA so it can access the site of alleged violations, noting more generally that the Mission has opened 17 investigations into charges of indiscriminate attacks against civilians, extrajudicial arrests, mistreatment, forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
On the political front, he said the lack of respect for the peace agreement — known formally as the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali — is compounded by the fact that the Agreement Monitoring Committee has not met since October 2021.
Recalling that the political transition was to have concluded in March — in line with the 18 month timetable negotiated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) after the August 2020 coup d’état — he said the non completion of the transition within the agreed timelines led the bloc to impose economic and financial sanctions last January.
On that point, Bouaré Bintou Founé Samaké, President of Women in Law and Development in Africa in Mali, said the withdrawal of Barkhane forces — a counterinsurgent operation led by France since 2014 — has created mistrust among Westerners, in the face of cooperation with the Wagner Group. She recommended that the Council strengthen the gender language in MINUSMA’s mandate on security sector reform and specify actions to be taken by the Mission in support of Government efforts to provide more gender-sensitive security services.
In the ensuing dialogue, delegates urged Mali’s transitional leaders to maintain dialogue with ECOWAS and to fulfil their promises of a swift return to constitutional order. “The people of Mali are yearning for peace in their country and so are the Member States in the region,” said Ghana’s representative, speaking also for Gabon and Kenya. A swift return to constitutional order would give the elected Government the legitimacy to lead implementation of the peace accord.
“Fresh impetus is needed,” added France’s delegate, who also called on leaders to propose a strategy for addressing the crisis in the country’s centre and for protecting civilians. He was among those who expressed extreme concern over alleged violations by elements of the Malian armed forces and the Wagner Group.
On that point, the representative of the United States condemned an attack that killed three Egyptian peacekeepers, stressing that those involved — and more broadly, those planning, directing or committing human rights violations — may be subject to Council sanctions. Further, credible investigations must look into links with the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group. “Malians deserve answers to what happened in Moura,” he said, objecting also to authorities’ disregard of the status of forces agreement with the Mission, especially in the south.
Countering those claims, the Russian Federation’s delegate pointed out that Mali’s authorities “do not have a hidden agenda”. They have conducted a national process to prepare for elections and even established a dialogue group. It was, in fact, France’s military withdrawal that created a security vacuum in the north, an “extremely irresponsible” move made without consulting Bamako. Claims about the involvement of Russian mercenaries are part of “a sordid geopolitical game”.
Offering a national perspective, Mali’s representative said transitional authorities are embarking on “major reforms” to ensure the stability of institutions. Minimum security conditions must be created so that elections can be held. He called for the lifting of sanctions by ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union, stressing that they punish the Malian people for their political choice in favour of a regime change.
Responding to claims that the Government is using a private security company, he said Mali has made no such commitment and has instead maintained a “fruitful” bilateral relationship with the Russian Federation since 1960. He went on to note that Moura is a terrorist sanctuary, stressing that the military prosecutor has opened an investigation into charges of abuse against civilians. Pending its conclusions, he called on all stakeholders to refrain from accusing the Malian armed forces of massacres.
Source: UN Security Council