Foreign Minister, Stressing Respect for Human Rights, Says Survival of State, Malians’ Safety Primary Focus
Amid a delayed return to civilian rule, the deteriorating security and the dire humanitarian and human rights situation in Mali, the mandate of the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in the African country should be extended for another year, speakers told the Security Council today.
“While the challenges in Mali are numerous and complex, they are far from being insurmountable,” said El-Ghassim Wane, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), expressing hope for breakthroughs. Echoing the Secretary-General’s acknowledgement of the need for MINUSMA’s continued presence and recommendation to extend its mandate for another year, he stressed the importance for the Mission to be allowed to move freely to fulfil its mandate.
Going forward, he said that the success of the Malian-led operations will hinge on two critical factors. First, these operations must be anchored in a comprehensive approach that addresses the institutional, governance and socioeconomic challenges which provide fertile ground for the spread of violent extremism. Second, military operations must be undertaken with due regard for human rights and international humanitarian law. Some of the operations conducted during the period under review were marred by allegations of human rights violations.
Sadya Touré, Director of Mali Muso, briefing the Council on behalf of civil society, said armed conflict has led to massive displacement. “Women are not safe anywhere,” and many schools have closed across the country, affecting some 450,000 children. Teenagers in Mali have grown up in a violent environment without any prospects, and high rates of unemployment have led to insecurity and social unrest, making teenagers easy recruits for armed groups.
Addressing these issues must be a priority if the international community wants to ensure long-lasting peace and reconciliation, she said, emphasizing the need to bolster MINUSMA’s mandate to allow it to operate alongside Malian forces to combat terrorism. She also called for the immediate lifting of sanctions and asked for support in Mali’s reform efforts to consolidate the rule of law, good governance, democracy and the holding of credible elections.
In the ensuing discussion, members broadly supported the extension of MINUSMA’s mandate, stressed the need to bolster counter-terrorism operations and expressed concern over the increasing human rights violations by the Malian Defence and Security Forces, with the involvement of foreign military elements.
France’s representative proposed to renew MINUSMA’s mandate for another year. However, for MINUSMA to continue its mandate, the Malian transitional authorities must also take up their responsibilities and remove obstacles to the Mission’s activities and the rotation of contingents.
Ghana’s delegate, also speaking for Gabon and Kenya, said the Mission would benefit from stronger support in troop contribution, capacity-building on counter‑terrorism measures and provision of adequate logistics, including air-lift assets, pointing out the delay in the rotation of troops could have an adverse impact on the Mission’s objectives and the commitment of troop-contributing countries to the cause of peace in Mali.
Injecting a different perspective, India’s delegate, while highlighting the critical role of MINUSMA, emphasized that it is important not to burden the Mission with direct counter-terrorism-related operations. These counter-terrorism operations need to be undertaken by the national security forces, he said, also noting the concerns raised by the Mission regarding the capacity gaps resulting from the withdrawal of international forces.
However, the representative from the United States, recalling the recent MINUSMA-Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report on human rights violations against civilians by both terrorist groups and the Malian armed forces with “foreign security personnel”, known as the Kremlin‑linked Wagner Group forces, said Malian authorities are fully responsible for the actions of their security partners. The Wagner Group will not bring peace to Mali, he said. Instead, it will only divert natural and economic resources away from Mali’s fight against terrorism.
His counterpart from the Russian Federation said the more territory that is under State control, the more effective counter-terrorism efforts will be. The withdrawal of the French military and the Takuba Task Force without Mali’s agreement created additional threats to internal stability. Further, Russian‑Malian cooperation, including on the military level, has a long-standing history. The West’s negative response to this cooperation is a manifestation of neo-colonialism and double standards.
The United Arab Emirates’ delegate spotlighted the dire humanitarian situation and food insecurity in Mali, asking the Council to pay urgent attention and seek regular updates that include forecasts of expected hunger levels and the implications for local communities, especially those most vulnerable like women and children, so that the Council can support early action.
Norway’s representative, noting the highest number of civilian casualties to date, pointed to the ethnic dimension of the violence, with most victims coming from the pastoralist Fulani groups. MINUSMA should be given full and unrestricted access to investigate such crimes, he insisted.
Mali’s Foreign Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, said the conflict in the northern part of the country spilled into its centre, spread across the entire nation and has now reached neighbouring States. To reverse this trend, the Government has invested massively in national defence and security forces, achieving significant results in counter-terrorism. “We know nothing about Wagner,” he said, stressing Mali has the right to choose its partners and respects human rights, “not to please its foreign partners”, but for its own sake.
The Mission, he stressed, must define the notion of “civilian protection” in the context of an asymmetric war and clarify from what civilians are to be protected given that the overriding threat stems from terrorist groups. On this, he questioned how MINUSMA can protect the people if it is not in a position to tackle this threat. On restrictions placed on MINUSMA, he said that all flights requested by the Mission are authorized after the necessary coordination is done, the risks to air traffic are under control and it is determined that such flights will not interfere with ongoing military operations. More so, the primary question, he stressed, was how to ensure the survival of the State and the safety of the people.
Also speaking today were the representatives of China, Brazil, Mexico, Ireland, United Kingdom and Albania.
The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 12:19 p.m.