Briefing on the situation in the Sahel region

Mali and Sahel

Date | 1 June 2022

Tomorrow (01 June), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its first session of the month to receive briefing on the situation in the Sahel region.

Following opening remarks by Daniel Owassa, Permanent Representative of Congo to the AU and Chairperson of the Council for the month of June, Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security is expected to deliver statement. Mamane Sambo Sidikou, AU High Representative for Mali and Head of AU Mission for Mali and the Sahel (MISAHEL) is expected to make statement. General Oumar Bikimo, G5 Sahel Joint Force Commander is also scheduled to make a presentation. The representative of Ghana as Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Chair and the representatives of the three members of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, namely Chad, Mauritania, and Niger are expected to make statements. In addition, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to the AU and Head of United Nations Office to the AU (UNOAU), Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, may also deliver statement.

This item is put on the agenda of the PSC by the AU Commission, coming in the context of worrying security, political and humanitarian developments in the Sahel region. The last dedicated session of the Council on the general security situation in the Sahel region was at its 939th session that took place in July 2020. This is apart from PSC sessions dedicated to situations in specific countries of the region including the latest one at its 1076th session in April 2022 where it considered the political transition processes in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Chad, among others.

The data from various sources that document acts of terrorist attacks, including the Global Terrorism Index 2022 published in March 2022, show that there is continuing rise both in the number of attacks and of fatalities from attacks in the Sahel region. Incidents of terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso increased from 191 in 2020 and to 216 in 2021, pushing the number of fatalities from 657 to 732. With 333 incidents, the attacks from terrorism in Mali increased by 56% in 2021 compared to 2020 and led to more than 100% increase in fatalities, representing the highest number of terrorist attacks and deaths in the last decade in Mali. Although the number of incidents did not increase in Niger, the attacks in the country led to 129% increase in fatalities.

With such spike in attacks and fatalities, the Sahel has now become the region with countries most affected by terrorism in the world. Various factors account for these. These include weak capacity of security forces, absence of state presence in border areas increasingly affected by terrorism, socio-economic and political marginalization of affected territories and climatic and demographic pressures on the lives and livelihoods of communities. Added to these is the expansion in operational capacity and geographic stretch of the two main terrorist groups operating in the region, the Islamic State of the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and Al Qaeda-affiliated Jamaat Nusrat Al-Islam Wal Muslimeen (JNIM).

Making matters worse, the Sahel is also experiencing heightened levels of political volatility, partly on account of the worsening security situation. All the three Sahelian countries most affected by terrorism and Chad have experienced attempted military coups. While the coup attempt in Niger failed, those in Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso were successful. Apart from the suspension from the AU and ECOWAS, the disagreement between ECOWAS and Mali over the timelines for the return to constitutional order led ECOWAS to impose further sanctions on Mali. While it has not as yet led to similar sanctions ECOWAS imposed on Mali, Burkina Faso and ECOWAS also remain unable to agree on a timeline for the transition and return of constitutional order. Apart from the political uncertainties these disagreements have created in both countries, the situation, further aggravated by tensions over the role of international actors, is straining diplomatic relations among ECOWAS countries and impeding mobilization of cohesive regional and continental policy measures.

Dealing further blow to effective policy responses to the growing threat of terrorism is the deepening tension afflicting the international security partnership in the Sahel. Apart from the withdrawal from Mali of Operation Berkhane, the diplomatic fallout between Mali and France and the disaffection from the reported deployment of personnel of the Russian private security company, Wagner Group, in Mali in December 2021 have led to the announcement on 17 February by members of the Task Force Takuba of a decision to start the ‘coordinated withdrawal of their respective military resources’ from Mali within six months.

G5 Sahel joint force is caught in the crossfires of the diplomatic tensions in the Sahel involving both regional and international actors. In his 11 May 2022 report on the G5 Sahel to the UN Security Council, UN Secretary General expressed his deep concern ‘by the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the Sahel, as well as by the potentially debilitating effect that the uncertain political situation in Mali, Burkina Faso and beyond will have on efforts to further operationalize the G5 Sahel Joint Force and to address the underlying causes of instability and improve governance.’ On 15 May 2022, the transitional authorities of Mali announced the withdrawal of Mali from the G5 Sahel joint force protesting against its exclusion from assuming the rotating presidency of G5 Sahel. Ordinary session was supposed to happen in February in Bamako where Mali was due to take up the baton of the rotating presidency of the body from Chad. Amid the fallout between Mali and France and the tension over the deployment of the Wagner group, some members of the G5 Sahel opposed Mali’s takeover of the presidency of the regional group. Mali pointed its finger on ‘a state outside the region for desperately seeking to isolate Mali.’

