UN envoy says progress made in Mali’s transition, peace process

Acting Prime Minister of Mali Abdoulaye Maiga addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on Sept 24, 2022. (BRYAN R SMITH / AFP)

UNITED NATIONS – The top UN envoy for Mali, El-Ghassim Wane, said on Tuesday that progress has been made in the transition and peace process in Mali, but he remains concerned about the security situation in the country.

Following the agreement reached in early July between Mali and the Economic Community of West African States on the transition timetable, notable progress has been made in the preparation for elections, he told the UN Security Council in a briefing.

Following the agreement reached in early July between Mali and the Economic Community of West African States on the transition timetable, notable progress has been made in the preparation for elections, he told the UN Security Council in a briefing

Steps have been taken to establish a unique electoral management authority after the adoption of the electoral law in June, he said.

The mechanism to monitor the timetable of political and electoral reforms, which involves the Malian side and the multilateral partners concerned, is now operational at both the technical and political levels. Its political steering committee has so far met four times, he said.

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"While this progress is commendable, the successful implementation of the electoral process will depend on a multitude of factors, including the availability of the necessary financial and logistical resources and the evolution of the security situation," said Wane, the UN secretary-general's special representative and head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA.

"Strengthening inclusiveness will also remain important," he added.

In view of the constitutional referendum scheduled for March 2023, the Constitution Drafting Committee presented last week a preliminary constitution draft, and its adoption by the Council of Ministers is expected toward the end of November, he said.

MINUSMA and the UN Country Team in Mali are actively involved in supporting the electoral process, providing technical and logistical support, and participating in the monitoring mechanism. An integrated electoral support plan for the 2022-2024 electoral cycle is being finalized, he said.

Since August, the peace process has witnessed encouraging developments. In early August, the long-awaited high-level decision-making meeting was held and resulted in the approval of the government's proposal to integrate up to 26,000 former combatants into the Malian defense and security forces and other state structures. The meeting also agreed on a way forward for the required institutional reforms, he said.

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The positive developments are unfolding against the backdrop of a very challenging security, humanitarian, and human rights situation, with severe consequences for civilians across large parts of the country, cautioned Wane.

The security situation remains volatile in the central Mali and in the tri-border area between Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, he said.

Since March, there has been a sharp increase in the activities of extremist elements affiliated with two terrorist groups in the Menaka and Gao regions in the northeast. These extremist groups are taking advantage of security voids, which the Malian forces are striving to fill, and are fighting for territorial control while targeting the Malian forces and MINUSMA alike, he said.

The prevailing insecurity in Menaka and Gao regions underscores the need for greater coordination between MINUSMA and Malian forces. Moreover, it also points to the urgency of completing the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process and deploying the reconstituted army, as this will significantly enhance the ability of the Malian state to address the current challenges, he said.

The security situation in central Mali also remains fragile. Extremist elements retain the capacity to conduct coordinated attacks against the Malian armed forces, sabotage infrastructure, and terrorize local communities through reprisal attacks, he said.

While the fight against terrorism necessarily includes a military and security component, it is obvious that no lasting results can be achieved if two basic conditions are not met: first, the need for these efforts to be complemented by the restoration of state authority and the rebuilding of trust with local communities; second, efforts to ensure that the government-led military operations are carried out in compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law and for perpetrators of violations and abuses to be held to account, said Wane.

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The current security environment has compounded the humanitarian situation in the country. The number of internally displaced persons rose from 350,000 to more than 422,000 in the center and north of the country, while more than 175,000 Malian refugees were in neighboring countries, he said.

More than 1.8 million people face severe food insecurity. This figure could rise to 2.3 million by next month. More than 1.2 million children under the age of 5 are affected by acute malnutrition. As of May 2022, more than 1,950 schools in Mali were closed due to insecurity, which affected close to 587,000 children, mainly in the central region of Mopti. The efforts of humanitarian actors to meet these needs are hampered by the lack of adequate and sustainable funding. So far, only about 30 percent of the 686 million U.S. dollars requested for 2022 has been mobilized.

The situation in Mali continues to warrant sustained international attention and engagement. The people of Mali have demonstrated great resilience amid multiple challenges. They continue to forge ahead and harbor a strong desire for peace and stability. Their efforts deserve the full support of the international community, and it bears emphasizing that stabilizing Mali is a sine qua non for the stabilization of the entire region, said Wane.

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