Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Mali (via VTC)

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 11, 2020


Secretary-General Guterres and Special Envoy Buyoya, thank you for your briefings today, and Foreign Ministers Le Drian and Dramé, I’d like to welcome you and all the foreign ministers to the Council and thank you for convening this briefing.

Your nation has been committed to bringing peace and stability to the Sahel region and tens of millions of its people who want a better future free of the daily threat of terrorist groups and widespread trafficking of drugs, weapons, and even humans. I wish to congratulate you and your country’s courageous forces for killing the leader of Al Qaida in northern Africa, Abdelmalek Droukdel, along with members of his inner circle, last week. This daring operation and others, such as the capture of a senior Islamic State group commander in Mali last month, are exacting severe blows on terrorist groups that not only threaten the people of the Sahel and Maghreb regions, but all of us who are gathered here today. We are grateful for France’s commitment and sacrifice.

The Pau Summit in January has re-energized the region’s efforts to address the failing security situation in the Sahel, and we welcome tomorrow’s ministerial on the Coalition for the Sahel and its objective of improving coordination.

The United States also recognizes that peace and stability in this region is not a shared effort. Last month, three Chadian peacekeepers were killed in Northern Mali – a stark reminder that MINUSMA remains the most dangerous peacekeeping mission in the world. The United States offers its gratitude and appreciation to the troops, police, and civilians of MINUSMA and other security forces in the region, whose personal sacrifices promote peace and stability in Mali and the Sahel. We also recognize the challenges of COVID-19 and commend the mission for taking the necessary steps to protect its people and the civilian population while accomplishing its mission. We mourn the two individuals the mission has lost to COVID-19 and wish a speedy recovery for those who are sick.

As the Council renews MINUSMA for its eighth year, we must be clear-eyed about the pattern of failure by the signatory parties to implement the 2015 Algiers Accord. Most of the benchmarks in last year’s mandate have not been achieved: Constitutional reform and transfer of state services is far from complete; no pilot projects for the Northern Developments Zone have been implemented; and while the goal of redeploying 3,000 reconstituted Malian forces only fell short by 500, many of these forces are far from operational and still receive support and protection from UN forces.

Meanwhile the people of Mali continue to suffer under a stalled peace process. Terrorist attacks and intercommunal violence continue to kill and maim innocent civilians. Moreover, the humanitarian situation is worsening: Mali’s displaced population has more than doubled in the past year, and millions of people are suffering from food insecurity. The signatory parties’ inability to make significant progress since the signing of the Accord in 2015 perpetuates the worsening security environment in the Sahel and prevents MINUSMA from fully implementing its mandate.

We have a tremendous opportunity to use this mandate renewal to bring real and lasting change to the people of Mali. It begins with incentivizing the parties to follow through on the mandate’s benchmarks. MINUSMA must begin planning its gradual withdrawal and eventual exit, so that genuine trust can develop between the signatory armed groups and the Government of Mali, and so that the Government can also gain confidence in taking over the country’s security responsibilities. MINUSMA should assess when it can make a troop reduction to signal the Council’s expectation that MINUSMA’s presence is not indefinite.

The Council must also continue to increase MINUSMA’s efficiency and effectiveness by supporting the Commander’s force adaptation plan and improving troop and police quality throughout the mission. We commend the Force Commander, Lieutenant General Gyllensporre, for his work to prioritize troop performance and hold poor performers accountable. We also commend his efforts to maximize troop capabilities through the development of the adaptation plan. We continue to call on Member States that have those capabilities to consider providing them to MINUSMA. We desire more candid reporting from the Secretary-General, and for the Force to have greater influence in how it applies and distributes its resources.

The United States is committed to establishing peace, security, and a brighter future for the people of Mali, the Sahel, and West Africa. This is why we are the largest financial contributor of MINUSMA and the largest supporter of pre-deployment training for its contingents. It is why we have spent billions of dollars on security, development, and humanitarian assistance in Mali and the region. We are also committed to supporting the G5 Sahel Joint Force by providing equipment, training, and advisory support to fill critical capability gaps on a bilateral basis, and continue to call on other countries to do the same.

As UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix pointed out last week, extremists are attempting to capitalize on the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine state authority and destabilize governments. With innocent lives lost daily, schools shuttered, and many people denied access to basic services, we all must be proactive in the face of such devastation and danger.

As I close today, I want to again stress my gratitude to my colleagues here who have been providing the humanitarian and military support needed to get Mali and the region healthy and to a much healthier place. While we breathe a sigh of relief that Droukdel and other evil actors no longer have the ability to terrorize people, the threat remains. The Security Council must do it’s upmost to support the peace process and work to address the violence and political problems that plague Mali. Terrorism thrives in the current instability and we, as a Council, must be relentless in our resolve to help the people of Mali and millions of other people in the Sahel.

Thank you.