The situation in Mali - Security Council, 8893rd meeting
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The situation in Mali - Security Council, 8893rd meeting.

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Efforts, Pledges Government Will Present Electoral Timetable to Regional Body

Amid intensifying insecurity and a worsening humanitarian situation in Mali, profound political and governance reforms are crucial to creating the conditions for credible elections and enduring stability, the senior United Nations official in that country told the Security Council today.

El‑Ghassim Wane, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) described as “extremely challenging” the situation unfolding in the country, which has been grappling with a slow transition to democracy since the military coup d’état of 24 May.

Political uncertainty has persisted since, with Mali’s northern, central and southern regions experiencing heightened insecurity, he continued. Humanitarian needs have increased and 4.7 million people are in need of assistance, he noted, adding that some 400,000 others are internally displaced. Moreover, there have been unrelenting attacks targeting Malian and international forces, including MINUSMA peacekeepers.

Against that backdrop, expectations of MINUSMA remain very high on the part of both the Government and the defence and security forces, he stated. The Mission has endeavoured to adapt to the complex and ever-evolving threat environment within existing resources, although its budget is overstretched, he said. Noting that significant gaps remain in capabilities that are critical to ensuring mobility and flexibility, he urged countries in a position to do so to help mobilize the resources required to make the Mission fit for purpose.

Turning to the 2015 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, he said, “progress has been frustratingly slow on the key provisions as they relate to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, institutional reforms and development in the north”. However, there was encouraging progress, emblematized by the integration of 13,000 former combatants of the signatory movements by the end of 2021, he acknowledged, adding: “This is, in our view, a significant step forward in a process which has largely been at a standstill for the past six years.”

Council members then shared observations and concerns following their visit to Bamako the previous week, emphasizing the responsibility of the transitional authorities — on the heels of two coups d’état — to take concrete steps towards holding free and fair elections by February 2022. Others stressed the urgent need to ensure the protection of civilians and expressed support for the mediation efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Niger’s representative, speaking for the group of countries known informally as the “A3+1” (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), said the Council’s visit threw into relief the kinds of constraints under which the “Blue Helmets” operate. Moreover, it allowed a view into measures by the transition authorities to stabilize widespread insecurity and address the social and political situation. However, stabilization must occur through credible and transparent elections, he emphasized.

The representative of the United States was among many delegates expressing concern about the deteriorating security situation, borne out by the “audacity, frequency and severity of attacks against civilians, international forces and MINUSMA”. He emphasized the need for the transition authorities to prioritize the protection of civilians, take credible steps against impunity, and provide a political channel for civilians to share their grievances.

The United Kingdom’s representative noted the commitment of civil society leaders and Mali’s neighbours to national dialogue and peacebuilding, and to working together for stability in the Sahel. “We received some worrying messages from the authorities about their commitment to the transition and on regional cooperation,” he said, echoing the calls for the transitional authorities to publish an election timetable without delay.

However, the Russian Federation’s representative said that in light of continued attacks by extremist groups against Mali’s forces and United Nations peacekeepers, it is irresponsible to reduce military aid and leave the country to its own devices, declaring the “stakes are too high”. The Malians have every right to reach out to partners who are ready to help them strengthen security, she added. Decisions about the Mission, including troop strength, should consider the opinion of Bamako, she said, emphasizing that any settlement must respect the principle of “African solutions to African problems”.

Mali’s representative affirmed the commitment of the transitional authorities to protecting civilians against barbaric and indiscriminate attacks, and their focus on recruiting, training, equipping and strengthening the operational capacities of the defence and security forces. He said that despite the challenging security situation, which has sparked a humanitarian crisis, the transitional Government is determined to lay the foundations for reforms that can guarantee inclusive, transparent and credible elections. The authorities are already working hard to prepare for the upcoming polls and will present an electoral calendar to ECOWAS, he added.

Also speaking today were representatives of Ireland, Estonia, India, China and Norway.

The meeting began at 11:14 a.m. and ended at 12:30 p.m.