Mali’s withdrawal from the G5 Sahel is not without serious consequences for counter terrorism in the region. The UN mission in Mali has reported worrying levels of spike in insecurity on Mali’s border with Burkina Faso and Niger. Highlighting the significance of Mali’s continued engagement in G5 Sahel, Niger’s President went as far as stating that its withdrawal will mark the end of the alliance.

The rising insecurity, political volatility and tension combined with climatic and demographic pressures on the livelihoods of people in the region are aggravating already dire humanitarian situation in the region. People continue to be displaced. According to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, forced displacement is at ‘an unprecedented high, with over 4 million refugees and internally displaced peoples’ across the Sahel in 2022. The spate of terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso has already led in record numbers of displaced people, numbering 1.5 million in that country alone. OCHA’s 20 May Briefing Highlights reported that food insecurity has reached ‘alarming levels’ in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger, where people will experience ‘emergency levels of food insecurity during the lean season between June and August.’ Despite the deteriorating humanitarian condition, the declining level of funding for humanitarian and stabilization activities, as noted by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres during his recent visit to Niger, remains extremely concerning.

During tomorrow’s session one of the issues of concern for the PSC is how to resolve the political uncertainties in the countries affected by military coups. This should include not only Burkina Faso and Mali but also Chad. Perception of inconsistent treatment opens regional, continental and international policy responses to charges of double standard, severely impeding effectiveness and undermining cohesion. In terms of resolving the diplomatic crisis between ECOWAS and its two member States Burkina Faso and Mali, there is also a need for finding consensual timelines for the transitions that is informed by the urgency of ending the adverse impact of this difference on the security situation in the region.

The other area of concern for the PSC is the uncertainty facing the G5 Sahel joint force following the withdrawal of Mali. Member states may inquire AU’s assessment of the situation and how the AU can help to facilitate the resolution of the recent disagreement among countries of the G5 Sahel. This is critical to restore cohesion of members of the G5 Sahel and the effective functioning of the joint force.

In terms of security partnerships in the Sahel, similar issue of concern for the PSC is the impact of the disagreement involving international partners undertaking security operations in the region. It is to be recalled that Council, at its 1006th session convened on 6 July 2021, requested the Chairperson of the Commission to dispatch ‘a joint technical assessment mission to the Sahel region’ to, among others, assess the possible implications of the exit of Operation Barkhane. Considering more recent withdrawals within the framework of operation Takuba and concerns about deterioration of conditions optimal for the effective operation of MINUSMA, tomorrow’s session is expected to examine measures required for addressing both the implications of these developments and the deteriorating security.

In this context, PSC members may also revisit how the AU can revive more forcefully the follow up of the implementation of the decision for the deployment of the 3000 AU force. The need for such force received major boost during the UN Secretary-General’s visit to West Africa. While he was in Niger, he said that the ‘operating in circumstances … call not for a peacekeeping force, but a strong force to enforce peace and fight terrorism.’ Elaborating further, the UNSG said the force would need to be ‘from the African Union, but with a Chapter Seven Security Council mandate and obligatory financing.’

In terms of the multidimensional challenges facing the Sahel, the other issue of concern for tomorrow’s session is ways of giving greater attention in diplomatic, institutional and diplomatic terms to address the underlying conditions and drivers of instability, such as underdevelopment, weak governance and climate change. Indeed,  as argued in our latest special report on the growing threat of terrorism in Africa, there is an urgent need to move beyond military measures and pay due attention to non-military strategies that put politics front and center to address underlying structural conditions including deep poverty, exclusion, and governance deficits. In this context, member states may inquire about the plan for the joint AU-UN strategic assessment of the Sahel. It was announced during the Secretary-General’s visit that an independent high – level panel on security and development in the Sahel, chaired by former President of the Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, will lead the strategic assessment.

