Despite some progress, key challenges to implementing Mali’s peace and reconciliation agreement remained, one year after the Government and armed groups signed the accord, the United Nations envoy in the West African country told the Security Council today.
“Quite clearly neither the signatories nor the national mediation team are satisfied with the slow pace of implementation,” said Mahamat Saleh Annadif, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). “This slow pace is difficult to understand and it is undermining the whole process, particularly the setting up of joint patrols,” he explained.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on major developments in Mali since the end of March, he said that although the peace agreement was a package, for some time now, the process had been reduced to discussions about the establishment of an interim administration, which had been slow to occur.
He added, however, that he was pleased with the compromise reached earlier this week, on the side lines of the ninth session of the Agreement Monitoring Committee. MINUSMA remained fully engaged and was ready to use its good offices to help support immediate implementation of the interim authorities.
“However, it is obviously clear that it is incumbent upon the parties [to] honour their commitments. It is for them to make the Peace Agreement and reconciliation a reality,” the envoy emphasized.
Mr. Annadif went on to say that since the 15-member Council’s visit to Mali in early March, the situation on the ground had been troubling, with security having deteriorated in the past weeks. “Since its deployment in 2013, MINUSMA has faced the deadliest threats of any United Nations mission ever deployed,” he said, recalling that 19 peacekeepers had died following terrorist attacks between February and May 2016, 12 of them in May.
The Mission had lost a total of 26, plus a United Nations contractor, when counting deaths due to accidents and disease. The numbers were even more distressing when one added losses resulting from the Barkhane operation and those among Mali’s security, defence and civil forces. “Enough is enough,” he emphasized.
“We cannot continue to accept the unacceptable.” Most of the deaths could have been avoided if the peacekeeping contingents involved had been better equipped, particularly with armoured vehicles. The 29 May attack on a MINUSMA convoy illustrated the terrorist threat in central and southern Mali, the envoy said, warning that the trend could spread and should not be forgotten.
Despite scepticism, however, there are signs of hope that the situation had improved since 2012, Mr. Annadif stated. Since the signing of the peace accord, all signatories to the ceasefire had demonstrated unwavering compliance and made dialogue a priority. Moreover, efforts are under way to establish a sound juridical and institutional framework, he said, describing the 18 May draft agreement to create a council on security-sector reform, under the Prime Minister’s office, and the adoption of a decree establishing a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration commission as significant steps forward.
He also told the Council that eight cantonment sites had been set up to allow the disarmament process to begin, noting that the integration of former combatants and the management of violent extremism were also positive steps. Mr. Annadif stressed the importance of reinforcing trust and confidence among the signatory parties, pointing out that the lack of effective control on the ground by other parties in the north had led to a spike in terrorism, organized crime, banditry and intercommunal tensions.
The slower the peace accord’s implementation, the more likely the peace process would capsize, he said, underlining that MINUSMA’s future mandate should take those challenges into account.
In light of the deadly attacks, the recommendations of the strategic review called for strengthening MINUSMA’s personnel and air capacity in order to save lives, he said, adding that authorizing proactive operations would ensure that the Mission could fulfil its responsibilities and protect its staff. It could not do so alone, however.
“Only a surge on the part of Mali’s defence forces can tackle such challenges,” continued Mr. Annadif, stressing that it must be part of a regional strategy in which various actors, such as the Group of 5 for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), the Nouakchott process, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and others would play a leading role.
The situation in Mali impacted the whole of West Africa, he said, adding that recent attacks in Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso demonstrated the fluidity of terrorist groups and the interdependence of States in the struggle against terrorism. “I remain an optimist, a moderate one though,” he said, while emphasizing that the status quo played into the hands of the enemies of peace.
“The worst is behind us, but we must not forget that time is against us.” Calling on all Malians to increasingly take ownership of the peace agreement, Mr. Annadif noted that people who had protested the accord in Kidal a year ago were today celebrating in Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu, and calling for its implementation.