Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Mali

David Hale
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
U.S. Department of State
New York City
March 29, 2019


Mr. President, I’d like to thank you and also Secretary-General Guterres for the briefing today. Thank you very much, and I also wish to thank the representatives of France, Germany, and Cote d’Ivoire for coordinating the recent Security Council trip to Mali and Burkina Faso. Council members witnessed firsthand the security and political challenges in both countries. A frank dialogue about the realities of the situation will enable this Council to help advance peace and security and improve the lives of the people of the region.

This Council must recognize the gravity of the security situation in Mali. While MINUSMA’s troops wear blue hats, they find themselves in an environment far outside the bounds of traditional peacekeeping. MINUSMA peacekeepers are consistently and purposefully attacked by extremists who are mobile, smart, well organized, and not about to give up.

MINUSMA has suffered as a result. MINUSMA is the most dangerous peacekeeping mission in the world and has borne an unprecedented rate of casualties. Too many peacekeepers have been killed or had their lives and those of their families shattered by life altering injuries. America honors their sacrifices and offers its gratitude and appreciation to the troops, police, and civilians of MINUSMA, along with their families who sacrifice daily to promote peace and stability in Mali.

This violence, along with increasing intercommunal and interethnic violence particularly in Mali’s center, is accompanied by an unacceptable lack of progress in implementing the Algiers Accord.

Mr. President, in Resolution 2423 the Security Council requested that the Secretary-General deliver a special report on progress in implementing seven key provisions in the Algiers Accord. The Council requested the Secretary-General to provide recommendations for significant adaptations of MINUSMA’s mandate in the absence of significant progress on those benchmarks.

The March 5 report noted some progress on DDR and the successful conduct of Mali’s 2018 presidential election. However, we were disappointed the report did not provide a clear assessment of the lack of significant progress on all remaining items. This gap contrasts with the Independent Observer’s report, which acknowledged preliminary progress but sounded the alarm on the lack of political will to implement the Accord.

Mr. President, given the gravity of the situation in Mali, we have made clear to all parties our disappointment at the lack of significant progress, with only one of seven benchmarks fully completed. Now is not the time to give up, nor is it the time to pretend that peace in Mali is advancing sufficiently.

We expect to see progress on the outstanding measures before the Security Council negotiates the renewal of MINUSMA’s mandate in June. In particular, we will carefully review progress and seek completion in three areas:

First, Mali should expand the inclusivity of the constitutional reform process, leading to a legitimate constitutional referendum. This step is key to the viability of the agreement and the future of Mali beyond MINUSMA. The armed groups, opposition, and civil society must have input into an inclusive process.

Second, the parties to the Algiers Accords should accelerate the integration, training, and deployment of fighters participating in the DDR program in northern Mali.

Third, the government should codify the Northern Development Zone in law and provide greater resources to interim administrations in the north. The government should ensure interim administrations are not merely token presences, but can actually deliver services. Inclusivity and transparent political progress have been delayed for far too long.

Mr. President, while we have focused on the north, security in the center of Mali is also deteriorating. In the first few months of this year, we’ve witnessed just how precarious things have become, with the deaths of over 160 people, as previous speakers have noted, just this past Saturday, the loss of 23 soldiers in the Dioura attack, and continuing threats to civilians. UN agencies now report that in the first two months of 2019, 70 percent of human rights violations and 80 percent of civilian deaths in Mali occurred in the center of the country. The government and MINUSMA are responsible to protect civilians throughout the entire country and not just in the north.

We’re encouraged by the changes that SRSG Annadif and Force Commander Gyllensporre have made since last year’s mandate. They’re strong leaders whose teams have focused the mission on its core mandate and made it more integrated and effective.

Mr. President, no matter how valiant their efforts though, MINUSMA cannot fill the gap while the government and parties to the Algiers Accord fail to make progress in implementing the peace agreement, and this Council has tried during MINUSMA’s six years to get the mission to perform optimally and minimize risks to peacekeepers. The inability of the parties to make significant progress after signing Mali’s peace agreement in 2015 has inhibited the mission’s ability to implement the mandate.

This failing has put civilians, peacekeepers, and domestic and international forces at greater risk from terrorism as communal violence has spread throughout the region. Despite some progress in the last several months and after only modest progress in prior years, it’s time to evaluate whether a peacekeeping mission in such an environment is the appropriate or effective solution to the problem set in northern Mali.

In determining MINUSMA’s future, we ask the Secretary-General to proceed with this Council’s request outlined in operative paragraph six of Resolution 2423 – to provide us with options for a significant adaptation of MINUSMA in time for the negotiation of its mandate this June. Six of the seven benchmarks were not completed, and most saw no significant progress.

We ask for a plan that positions MINUSMA to address the security and counterterrorism environment, protect personnel, and support political progress more effectively than at present. The plan should include options for significant adaptation, so the Council can consider the best way forward in such a precarious environment. The plan should outline options to address the significant instability in Mali’s center.

Turning to Mali itself, inclusive constitutional change will require tremendous political courage and significant input from all concerned. Inclusive constitutional reform will result in more voices in Mali’s institutions, the decentralization of power, and genuine political dialogue – important steps to reestablishing security and governance throughout the country.

We call on Mali’s leaders to work together towards real and lasting power sharing. Progress will benefit the region, and above all else, it will benefit the people of Mali. Only by building a bridge between Mali’s diverse communities will leaders pave a road toward a more secure future for all, a road upon which there will be opportunity and a more prosperous future for Mali and its people.

Thank you very much.