The situation in Mali continues to justify sustained international attention and engagement, the top UN official in the West African country told the Security Council on Tuesday.
El-Ghassim Wane, head of the UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA, presented the latest UN Secretary-General’s report on the peacekeeping operation.
He briefed ambassadors on progress in the transition and peace process, while also addressing ongoing insecurity and rising humanitarian needs.
Mr. Wane was speaking a day after a MINUSMA vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in the Kidal region, located in the north. Four peacekeepers from Chad were killed, and two others injured.
‘A stark reminder’
He said they join the many Malian, UN and international service members, as well as countless civilians, who have paid the ultimate price in the collective effort towards peace.
“This is a stark reminder of the fact that the international community and the Malians are all in this together,” Mr. Wane told ambassadors.
“We can only win this battle together and the United Nations, in spite of the inherent limitations of peacekeeping, offers the best framework for achieving lasting peace in Mali and the broader Sahel.”
Draft constitution presented
Mali is on track to restore civilian rule following the military coup in August 2020. A constitutional referendum is set to be held in March 2023, with elections scheduled for the following year.
Last week, the transitional president received a draft constitution which stresses good governance and countering corruption. It also calls for establishing a two-tier legislative body, among other provisions.
An electoral law was adopted in June and the 15 members of the Independent Election Management Authority were appointed last week.
A follow-up mechanism for the timeline for political and electoral reforms is also operational, said Mr. Wane, adding that the body will engage Malian stakeholders and ministers, as well as the African Union, regional bloc ECOWAS, and MINUSMA.
“However, it is also evident that success of the electoral process will also hinge on a number of factors, specifically availability of the necessary financial and logistical resources, as well as security developments, which have an impact on all stages of the electoral cycle,” he said.
‘Significant headway’ on peace
Mr. Wane also updated the Council on developments related to the 2015 peace agreement which ended unrest in the fractious north a decade ago. Extremists mounted a failed coup, but still control large swathes of the region.
He said “significant headway” has been made since August, following a high-level meeting that saw approval for the government’s proposal to incorporate up to 26,000 former fighters in the security and defense forces.
Action was also taken on the necessary institutional reforms for the implementation of the agreement.
“Measures are currently being adopted to follow up on decisions taken at the decision-making meeting, and with a specific focus on creation of the ad hoc commission tasked with formulating recommendations on case-by-case management of high-level signatory movements, including issues related to the chain of command,” he said.
The success of this commission will pave the way to the launch of the comprehensive disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, known as DDR.
Insecurity and civilian protection
Furthermore, the transitional authorities have adopted a strategy for the fragile central region of Mali, focused on areas that include peace and social cohesion, which MINUSMA has supported.
Mr. Wane also highlighted the challenging security situation in Mali, particularly in the centre and in the tri-border region with Burkina Faso and Niger.
Elements affiliated with the extremist groups Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and Jamāʿat Nuṣrat al-Islām wal-Muslimīn (JNIM) are taking advantage of security voids, he said, with a sharp increase in activities since March.
“In this context, MINUSMA strives to better protect civilians, keeping in mind the State’s primary responsibility in this regard,” said Mr. Wane, citing examples such as troop redeployments, to increase ground patrols in the northern city of Ménaka.
“The prevailing security situation in Ménaka and the Gao regions underscores the need for greater coordination between MINUSMA and Malian forces,” he said.
“Moreover, it also points to the urgency of completing the DDR process and deploying the reconstituted army, as this will significantly enhance the ability of the Malian State to address the current challenges.”
Displacement and hunger rising
On the humanitarian front, Mr. Wane reported that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the centre and north rose from 350,000 to more than 422,000. Neighbouring countries are also hosting more than 175,000 Malian refugees.
Additionally, more than 1.8 million people face severe food insecurity, which could reach 2.3 million by November, while 1.2 million under fives are affected by acute malnutrition.
Insecurity has forced 1,950 schools to close, affecting nearly 600,000 children, mainly in the central regions.
Although humanitarians are working to meet these needs, Mr. Wane said they are hampered by the lack of adequate and sustainable funding, as a $686 million appeal for this year is only roughly 30 per cent funded.