Implementation of the 2015 peace agreement in Mali provides the only pathway for stabilization there, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the Security Council on Wednesday.
He updated the Council on developments in the West African country, where a UN operation, known by the French acronym MINUSMA, supports political processes and restoration of state authority against a backdrop of insecurity, intercommunal violence and increasing displacement.
MINUSMA was established following fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels in January 2012, leading to the occupation of northern Mali by extremists. The authorities and two separate armed group coalitions signed the peace deal three years later.
“The rapid and thorough implementation of the peace agreement remains the only viable path for the stabilization of Mali. It provides the framework for the required political and institutional reforms to restore and decentralize State authority, to build a Malian state that reflects the diversity and interests of all its citizens,” said Lacroix.
“The peace agreement also provides for mechanisms to address the grievances of those Malians who feel excluded from the country’s political life and economic development and who see little hope for their future,” he added.
Despite slow starts and disagreements, both between and among the sides, the UN peacekeeping chief reported that progress has been achieved in Mali, such as the holding of an inclusive national dialogue which concluded in December.
Another step forward has been the disarming and subsequent integration of former combatants into the national defense and security forces.
Lacroix said redeploying reconstituted army units to the north remains an “urgent priority”, with a first battalion expected in the region by the end of the month: an important step towards restoring state authority nation-wide.
At the same time, the UN has increased its presence and activity in Mopti, located in central Mali, which has contributed to de-escalating intercommunal violence and massacres.
However, this has meant diverting assets from the north, leading to what Lacroix described as “dangerous gaps” in some areas. To address the challenge, MINUSMA will make some adaptations within its authorized troop strength.
“The plan provides for the establishment of a Mobile Task Force, which will enhance the Mission’s ability to implement its mandate and protect civilians. It will make MINUSMA more agile, flexible and mobile with tailored units and enhanced capabilities, most importantly additional air mobility,” he explained, before calling on the Council members for their support.