Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Mali

Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 27, 2023


Thank you, Special Representative Wane and Ms. Aminata Cheick Dicko for your informative briefing.

I want to start by expressing my deepest condolences to Nigeria and to Chad, who together lost six peacekeepers serving in MINUSMA since the last time the Council convened to discuss this mission. We honor the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who risk their lives for the people of Mali and the prospect of peace.

We echo the Secretary-General’s deep concern about the exceptionally high level and frequency of violence in Mali. We condemn the horrific attacks carried out by terrorist groups against civilians, Malian security forces, and MINUSMA personnel. We are particularly alarmed by the grave impact of this conflict on the safety and the livelihood of Mali’s women and girls.

While we are encouraged to hear the many ways in which MINUSMA continues to deliver on its mandate, we are extremely concerned about the significant political, operational, and capacity constraints limiting the mission’s success. It is clear from your report, SRSG Wane, and from the Secretary-General’s internal review of the mission, that MINUSMA faces a critical moment.

Unfortunately, MINUSMA’s extremely volatile operating environment is made more dangerous by restrictions the transition government continues to impose on the mission, which needlessly puts peacekeepers – and the civilians they seek to protect—in harm’s way.

The fact that the Secretary-General’s report cited the Malian authorities denied or gave no response to 237 MINUSMA flight requests is completely unacceptable. That means on 237 separate occasions, the transition government blocked the mission from deterring and responding to attacks; from investigating alleged human rights abuses and violations; or ensuring safety for traveling convoys. To make matters worse, these restrictions typically occur where protection needs are required the most.

It is not an exaggeration to say that these continued obstructions have become an existential issue for this mission, and a bit of a crisis for this Council.

Once again, we demand the transition government to lift all restrictions against MINUSMA and allow all mission personnel to operate freely and safely in service of its mandate. As the internal review states, MINUSMA’s success will hinge on the support and cooperation it receives from the transition government. Continued obstructions of the mandate and blatant violations of the Status of Forces Agreement should force this Council to seriously reconsider its support for MINUSMA in its current form.

These obstructions prevent the international community from seeing the full scope of human rights violations and abuses reportedly perpetrated by violent extremist groups, and by Malian armed forces in partnership with the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group forces.

We strongly urge the transition government to cooperate with all MINUSMA human rights activities, specifically for requests for access to sites of alleged human rights abuses and violations, and for the UN to report with full transparency on alleged abuses and violations.

The promotion and protection of human rights is not a political agenda possessed by one or a few Member States, but a priority task this Council has authorized MINUSMA to carry out since the mission’s inception.

The United States welcomed the UN’s acknowledgement of the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group’s presence through an explicit reference in the UN strategic review. We hope future UN reporting on Mali is similarly candid about the threat posed by Wagner forces to Malian civilians.

As we made clear last week, Wagner is a criminal organization that is committing widespread atrocities and human rights abuses in Mali and elsewhere. The UN must be able to provide an honest and transparent analysis of the destabilizing role of criminal organizations like Wagner in places where UN field missions operate.

Expert Panel reporting remains a key source of information on the situation in Mali. We want to reiterate the existing sanctions resolution’s call for all UN Member States to facilitate the work of the Panel of Experts, including the timely issuance of visas.

Turning to the political situation, we commend the progress made by transition authorities on electoral reform. MINUSMA’s support to that effort is indispensable and demonstrates that the mission remains vital to overcome the many complex challenges related to electoral capacity-building, awareness, registration, mobilization, and security across Mali’s vast territory.

The United States continues to offer its full support and encouragement to the mission and to those within the transition government who endeavor to restore democracy, civilian rule, and constitutional order.

After welcoming the resumption of the Algiers Accord monitoring committee last fall, we are deeply discouraged to see this progress undone in recent months. The unwillingness of the transition government to engage at the appropriate levels has led to a splintering of the mediation process, whereby signatory armed groups must negotiate with the international mediation group without participation from the transition authorities.

The recent suspension of participation by signatory armed groups in the monitoring committee is cause for serious concern. We extend our full support to MINUSMA, SRSG Wane, and the Algerian government to reinvigorate the mediation process. We call on transition authorities, signatory armed groups, and regional actors to demonstrate renewed political will by taking immediate steps to resume the activities of the monitoring committee.

In closing, I want to once again echo the Secretary-General in stating that, given the current context in Mali, business as usual is not an option. While this Council must ultimately vote on the mission’s mandate, the future of MINUSMA also rests in the hands of the Malian authorities, the parties to the Algiers Accord, and regional actors – whose actions we will monitor closely in the months to come.

Thank you, Mr. President.