Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Mali (S/2021/1117).

Bamako’s Representative Strongly Condemns Move as Illegal, as Delegates Urge Constructive Dialogue to Set New Electoral Calendar, Restore Constitutional Order

Sanctions imposed on Mali in December 2021 were upheld and new restrictions imposed, following an extraordinary meeting held by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) over the weekend to assess the situation in the strife‑torn country, the senior United Nations official for Mali 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), said that the sanctions were imposed by ECOWAS as it judged the transitional authorities’ proposed timeline for presidential elections — for the end of 2025 — which was found to be unacceptable. However, such measures will be reviewed and gradually lifted with the finalization of an acceptable timetable for elections and progress towards its implementation. Mali reciprocated by announcing the recall of its ambassadors and closure of borders with ECOWAS member States, he noted, adding that the Assises nationales de la refondation, which held meetings between 11 and 30 December 2021, produced recommendations on institutional and governance reforms, which, if enacted, would help stabilize the country and provide a window of opportunity to move forward on implementing the 2015 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali.

Turning to the international mediation efforts led by Algeria, he noted that the collective met on 5 January and called for a decision-making meeting among Malian signatories to be held in the coming weeks, and to enable overdue progress, notably on global disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, based on the Government’s concrete offer to integrate 26,000 combatants in the next two to three years.

Observing that during 2021, MINUSMA faced the highest number of casualties since 2013 following a significant rise of asymmetric attacks targeting convoys, camps and temporary operating bases, he pointed out its comprehensive efforts notwithstanding, a decade into the crisis, insecurity has expanded, while the humanitarian situation has deteriorated, with heightened food insecurity, an increasing number of internally displaced persons and more children out of school. Therefore, he called for steps to expedite the transition process, stressing: “A protracted impasse will make it much harder to find a consensual way out, while increasing hardship for the population and further weakening State capacity, with far-reaching consequences for Mali and its neighbours.”

Also addressing the Council was Adam Dicko, social activist and Executive Director of the Youth Association for Active Citizenship and Democracy, who painted a dismal picture of the “epidemic” faced by Mali, in which only 2 to 3 per cent of children in pastoral nomads’ families go to school, life expectancy is only 50 years, and heightened inequality is leading to many people in the country feeling excluded from society.

On the deteriorating security situation prevailing in the country, she pointed out that the current military response is inadequate due to its limits and inability to defeat or even contain the threat. “Mali must not become the new site of clashes between global Powers,” she declared, citing Syria, Afghanistan and Libya as examples not to follow.

In the ensuing discussion, many Council members urged the Malian authorities to engage constructively with ECOWAS and international partners in setting out a calendar for holding elections and returning to the constitutional order. Several speakers expressed concern about the extremist threats spreading to the south of the country, with many deploring the increasing frequency of attacks on MINUSMA and its devastating impact on civilians and peacekeepers.

The representative of the United States urged Mali to work with MINUSMA to improve the security environment, noting that her country will continue to support peacekeeper safety by providing necessary training and equipment through the United States’ Global Peace Operations Initiative. MINSUMA needs an increase to its troop ceiling to better protect civilians in central Mali, she said, expressing concern about the reported presence of individuals linked to the Wagner Group who could pose a danger to MINUSMA peacekeepers and to the people of Mali.

In a similar vein, the representative of France regretted the transitional authorities’ use of public funds to pay foreign mercenaries, such as the Wagner Group, which threatens civilians, pillages resources and violates international law. He called upon the transitional authorities to resume the road to dialogue and move towards a credible timeline for elections, to implement the peace agreement and frame a strategy to stabilize the central region.

Meanwhile, the Russian Federation’s delegate countered that Malians have every right to interact with partners who are ready to cooperate with them in strengthening security and described some Council members’ remarks about a Russian company as “hysteria”. Without restoring State control across the country, the results of the elections will not be considered legitimate, he said, adding that the imposition of sanctions only worsens the situation.

The representative of Gabon, also speaking for Ghana and Kenya, urged the Council to respect and embrace the position of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government that Mali’s decision to extend the transitional period to five years is unacceptable and that an expedited transition to constitutional rule should be undertaken without delay. He called on the Council to extend its full support for measures, including the suspension of all commercial and financial transactions between ECOWAS member States and Mali, and stressed the need to address the growing insecurity in the country, including by bolstering material and financial support for the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) joint force.

Mali’s representative, taking the floor after Council members, said the recommendations put forth by Malians during dialogues in December 2021 will provide a new course of action for the transitional Government. His country’s Government immediately initiated consultations with ECOWAS on the timetable for completing the transition. However, “we were shocked to learn of the imposition of economic and financial sanctions against Mali”, he said, adding that the sanctions imposed by the West African Economic and Monetary Union and ECOWAS are in flagrant violation of the founding texts of these organizations.

In response to comments by the delegate of France on the Malian Government’s use of a private security company, he urged an end to such a false information campaign. There is no mercenary on Malian soil, he said, adding that, however, thanks to State-to-State cooperation, Russian trainers and instructors are in Mali to train Malian soldiers in the use of equipment acquired by Mali from the Russian Federation.

Also speaking today were representatives of United Kingdom, Mexico, India, Albania, Brazil, Ireland, China, United Arab Emirates and Norway.

The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 12:05 p.m.