The members of the United Nations Security Council today welcomed a peace and reconciliation accord between the Malian Government, armed groups and an international mediation team in what the body described as an “historic opportunity” for resolving the African country’s ongoing political and security crisis.
In a press statement, Council members said the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation, initialled by representatives of the Government and a coalition of armed groups, known as Platform, on 1 March was “a critical step to achieving lasting peace” in the conflict-ridden country and urged other armed groups to follow suit.
“The members of the Security Council encouraged the parties to seize this historic opportunity and to continue to engage constructively with sustained political will and in good faith, supported by the members of the international mediation team, to sign this agreement as soon as possible and commit to its effective, complete and sincere implementation, through the further development of implementation modalities and timelines,” the statement read.
Moreover, it said that the Council members underscored the need for “clear, detailed and concrete oversight mechanisms” for the agreement’s future implementation, adding that it would have to be “Malian-led and Malian-owned.”
Despite positive developments on the ground, the situation in Mali remains a challenge. The country’s Government has been 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.
Throughout much of this time, Mali's north has remained restive and, in recent months, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) and its “blue helmets” have come under repeated violent attack.
In addition, the country has been consumed by a series of humanitarian crises. Jens Laerke, from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), recently noted that at the peak of the crisis, more than 500,000 people had left the north of Mali to seek refuge in the south or in neighbouring countries. Although nearly 400,000 had already returned, they continued to face challenges in restarting their lives as communities had become more vulnerable, livelihoods had deteriorated, and social services were working only partially, especially in rural areas.
At the same time, Mali continued to face a high level of food insecurity and malnutrition – a problem affecting countries throughout Africa's Sahel region. According to UN estimates, nearly 2.6 million people in Mali, or 15 per cent of the total population, will suffer from food insecurity this year while more than one in 10 children would be affected by acute malnutrition.
In their statement, the members of the Security Council expressed their “deep concern over the volatile security situation” and reiterated their demand that all parties refrain from any action that would jeopardize the prospects for peace.