1 . The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2227 (2015), by which the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) until 30 June 2016 and requested me to report every three months on the situation in Mali, focusing on progress in the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali and the efforts of MINUSMA to support it. It covers the period from 17 December 2015 to 18 March 2016.
II. Major political developments
2 . While the reporting period was characterized by some progress in the implementation of the peace agreement, maintaining the new momentum that had emerged towards the end of 2015, significant challenges remained. The Government took steps to advance political and institutional reforms, decentralization and the cantonment and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes. The Government, the Coordination des mouvements de l’Azawad (CMA) and the Platform coalition of armed groups constructively participated in all deliberations of the Agreement Monitoring Committee and renewed their commitment to accelerating the implementation of the agreement. Those positive developments notwithstanding, the reporting period also saw continued delays in the implementation of key provisions of the agreement, such as the establishment of interim authorities in the north. This has been the priority of the signatory armed groups.
Implementation of the peace agreement: political and institutional measures
3 . On 18 January, in Algiers, Algeria convened a high-level consultative meeting of the members of the Agreement Monitoring Committee to encourage the Malian parties to revive the peace process and implement the agreement without further delay. During that meeting, which was attended by the Government, the signatory armed groups and my new Special Representative for Mali and Head of MINUSMA, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the international mediation team agreed on the importance of moving forward with the implementation of the security provisions of the agreement, in particular cantonment and mixed patrols. The team strongly encouraged the Malian parties to also accelerate the implementation of other critical aspects of the agreement, especially matters relating to decentralization, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, security sector reform, national reconciliation and development in the north. The participants deplored the deterioration of the security situation and stressed the need to enhance communication among the parties on the implementation process. The Government was represented by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Abdoulaye Diop, who reported on the steps taken to advance the peace process, including meetings of the nation al committee for the coordination of the implementation of the peace agreement and measures taken towards the establishment of interim authorities. CMA and the Platform, which had expressed frustration at the slow pace of implementation of the agreement, circulated a document on its status, highlighting shortcomings in the Government’s engagement. The signatory armed groups also expressed hesitation at the idea of proceeding with the cantonment process while progress on political and institutional reforms remained limited. They called for a balanced implementation of the provisions of the agreement.
4 . Subsequently, the Government took further steps to accelerate the implementation of the institutional reforms envisaged in the agreement. On 19 January, it appointed governors for the regions of Ménaka (formerly part of the Gao region) and Taoudenni (formerly part of the Timbuktu region), which were created through legislation that had been passed in March 2012 but left unimplemented. CMA, the Platform and the traditional authorities of the two regions welcomed the nominations. The effective administration of the two regions still requires the appointment of local authorities, however. On 24 February, the Council of Ministers approved a bill to revise the Local Government Code of 2012 and a decree on the modalities for the implementation of the interim authorities, which remained pending ratification by the National Assembly.
5 . On 25 January, under the auspices of the High Representative of the African Union for Mali and the Sahel, CMA and the Platform reached an agreement on representation in the Agreement Monitoring Committee, which had remained a point of contention since the signature of the peace agreement. They agreed to allocate both the Coalition du peuple de l’Azawad and the Coordination des mouvements et forces patriotiques et de résistance II one additional seat each in the Committee and one seat each in one of the subcommittees of their choice under the umbrella of CMA.
6 . From 19 to 26 February, the Government, CMA and the Platform met in Bamako with a view to accelerating the implementation of the peace agreement.
After the conclusion of the tripartite consultations, the President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, chaired a meeting with CMA and the Platform on 27 February. The signatory parties announced in a joint statement following that meeting that they had agreed on an implementation timeline for March and April, focusing on the establishment of interim authorities for the north and progress in security conditions, cantonment and the expeditious implementation of the provisions of the agreement relating to the preparations for elections. They also committed themselves to holding a long-planned tripartite reconciliation meeting in Kidal from 27 to 30 March.
7 . From 9 to 10 March, the Agreement Monitoring Committee held its seventh meeting, in Bamako. It welcomed the joint statement and the planned reconciliation meeting mentioned above. With regard to the latter, it called upon the parties to ensure a successful meeting and to make progress in national reconciliation, as envisaged in the peace agreement. However, it pointed to the absence of progress in taking forward several recommendations made at the previous meeting on the implementation of the agreement, such as the establishment of interim authorities in the north and the launch of mixed patrols by the Operational Coordination Mechanism, and urged the Malian parties to redouble their efforts to deliver results by the time of the next meeting, scheduled for April. The pending establishment of interim authorities remained a contentious issue between the Government and the signatory armed groups, with the latter insisting that they would not commit themselves to participating in the cantonment process unless the Government established the authorities. On the development front, the Committee approved the final report of the joint evaluation mission to the north, which will inform the development strategy for the north being prepared by the Government. It also approved the arrangement brokered on representation in the Committee referred to in paragraph 5 above.
