Sahel Mission: assessment of the situation on the ground [fr]
Security Council Mission to the Sahel region - Speech by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Natins - Security Council - 26 October 2017
- French Ambassador François Delattre during the Security Council Mission to the Sahel.
- Credits: MINUSMA
At the outset, I should like to convey our deep condolences to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the Government of Chad, following the attack on a convoy that led to the loss of life of three Chadian Blue Helmets today in northern Mali. The Security Council paid its respects to the memory of the Blue Helmets who died in the line of duty during its visit, and we do so again today. We also convey the same condolences to the Governments of the countries of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G-5 Sahel), whose people and security forces are regularly subjected to often deadly terrorist attacks.
The Security Council conducted a field mission to the Sahel from 19 to 22 October, during which it visited Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.
The visit was jointly led by France, Ethiopia and Italy and was part of the Security Council’s close monitoring of the issue of the joint force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G-5 Sahel). One of the goals of the visit, which began the day after the issuance of the report on the operationalization of the Joint Force (S/2017/869), was to provide the members of the Council with a first-hand assessment of the situation on the ground and an opportunity exchange views with the various actors on the ground of the Secretary-General’s recommendations aimed at strengthening international support for the Joint Force. We focused in particular on the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, in line with the Council’s conviction that there can be no lasting stability in the Sahel without effective, comprehensive and inclusive implementation of the provisions of the Agreement.
It should be noted that the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, which was officially invited to participate in the visit, was unable to send a representative because of its heavy workload at that time. Nonetheless, the Chairperson of the Peace and Security Council expressed his great appreciation for the courtesy shown by the Security Council and indicated the Peace and Security Council’s full willingness to participate in future visits. It seems to us that such a practice should be encouraged.
In keeping with the division of labour that we adhered to during the visit itself, I will provide an update on the visit to Mali, before giving the floor to my colleagues from Italy and Ethiopia, who will provide briefings on the segments of the field visits to Mauritania and Burkina Faso, respectively. We will each conclude our briefings by sharing the main lessons that we learned from the visit overall.
In Mali, the Security Council met with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and several Government ministers, all of whom unanimously reaffirmed their country’s commitment to making the Joint Force fully operational as quickly as possible. The visit to the Joint Force headquarters, located in Sévaré, in central Mali, allowed us to see that it is up and running. Much has been done in a short period of time in order to make the Joint Force operational. I refer in particular to the fact that the Joint Force has already achieved its initial operational capability and that the command post for the Central Sector in Niamey has been established, as well as to the high quality of the G-5 officers in command, not to mention the fact that it will be deploying its first operational mission in the next few days.
Our discussions with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the MINUSMA Force Commander allowed us to identify, from among the elements contained in the options submitted by the Secretary-General, those that could be achieved in the short term and that would need to be preceded by a strengthening of MINUSMA’s capacity and therefore could only be implemented further down the line.
Our discussions with the representatives of the French Operation Barkhane and the European operations — the European Union Training Mission and European Union Capacity-building Mission in Mali — allowed us to better understand the activities of the other international security forces present in the area and to assess their mutual complementarity. In particular, it became apparent that the force generation for the G-5 Sahel Joint Force was intended to enable MINUSMA and Operation Barkhane to implement their mandates.
With regard to the peace process in Mali, a meeting with members of the Monitoring Committee of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali was an opportunity for the Malian authorities to share the progress that had recently been made in the implementation of the provisions of the Agreement. In a joint document, the signatory groups deplored a lack of consultation with them on the part of the Government on this issue. In response to these statements, on behalf of the entire Council, I reiterated the strong message that we conveyed in our press statement on Mali issued on 6 October (SC/13019) by stressing the Council’s expectation that concrete progress would be achieved by the end of the year. This message was supported by the Algerian presidency of the Monitoring Committee and by the representative of the African Union.
We held two meetings with representatives of civil society — one in Bamako and one in Mopti — that allowed us to directly address the concerns of the Malian population. They emphasized the desire of women to be more involved in the practical implementation of the peace agreement, and in particular to be better represented in the institutions responsible for monitoring its implementation, as well as the weariness of the population in the centre of the country with regard to the security threat it faces on a daily basis and its wish that the influence of terrorist groups in the region be combatted.
Finally, we also took part in a ceremony honouring the 146 peacekeepers of MINUSMA who have died while serving their mandate, which was held at the MINUSMA memorial in Bamako. Regrettably, there are now 149. It was an emotional time for the Mission and the Council delegation, and it led us to conclude that it was a good practice which should be observed during each Council visit to a country hosting a peacekeeping operation
As this meeting draws to an end, and in full agreement what has been said, I believe that I have good reason for saying that the Security Council’s visit to the Sahel came at a particularly timely moment in terms of its work with regard to the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G-5 Sahel) and was both useful and productive.
For our part, we took away three main lessons from the field visit.
The first is that the authorities of the three countries we visited unanimously underscored their political commitment to ensuring the quickest possible operationalization of the Force, together with a strong and clear call for increased international support, bilateral and multilateral.
That political mobilization has been accompanied by significant progress on the Force’s deployment on the ground, as has been mentioned. It will be important to ensure that in Mali it is accompanied by tangible progress in implementing the Agreement for Peace and
Reconciliation in Mali, as was conveyed to the Malians during the visit.
The second lesson is that the our visit gave us an opportunity to emphasize the unanimous support of Council members to the Joint Force. The Force is seen as an essential response to the transnational nature of the security threat facing the States of the Sahel, but also as a complement to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and Operation Barkhane that will enable them to create an environment in which they can better execute their mandates. What we pointed out — and the members of the G-5 Sahel share our view — is that the Joint Force’s security response, however crucial, must absolutely meet expectations in terms of respect for human rights and must be complemented by development efforts on the ground to ensure that it is not counterproductive.
The third lesson is that the real debate is no longer about whether the Joint Force is relevant or even whether we should be strengthening international support for the Force, but about how that support should be calibrated. Next Monday’s Security Council meeting, which will be presided over by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, is being convened to tackle that very question through our discussion of the best way to strengthen the international community’s support for the Joint Force of the G-5 Sahel. In our national capacity, we will express our hope that we will be able to give the Joint Force the support it needs right now while taking account of the differing points of view of those around the Council table.
Before we adjourn the meeting, on behalf of the Council I should like to express our appreciation to the authorities of Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso for their very warm welcome to us. I would also like to thank all of my colleagues on the Security Council, especially those from Italy and Ethiopia, for the genuine team spirit that was the hallmark of the mission.
Last but not least, I would especially like to thank the entire Secretariat team who worked to organize and ensure the success of the visit, both in New York and on the ground. I refer in particular not only to the Security Council Affairs Division, but also to the teams in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Political Affairs, MINUSMA, the Resident Coordinators in Mauritania and Burkina Faso, our interpreters and security officers — in other words, everyone who was involved. Their work was truly exemplary, and they played a key role in the success of this visit. On behalf of all of us, I am deeply grateful to them.