United Nations: Mali’s foreign minister urged the UN Security Council on Friday to authorise the immediate deployment of a five-nation force to fight the growing “terrorist” threat in Africa’s vast Sahel region — a move the United States opposes.
Abdoulaye Diop told the council that Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, acting president of the so-called Group of Five or G5, is deeply concerned at the difficulties the French-drafted resolution is facing in the council.
Leaders of the G5 — Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger and Chad — created the joint force to fight terrorism, trans-national organised crime and human trafficking, and its deployment is only awaiting Security Council authorisation, he said.
A US official said earlier this month that while the Trump administration supports the force in principle, it doesn’t believe a Security Council resolution is legally necessary for its deployment.
The US is seeking to cut $1 billion from the UN peacekeeping budget and diplomats say the administration doesn’t want a new UN missions that could add to costs. The draft resolution asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to present options to the Security Council to finance the G5 force.
A 2012 uprising was blamed for prompting mutinous soldiers to overthrow Mali’s president of a decade, creating a power vacuum that ultimately led to an insurgency and a French-led war that ousted the militants from power in 2013. But Islamist militants remain active in the region, frequently attacking Malian and French soldiers as well as UN peacekeepers trying to stabilise the north.
Diop urged the council to authorise the G5 force “without delay” to protect people in the five countries “from the danger of terrorism, and thus protect the rest of the world from a real threat to regional and international peace.”
He said “peace in Mali and stability in the Sahel” should be viewed broadly as resting on four pillars — Mali’s determination to implement peace and reconciliation agreements, a strengthened UN peacekeeping force in Mali, support from a separate French force combating terrorism in Mali, and deployment of the G5 force to take over the regional terrorist fight.
While Mali has made progress toward peace, Diop said the country faces multiple challenges.
He said the UN force, known as Minusma, has retained “a static, defensive posture which has given freedom of movement to terrorist and extremist groups.”
“They have made the most of this in order to better organise and increase attacks on the civilian population, the Mali defence force and against foreign forces as well,” Diop said.
“The security situation in Mali and in the Sahel continues to deteriorate in a concerning fashion,” he said. “The situation is marked by the persistence and intensification of terrorist attacks. These are a main obstacle to the implementation of the peace solution.”
The Security Council needs to renew Minusma’s mandate soon, and Diop said it needs additional equipment, funds and personnel to carry out its mandate.
The UN envoy for Mali, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, stressed that the mission’s main mandate is to help protect civilians, not fight extremists which requires specialised skills and equipment. He backed UN authorisation for the G5 force.
Minusma only has 10 helicopters and needs 12 additional attack and utility helicopters, as well as additional armoured vehicles, Annadif said.
Recent months saw “significant, tangible progress” in implementing Mali’s peace accords, he said.
But Annadif he warned that all the positive developments “are liable to collapse” due to tensions between a government-allied militia known as the Platform and a coalition of groups known as the CMA which includes ethnic Arabs and Tawareqs and seeks autonomy in northern Mali.