8 . CMA and the Platform also continued to address unresolved issues outside the formal mechanisms of the peace agreement and within the framework of bilateral arrangements. On 2 February, some 250 armed members of the Groupe d’autodéfense Touaregs imghads et alliés, part of the Platform coalition, entered the CMA stronghold of Kidal with a large number of vehicles. The Secretary-General of the group, Fahad Ag Almahmoud, argued that it had acted on the understandings reached in Anefis i-n-Darane with CMA in October 2015. CMA contested that assertion, alleging the lack of prior notification by the group of its movement. My Special Representative used his good offices to open communication channels among the Government, CMA, the Platform and the international mediation team to de-escalate tensions. On 6 February, CMA and the Platform issued a statement in which they agreed that the Platform would reduce its military presence in Kidal and be included in the administrative structure of the town. On 7 February, the Platform established a regional bureau in Kidal.
9 . Progress was also made in identifying and registering 33 legislative texts, as required under the peace agreement, with MINUSMA support. On 9 February, the committee established by the Ministry of Territorial Administration in November 2015 to review the electoral legislation and the Charter of Political Parties submitted a report recommending, among other things, the establishment of a single electoral management body and direct universal suffrage for the election of territorial advisers. A subcommittee on institutional and political reforms is expected to review the electoral bill before its submission to the National Assembly in April.
10 . The legislative by-elections held in Ansongo (Gao region) on 10 and 31 January revealed the security and political challenges facing future elections in the north. Voting was conducted in all six municipalities, except Talatayé.
Beforehand, CMA wrote to the prefect of Ansongo to strongly voice its opposition to the holding of elections, owing to the lack of consultation. On 9 January, the Malian armed forces escorting the sub-prefect and electoral materials to Talatayé were met with a local protest, prompting the Government to cancel the elections there. On 28 January, CMA issued a press release in which it expressed support for the local opposition to elections in Talatayé, stating that, in accordance with the peace agreement, no elections should be held before the establishment of the interim authorities. While the Mission facilitated dialogue between the Government and CMA to prevent an escalation of tensions, voting was not conducted in Talatayé.
11 . On 31 December, the Council of Ministers adopted a new decree concerning the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, by which it increased the number of commissioners from 15 to 25 and created regional offices, regional consultative councils and five thematic subcommissions. The increase in the number of commissioners was aimed at addressing claims by CMA and the Platform that they were underrepresented in the Commission.
12 . MINUSMA continued to support the Ministry of National Reconciliation and the national federation of women’s organizations and trained 120 traditional, religious and other community leaders in Gao, Mopti and Timbuktu with a view to fostering a better understanding of the peace agreement. On 18 December, the President signed a decree providing for a 30 per cent quota for the appointment of women in national institutions and legislative bodies, following the adoption of the bill by the National Assembly during the previous reporting period. Notwithstanding the signing of the decree and the efforts of the Ministry for the Advancement of Women, Children and Families to promote the effective participation of women and young people in the implementation of the agreement, their involvement remained limited.
Other political developments
13 . Since my previous report (S/2015/1030), owing to persistent security concerns, there has been little change in the number of government officials present at their duty stations in northern Mali, except for the deployment of a prefect to Ténenkou, in the Mopti region. The overall number of government officials absent from their duty stations at the sub-prefect level remained at some 49 per cent. In Gao, there was no increase in the number of sub-prefects deployed to the region (4 of 16). In Timbuktu, the number of sub-prefects stood at 13 of 31, given that 7 retired and others abandoned their duty stations in the light of security concerns.
In Mopti, although all eight prefects were in place, security threats forced 20 of the 55 sub-prefects to work from their regional offices. No government official was deployed to Kidal. Some communities in the north, especially in Kidal, where traditional judges (cadis) are most prominent, expressed their preference for traditional justice mechanisms.
14 . On 15 January, the President reshuffled the Cabinet, increasing the number of ministers from 31 to 32 and the number of women from five to six. It was the third reshuffle since the appointment of the current Prime Minister, Modibo Keita, in January 2015.
15 . The international community devoted considerable attention to Mali and the peace process during the reporting period. The Security Council visited Mali, including Mopti and Timbuktu, from 4 to 7 March. On 12 February, during his visit to the country, the President of Germany announced the deployment of up to 650 soldiers to MINUSMA. On 19 February, also in the context of a visit to Mali, the Prime Minister of France expressed continuing support for the peace process and indicated his country’s willingness to maintain the presence of French forces in order to sustain counter-terrorism efforts.
Regional cooperation in the Sahel
16 . Following the deadly terrorist attacks in the capitals of Mali and Burkina Faso on 20 November and 15 January, respectively, the Heads of State of the Group of Five for the Sahel met on 31 January on the margins of the twenty-sixth ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union, in Addis Ababa, to discuss joint efforts to tackle common security threats, such as terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, radicalization and violent extremism. On 4 March, during a meeting in N’Djamena, the ministers of defence of the Group of Five for the Sahel discussed military, security and intelligence mechanisms to tackle the threat of terrorism. The creation of a specialized rapid reaction force was also considered.