In terms of addressing immediate concerns, there is also the pressing need for the PSC, against the backdrop of the AU humanitarian summit, to mobilize more efforts to address the deteriorating humanitarian situation, which is having a toll on civilians.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a communique. Council may express its grave concern over the persistence of terrorist attacks, political crisis, and the accompanying deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Sahel. It may recognize the multidimensional nature of the instability in the region, and in this respect, Council may re-emphasize the importance of adopting a comprehensive approach that would address not only the immediate security challenges but also its underlying causes. It may also welcome the joint initiative by the Chairperson of the Commission and the UN Secretary-General on the AU-UN Joint Strategic Assessment on the situation in the Sahel. The PSC may affirm the importance of the role of the G5 Sahel joint force and urge the members of the G5 Sahel countries to initiate dialogue with Mali to retain the cohesion of the Joint Force and reverse the negative impact of Mali’s withdrawal on the unity and effectiveness of the Force. The PSC may call for the urgent need for ECOWAS and Mali to reaching at a consensual understanding on the timelines for the transition as a necessary means for focusing the attention of all stakeholders on addressing the growing security challenges. In relation to the disagreement between Mali and ECOWAS, Council may commend Algeria and Togo for taking the initiative to facilitate consultation between Mali and the regional bloc and it may further ask the two countries to coordinate their efforts. Finally, Council, recalling its decision at its 1006th session that requested the Chairperson of the Commission to continue engagement with relevant stakeholders on the deployment of the 3000 troops in the Sahel and report back the Council on the outcome of the engagement, may request the Chairperson of the Commission to submit an updated plan within the framework of the joint strategic assessment of the AU and the UN and the recent support the UN Secretary General expressed for the deployment of an AU force.


Update on countries in political transition

Mali and Sahel

Date | 14 April 2022

Tomorrow (14 April), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 1076th session to receive updates on political transitions in Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Mali and Sudan.

Following opening remarks by Willy Nyamitwe, Permanent Representative of Burundi to the AU and the Chairperson of the PSC for the month of April, Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), is expected to deliver a statement. Other participants that will be delivering statements and presentations include: Professor Mohammed Al-Hacen Lebatt, Principal Strategic Adviser of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and AU Special Envoy to Sudan; Representative of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Secretariat; Representative of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chair of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS); Basile Ikouebe, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and Head of the AU Office in Chad; Representative of the Republic of Ghana, Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); and Maman Sidikou, High Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and Head of the AU Mission for the Sahel (MISAHEL).

This session is convened in line with the PSC’s request of the Commission for a regular update on Chad, Mali, Sudan, Guinea and Burkina Faso at its different sessions held to consider the situation in each of these countries after experiencing unconstitutional change of government (UCG). Previously, the Council has dedicated separate sessions to receive updates on the situations in each of the above countries, and this will be the first time that the Council will consider them in one session. Tomorrow’s session is an opportunity for the Council to take stock of latest developments around the transition towards the restoration of constitutional order in member States that have experienced UCG in 2021 and early 2022. It is worth recalling that the PSC has imposed sanctions against all of these countries with the exception of Chad.

It is the second time that the Council considers the situation in Burkina Faso after the 24 January 2022’s military coup against the democratically elected President Marc Roch Christian Kabore, the first meeting being held at its 1062nd session convened on 31 January. In that session, it is to be recalled that the Council suspended the country from all AU activities until the effective restoration of normal constitutional order. Council also endorsed the 28 January 2022 communique of the Extraordinary Summit of ECOWAS, which among others requested the immediate restoration of constitutional order without specifying timeline. However, in the subsequent Summit held on 3 February, the regional bloc asked military authorities to ‘establish the Transition institutions, adopt a transition calendar and facilitate the return to constitutional order within the shortest time’.

Since its last session on 31 January, Burkina Faso adopted a Transition Charter on 1 March, setting a three-year transition period. The Charter was adopted after consultations between the military leaders, political parties, civil society groups, and other stakeholders. Among the provisions of the Charter is the one that bars the interim President and the coup leader Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba (he was sworn in as President on 2 March to lead the transition), as well as members of the transitional government from running for elections. A civilian Prime Minster and a cabinet consisting of 25 ministers were also appointed on 4 and 5 March. On 19 March, a transitional assembly was appointed as well, which will serve as the legislative body during the transition. The reported release of President Roch Kabore is another welcome development.

