Thank you, Mister President, for this opportunity to update the Council.
Depuis ma dernière intervention, la situation d’ensemble au Mali est demeurée extrêmement préoccupante. Les civils sont confrontés à d’immenses souffrances. Il n’y a pas eu d’avancée notable dans la mise en œuvre de l’Accord de paix. De plus, malgré les efforts considérables déployés à cet effet, il n’y a pas encore de consensus autour de la durée de la transition.
Je voudrais commencer avec un aperçu de la situation sécuritaire. En plus des incidents relevés dans le rapport devant vous, le mois de mars a vu plusieurs attaques meurtrières perpétrées par l’Etat islamique au Grand Sahara (EIGS) dans la région de Ménaka et dans le sud de celle de Gao. Les affrontements dans la région de Ménaka, survenus à 200 km des plus proches positions des Forces de défense et de sécurité maliennes et de la MINUSMA, ont causé la mort d’au moins 40 civils et le déplacement d’environ 3640 ménages. En réaction à ces incidents, la MINUSMA a intensifié ses patrouilles dans la ville de Ménaka afin de permettre aux FDSM et aux groupes signataires de se mobiliser encore plus fortement pour répondre à la situation.
Dans le sud de la région de Gao, des éléments de l’Etat islamique ont continué leurs attaques contre Tessit, y compris contre un camp des Forces armées maliennes (FAMa) le 21 mars. Le même jour, l’EIGS a aussi attaqué la commune de Talataye, causant des déplacements significatifs et la mort de plusieurs civils.
En coordination avec les forces armées maliennes, la MINUSMA a déployé trois unités de sa Force mobile d’intervention (Mobile Task Force) dans la zone comprise entre Ansongo, Labezanga et Tessit. A partir du 21 mars, une unité a patrouillé entre Tessit et la frontière nigérienne, sur le côté ouest du fleuve Niger; une autre a fait de même entre Ansongo et Labezanga, du côté est du fleuve; et une troisième unité a été déployée à Ansongo. C’est dans ce contexte que, le 22 mars, un hélicoptère des FAMa participant à une opération de dissuasion près de Tessit a ouvert le feu près d’une de nos patrouilles. Heureusement, il n’y a pas eu de victime ou de blessé en nos rangs. Une enquête est en cours pour clarifier les circonstances de cet incident. La même patrouille a continué de surveiller la zone autour de Tessit et, les 24 et 27 mars, a forcé des groupes armés à abandonner leur équipement et à fuir la zone.
En réponse à l’attaque sur Talataye, la Force de la MINUSMA a redéployé une unité de la MTF de Ansongo-Labezanga vers Talataye le 31 mars. Cela a été suivi par une autre unité redéployée dans la même zone le 1 er avril. Ces unités ont contribué à la stabilisation de la situation sécuritaire.
Même si l’élément déclencheur de la reprise des violences dans la zone des trois frontières semble lié à des trafics locaux et à des dynamiques connexes, il convient de noter que ces incidents surviennent dans le contexte du retrait des forces Barkhane et Takuba. Faisant face à moins de pression, les groupes terroristes bénéficient d’une latitude d’action plus grande, posant un danger accru tant aux civils qu’à nos opérations.
Face à ces défis, il est impératif que le niveau de nos capacités et de nos troupes soit maintenu. Il est tout aussi important que des réponses appropriées soient trouvées aux défis liés à l’insuffisance de nos capacités ainsi qu’aux restrictions nationales des pays contributeurs de troupes et de police.
As announced by the Malian authorities to this Council during its October visit, the Malian forces have stepped up their counterterrorism efforts in the Centre to break the chokehold of extremist groups over large swaths of the region. While it is still too early to assess their longterm impact, these operations appear to have contributed to a decrease in armed clashes between community defense forces and terrorist groups, vehicle hijackings, abductions and attacks on people’s livelihoods and local infrastructure.
Last week’s FAMa offensive against Katiba Macina elements in Moura village, south of Mopti, falls within the scope of these operations. In a communiqué issued on 1 April, the FAMA asserted that they had neutralized scores of terrorist elements controlling the area. At the same time, MINUSMA also received reports of serious human rights abuses committed against large numbers of civilians during this operation. The Mission sought access to the area and was able to conduct a reconnaissance overflight on 3 April. Authorization for the fielding of an integrated mission has, until now, not been issued. We are pursuing our extensive engagement with the national authorities to resolve this problem. While the announcement, yesterday night, by the Prosecutor of the Mopti Military Tribunal of the opening of an investigation, including the deployment to the field of the required personnel, is a welcome initiative, it is also imperative that the Malian authorities extend the necessary cooperation for MINUSMA to have access to the site of the alleged violations, in line with its mandate.
More generally on human rights, MINUSMA has opened 17 investigations on allegations of indiscriminate attacks against civilians, extrajudicial arrests, mistreatment, forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in central Mali since the beginning of this year. We are currently finalizing an update on the human rights situation which will cover the period from January to March of this year.
