As Mali emerges from a 2012 crisis that nearly split the country in half, members of the United Nations Security Council who led the 15-member body’s recent visit to the country emphasized today that any sustainable solution – on the security, political and development fronts – must be agreed and led by Malians themselves.
Reporting to the wider Council, Ambassador Gerard Araud, of France, said that one of the most salient lessons the diplomats learned during their 1 to 3 visit to the slowly recovering West African nation was the fact that any lasting political solution regarding northern Mali must be decided by Malians themselves and fully supported by the international community.
The Government is seeking to restore stability and rebuild following a series of setbacks since early 2012, including a military coup d’état, renewed fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, and the seizure of its northern territory by radical Islamists.
The Council last April authorized the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to assist the authorities in their efforts, with support from the French security mission in Mali, known as Serval.
Mr. Araud, who briefed the Council alongside the mission’s co-leader Bante Mangaral, Deputy Permanent Representative of Chad to the United Nations, added that the team had also found that ensuring lasting security in the north of Mali would require a compressive policy that, first and foremost, is nationally-led and internationally supported.
As for the Council’s activities, he said the delegation met in Bamako with Malian authorities who had come to power through successful elections in 2013 – including President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, members of his cabinet, and Prime Minister Oumar Tatam Ly. The delegation also met with armed groups that signed the preliminary Ouagadougou Accords, as well as those that adhere to the tenets of the deal.
Mr. Araud said the Council also travelled to Mopti which is 600 kilometres northeast of Bamako, and met with local authorities and civil society representatives from the town as well as from Goa and Timbuktu. They also visited the MINUSMA base and evaluated the status of the Mission’s deployment.
Of his overall impressions, Mr. Araud said it became clear that any political agreement should be reached in Mali itself. The members of the Council also recalled that rebel factions must be disarmed in accordance with the Ouagadougou Accords, while the authorities felt that disarmament and dialogue should be part of the same movement.
He said that while the armed groups asked that the preliminary Accords be implemented swiftly the Council delegation reminded them that they needed to agree to cantonment and thus enter the disarmament process.
Mr. Araud said the Council was very pleased that close to the end of their visit, Malian authorities had presented the basics of a roadmap for helping the country emerge from the crisis. He also saluted the recent adoption by the Government and armed groups, supported by MINUSMA, of a method for cantonment and encouraged all the parties “to take this path in a determined and committed fashion.”
“We will be watching them as they meet their commitments,” he added, also reiterating the Council’s call for MINSUMA to deploy fully in the North, particularly as French troops drew down.
Stressing that there is can be no peace without development, he said that young people in the North of Mali must not become prey to either terrorist groups or drug traffickers. With that in mind, during the visit, he said that during the visit MINUSNMA chief Bert Koenders noted the importance of mutual agreements between Malian partners and international donors to help spur broader development in the country.
For his part, Mr. Mangaral said that Council’s visit “raised much hope among Malian people because they believe that dialogue is the only path to returning to sustainable peace.” A real will to move towards inclusive dialogue was shown.
“Malians are unanimous that the cause of the crisis affecting their country is neither religious nor tribal,” he said, explaining that the populations are mostly Muslim and the presence of various ethnic groups throughout the territory had led to mixed unions and created links which increased intolerance. The Malian parties believed in the merits of the preliminary Accords and felt it was time to move forward with their finalization.
Yet despite progress, real challenges remained in the security, political, food, health, law and education sectors. In addition, he said that persistent criminal activity due to a lack of judicial authority, especially in the North was also noted.
Further, Mr. Mangaral said the fact that there are signatories to the Accords along with armed groups who adhere to it is a cause of dissension; those who adhere to it must be included in the ongoing political talks. For example, he said the Aswad movement has two separate factions, each claiming legitimacy, a situation that, if left unaddressed, might complicate negotiations.
He emphasized however that the road map drawn up by the Malian parties “is a sign of hope and a good trigger for resuming peace talks”. The international community represented in the country expressed its willingness to assist Malian authorities in achieving a sustainable peace.