While all these developments are positive steps towards the restoration of a constitutional order, the 36 months duration of the transition period will remain issue of concern for the Council though it did not put any specific timeline for the transition at its previous session. On the part of ECOWAS, it has already expressed its concern over the duration of the transition at its most recent extraordinary summit convened on 25 March. The communique adopted at the Summit further demanded the ‘finalization of an acceptable transition timetable no later than 25th April 2022’, failure to which the regional bloc threatened to impose an immediate economic and financial sanctions. On the security front, terrorists have continued to stage their attacks which has exacerbated the humanitarian situation in the country.

The last time the Council considered the situation in Chad was in August 2021 during its 1016th session. Hence tomorrow’s meeting will be the first session of 2022 where the Council considers the developments in the country. It is to be recalled that following the military seizure after Idriss Deby’s death on 20 April 2021, the PSC decided not to suspend Chad contrary to AU norms. The event in Chad was not referred as a coup or unconstitutional change of government by the PSC. However, the Council urged the military to hand over political power to civilian authorities and authorised the urgent deployment of a fact-finding mission to Chad. Moreover, in its 996th session the Council requested, among others, the completion of the transition to democratic rule within 18 months, effective from 20 April 2021; guarantee that the Chair of Transitional Military Council (TMC) and its members do not run in the upcoming national elections; and the urgent revision of the Transition Charter. The Council also requested Chadian authorities to ‘urgently establish the National Transition Council’. During the 996th session the PSC also decided for the establishment of an AU-led Support Mechanism (AUSM) for Chad. The PSC, in its last session on Chad, at its 1016th session has urged for ‘dialogue between the Transition Government and all relevant Chadian stakeholders including opposition political parties and armed groups’.

Tomorrow’s session will be critical in assessing the level of implementation of the various requests made by the PSC and to examine the overall status of the transition process. The National Transition Council has been announced in September 2021 to serve as an interim parliament during the transition period. On the other hand, considerable delays have been witnessed around the national dialogue process. The TMC has declared amnesty for various rebel armed groups to facilitate their participation in the planned dialogue. However, there are still concerns around the inclusivity of the national dialogue, as key civilian groups are still missing and the focus has been more on the inclusion of politico-military groups. It would be also important for the PSC to underline the importance for respecting the 18-month transition period.

Council’s last deliberation on Guinea took place at its 1064th session convened on 10 February 2022. At that session, Council welcomed some of the key positive developments in Guinea’s political transition which include the establishment of a Transition Government with complete appointment of members of the National Transitional Council (NTC), the appointment of a civilian Prime Minister and the adoption of a Transition Charter. The release of former President Alpha Conde was also another positive development highlighted at the 1064th session – although Conde has returned to Conakry on 8 April, after which the transition government announced he shall remain in Guinea as long as his health allows.

Despite taking some positive steps, the transition authorities are also yet to meet the key requirements fundamental to ensuring the restoration of constitutional order. Notwithstanding the appointment of a civilian Prime Minister, key government positions continue to be held by military figures. The transition authorities were also unable to conduct national elections within the six months period stipulated by ECOWAS at its Extraordinary Summit of 16 September 2021 and endorsed by the PSC at its 1036th session of 5 October 2021. Not only have Guinean authorities failed to respect the stipulated timeline for the conduct of elections, they are also yet to announce a clear transition timetable. Having regard to the slow progress of restoring constitutional order and particularly in light of the missed deadline for the conduct of elections, ECOWAS, at its Extraordinary Summit of 25 March 2022, demanded the “finalisation of an acceptable transition timetable no later than 25 April 2022”. It further threatened the immediate imposition of economic and financial sanctions upon the expiry of this deadline without submission of the transition timetable.

In addition to following up on some of the key decisions of its previous session including its request for the AU Commission to ensure provision of technical support to Guinea, Council may urge Guinean authorities to finalise and submit a transition timetable which presents a reasonable and acceptable timeline for the conduct of elections and restoration of constitutional order.