While military and security operations are an absolute necessity in combatting terror, experience has, time and again, shown that such an approach cannot, on its own, bring about long-lasting stability, especially in an environment as complex as the one prevailing in Central Mali.
First, these operations need to be conducted in ways that minimize to the full extent possible civilian harm and uphold human rights and international humanitarian law principles. Second, these operations have to be complemented by practical and sustained steps focusing on the root causes of conflict and violence.
In this respect, the finalization by the Malian Government of its strategy for the Centre and its effective implementation are a must for the stabilization of the region. In the meantime, MINUSMA continues to carry out important tasks linked to the protection of civilians, as in Ogossagou and along the Douentza-Petaka road in the Central part of Mali, the protection of physical infrastructure and related livelihoods in the strategic axis linking Sevare to Bandiagara, and to local reconciliation agreements. In the same vein, we have recently launched a pilot project in the Douentza region to improve relations between the Malian Defense and Security Forces and local communities.
During the period under review, no tangible progress was made in the peace process, a situation compounded by the fact that the Agreement Monitoring Committee has not met since October last year, depriving the parties and their international partners alike of the much-needed platform to collectively assess the challenges at hand and seek a consensual way forward.
Instead, the past three months were marked by worrying actions and rhetoric, not in line with the spirit of the Agreement. Furthermore, and in spite of the efforts made, tensions remain between the Government and signatory movements over the issue of the Cadre stratégique permanent, the structure put in place by the movements with the stated aim of reconciling northern communities.
Against this backdrop, the Mission, in coordination with Algeria as the Chef de File of the International Mediation, has continued to engage the parties, encouraging them to move forward with the long-delayed highlevel decision-making meeting expected to facilitate consensus on the critically important matters of global DDR and institutional reforms. I note that the Government has shared with the signatory movements the draft terms of reference for the meeting.
The current status quo carries huge risks for the future of the peace agreement and deprives local populations of the peace dividends they are yearning for, while also increasing the threats facing our peacekeepers deployed in northern Mali, especially in locations such as Kidal, Aguelhok and Tessalit. In this context, this Council may wish to urge the parties to take advantage of the synergies that exist between the recommendations of the Assises nationales de la Refondation and the peace agreement, to reverse the cycle of recurring conflict in the North.
Council members will recall that the political transition in Mali was to conclude in March, in accordance with the initial 18-month timetable negotiated by ECOWAS after the August 2020 coup d’état. The noncompletion of the Transition within the agreed timelines led ECOWAS to impose economic and financial sanctions last January, in addition to the individual measures decided a month earlier. The impasse has unfortunately persisted, exacerbating tensions between Mali and ECOWAS and adversely impacting Mali’s relations with other international actors.
As part of the Local Transition Follow-up Committee, which includes ECOWAS, the African Union and MINUSMA, the Mission has worked to arrive at an acceptable timeline for the holding of elections. The technical discussions that took place in February and March in Bamako paved the way for the return to Bamako, on two occasions, of the ECOWAS Mediator, former President Goodluck Jonathan.
While some progress was made, with Mali requesting an additional 24 months to bring the Transition to an end, this was deemed to still be too long at the ECOWAS extraordinary Summit held in Accra on 25 March.
The Summit emphasized the urgency of reaching an agreement, considering the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in the country; it endorsed the 12 to 16 months put forward by the Local Follow-up Committee as a basis for negotiation; and mandated the Mediator to return to Bamako to conclude a deal that would also ensure the gradual lifting of the sanctions imposed on Mali.
No effort should be spared to achieve an agreement on the Transition.
This would not only make it possible to lift the sanctions, a critical measure in view of the prevailing humanitarian situation, but also create a more propitious environment for the pursuit of the other processes fundamental to Mali’s stabilization. In the coming days, in conjunction with the other members of the Local Follow-up Committee, we will continue to engage the Malian authorities and other stakeholders to help in finding a solution to this impasse.
In the past twelve months, I had the privilege of crisscrossing our area of deployment. I travelled on several occasions to the far north locations of Tessalit, Aguelhok and Kidal; to the city of Timbuktu, as well as in Ber and Goundam; to the towns of Mopti, Dounetza, Bandiagara and Segou in Central Mali; and in the northeastern part of the country, from Gao to Ansongo to Menaka. Wherever I have been, I interacted with local communities and officials.
While in all these places, as well as in Bamako, there is a clear frustration at the prevailing insecurity and, understandably, criticism at the shortcomings of the actions taken over the past decade or so, what I also heard and noticed was a strong yearning for peace and better governance, which was also expressed during the Assises nationales de la refondation. Malian political stakeholders need to collectively internalise this yearning and live up to the expectations of their people.
For the sake of the Malian people, MINUSMA, which embodies the international solidarity that Mali so deserves and is intitled to in its hour of need, should also be given all the resources it requires to close the gap that continues to exist between what the Mission is mandated to do and what it can actually do.
I thank you for your attention.