Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced outrage today at a fatal attack against United Nations peacekeepers in Mali – the second in less than a week – that left one “blue helmet” dead and wounded another, while the UN peacekeeping chief urged Malian parties to make a “credible effort” to reach a peace accord.
On 7 October, a number of unidentified assailants launched approximately six mortar rounds at the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) camp in Kidal, in the country’s northeast, resulting in the death of the Senegalese peacekeeper.
Coming just four days after an ambush killed nine Nigerien MINUSMA peacekeepers in Mali’s Gao region, the latest attack brings the total number of fatalities suffered by the UN mission to 31 peacekeepers killed and 91 wounded since it first deployed on 1 July 2013.
In statement issued late yesterday by his spokesperson, the Secretary-General noted that the attack came on the eve of the UN Security Council’s consideration of the situation in Mali and reminded all parties of their responsibility to prevent attacks against blue helmets. Mr. Ban underscored that “a political solution is the only way to bring sustainable peace and stability” to the country.
In addition, he expressed his deepest condolences to the family of the fallen peacekeeper and wished a speedy recovery to the wounded.
Despite initial security improvements in 2013, the situation in Northern Mali has deteriorated since the beginning of this year. An increase in incidents involving improvised explosive devices, mostly targeting Malian and international security forces, has impeded the return to normalcy and resumption of economic and development activities.
The first phase of the inter-Malian negotiation process, which was held from 16 to 24 July in Algiers, aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace agreement which would end the crisis. It concluded with the adoption of a roadmap by all parties. A second phase of peace negotiations is currently underway in the Algerian capital.
In his briefing of the Council on the situation in Mali earlier today, Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations, warned that the security situation in the country is of concern as the rate of attack against MINUSMA operations has increased “substantially and steeply” amid a reduction in the presence of French troops and the “quasi-disappearance” of Malian armed forces from many places in the north.
“This has created a situation in which MINUSMA is the main foreign presence on the ground and, of course, this make us the target for all these spoilers – extremists, jihadists, traffickers – who would want to have the ground exclusively to themselves so as to carry-on with their nefarious activities,” Mr. Ladsous said via video feed from the Malian capital, Bamako.
“We are in a situation where we are [no longer] in a peacekeeping environment and this behoves on us to take a number of measures to face these asymmetric threats,” he continued.
Mr. Ladsous pointed out that the Mission was working “very actively” on a number of measures designed to strengthen the protection for MINUSMA bases, camps, equipment, and people in the face of what he described as “a whole range of threats,” including unguided rockets fired randomly, mortar shells, suicide attacks, and ambushes.
The Under-Secretary-General also voiced frustration over the “slow” progress in peace negotiations, adding that “both on the side of the Government and on the side of the armed groups, a credible effort needs to be made to find a compromise based on mutual trust and reciprocal good will.”
“Without losing any time, it’s important for an agreement to be reached,” he stated, reiterating the need for the return of Malian sovereignty to the rest of its territory.
At the same time, the Security Council similarly condemned yesterday’s attack in the “strongest terms” while reiterating their “full support” for the MINUSMA deployment.
The 15 members of the Council urged the Government of Mali to “swiftly” investigate the attack and bring the perpetrators to justice, adding that “those responsible for the attack shall be held accountable.” They also warned that such attacks may constitute war crimes under international law and reaffirmed the need to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.