At its last session dedicated to the situation in Mali – the 1057th session held on 14 January 2022 – the PSC endorsed the Communiqué of ECOWAS’s 4th Extraordinary Summit of 9 January 2022 which imposed economic and political sanctions against Mali, following the latter’s adoption of a transition calendar which delays the national elections until the end of December 2025. Council also strongly rejected the calendar submitted by Mali and referred to the timeline suggested as an “undue elongation of the transition process in Mali” as well as an “unconstitutional, impermissible, inappropriate and a grave obstruction to democratic processes”. Accordingly, it called on Malian authorities to ensure completion of the transition period within 16 months.

Despite the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS and PSC’s endorsement of the regional block’s decision as well as condemnations from the international community, the transition in Mali remains very slow. On 4 February 2022, the European Union (EU) adopted sanctions, including travel ban and asset freeze, against five members of Mali’s transitional Government, in support of ECOWAS’s decisions. In response, members of the transition authority organised a rally against EU’s sanctions. Recent developments including the request for Danish forces, deployed as part of the Takuba Task Force to leave the country on 24 January as well as France’s Ambassador to Mali to leave the country within 72 hours on 31 January demonstrate the deteriorating relationship of Mali’s transitional government with various partners. Moreover, on 11 April, the EU decided to halt its military trainings in Mali voicing concern over the interference and operation of Wagner Group.

On 21 February, Mali’s National Transition Council (NTC) unanimously adopted a draft law tabled by the Government for amending the 2020 Transition Charter. Among the contents of the revision is the modification of the transition timeline in line with recommendations of the national dialogue of December 2021. Key political oppositions, particularly the Cadre d’échange or “Exchange Framework” have completely rejected the revision of the Transition Charter. Meanwhile, efforts to resolve the impasse between Malian government and regional and international partners have continued. Particularly, ECOWAS’s Mediator for Mali has been actively engaging the transition government, although no agreement could be reached so far. At its recent Extraordinary Summit of 25 March 2022, ECOWAS showed flexibility and indicated possibility for gradual lifting of its sanctions on the condition that Malian authorities adhere to the timeline established by the joint technical team of ECOWAS, AU and UN, to extend the transition period for additional 12 to 16 months, effective from 15 March 2022. However, Mali’s interim President did not take part at the 15 March ECOWAS Summit, despite invitation extended by the regional body. On the other hand, upon ECOWAS’s communication of the proposed addition of 12 to 16 months to the transition period, Malian authorities engaged the ECOWAS mediator for Mali and successively proposed a period of 36, 29 and then 24 months. ECOWAS has however maintained the 12 to 16 months proposed by the joint technical team.

In light of this discourse, Council may urge Mali’s transition authorities to adhere to the new timeline agreed by ECOWAS, AU and UN and to work towards resolving the stalemates faced with regional and international stakeholders. It may also reiterate its previous calls for Malian transition authorities to commit to not participate in the elections at the end of the transition period.

The Council was last updated on the situation on Sudan during its 1060th session held on 25 January 2022. In this session, the Council is expected to hear about latest developments in the country and AU’s engagement to resolve the crisis following the 25 October 2021 coup. The anti-coup protests have continued and the absence of any political agreement that would break the dangerous political stalemate over the future of the transition. The military has continued its grip on power while regular protests against military rule have persisted in Khartoum and elsewhere, leaving at least 94 people reportedly dead and thousands injured.

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts have intensified to help Sudanese parties find way out of the current crisis. The Chairperson of the Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, visited Sudan in February where he met Sudanese parties for consultation on the political situation in the country. Professor Mohammed Al-Hacen Lebatt, the AU Special Envoy, also visited Sudan on several occasions to ensure consultations are inclusive. A field mission was also scheduled to take place from 27 to 28 February, but this has been postponed pending the readiness of Sudan. The United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) also released its report on 28 February highlighting areas of convergence and divergence among stakeholders, which is an outcome of more than 110 consultations. The regional bloc, IGAD, also undertook a fact-finding mission to Sudan from 29 January to 1 February 2022. Though diplomatic efforts by UNITAMS, AU and IGAD were not coordinated initially, this has changed in recent weeks as they agreed to join efforts in supporting Sudan to resolve the crisis.

As noted by Volker Perthes, the Special Representative for Sudan and Head of UNITAMS, in his latest brief to the UN Security Council on 28 March, reaching an agreement on: interim constitutional arrangement, the criteria and mechanisms to appoint a Prime Minster and a cabinet, a roadmap for the transitional period, and the type and timing for the elections remain ‘urgent priorities’ to address the current impasse and put the political transition back on track.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a communiqué. Having addressed the key issues specific to each of the countries on its agenda, Council may generally emphasise the importance of adhering to AU norms on democracy, good governance and constitutionalism in order to avert the occurrence of coups and the resulting disruption to constitutional order as well as peace and security. On Burkina Faso, Council may take note of the positive developments notably the adoption of the Transition Charter, establishment of transitional bodies and the release of President Roch Kabore. However, echoing the 25 March 2022 Communique of ECOWAS, it may express its concern over the duration of the transition period set for 36 months under the Transition Charter.

Similarly, Council may emphasise its concern over the slow progress in Guinea’s transitional process. Based on its previous practice, it is possible for Council to endorse ECOWAS’s decision with respect to Burkina Faso and Guinea adopted in the Communiqué of its Extraordinary Summit of 25 March 2022. It is however possible that some members of the Council may find the threatened imposition of immediate sanctions in ECOWAS’s Communiqué counterproductive to diplomatic efforts and engagements with the transitional authorities of each country, particularly having regard to the recent experience of Mali. With respect to the transition in Mali, Council may welcome and commend the engagements between Malian authorities and ECOWAS Mediator. It may also welcome the initiative of the Malian Minister of Foreign Affairs to set up a Framework for dialogue at the political and technical level, which led to the formation of the joint technical team of ECOWAS, AU and UN that proposed an electoral timetable of 12 to 16 months.

On Chad, the PSC may urge the military council to honor its pledges to limit the transition to eighteen months and exclude its own members from running in the planned election. The PSC may further underline the importance of holding an inclusive and genuine national dialogue.

Regarding Sudan, the PSC may express its concern over the lack of political agreement on the future of the transition and its impact on the economic and security conditions of the country. Council may welcome the joint efforts of AU, UNITAMS and IGAD to facilitate consultations among Sudanese stakeholders. It may also urge both the military and the civilian political forces to reach a deal on a transitional arrangement that would steer the country to the election. The PSC may reiterate its call upon the Sudanese authorities to refrain from using excessive force against protesters and hold perpetrators to account.


Update on the Situation in Mali

Mali and Sahel

Date | 14 January, 2022

Tomorrow (14 January), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is set to receive updates on the situation in Mali as one of the agenda items of its 1057th session, which was added to the monthly program after the adoption of the program.

Following the opening remarks of the PSC Chairperson of the month and Permanent Representative of Ghana to the AU, Amma A. Twum-Amoah, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to make a presentation. The AU High Representative for Mali and the Sahel, Maman Sambo Sidikou is also expected to make remarks. Statements are also expected from representatives of Algeria, Mauritania, Ghana (as Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Chair), and United Nations Office to the AU (UNOAU). Mali as a country concerned may provide a statement. It is expected that one of the issues that will be highlighted is the need for ensuring that measures taken against Mali will not interfere with the 2015 peace agreement and further aggravate the security challenges of Mali.

The session comes following the fourth Extraordinary Session of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government convened on 9 January 2022 where in addition to deciding to uphold the previous sanctions, the regional bloc imposed additional sanctions against Mali and the transition authorities, including closure of land and air borders between Mali and other ECOWAS countries. ECOWAS’s decision was based on the inability of Mali’s transition authorities to adhere to the 2020 Transitional Charter which limits the transition period to 18 months. Ahead of the summit, Mali presented a proposal to ECOWAS, which the ECOWAS mediator Goodluck Jonathan indicated would not be endorsed by ECOWAS.

Tomorrow’s session is expected to consider the latest developments in Mali in the context of the decision of the Extraordinary Session of ECOWAS. It is to be recalled that the PSC at its 1001st session endorsed the decision of ECOWAS on Mali and called upon the transitional authorities to respect the initially set 18 months transition period. The PSC has further called for the immediate return of the military to the barracks, for a swift civilian led transition, for the unconditional respect of the transitional charter and to ensure that the current leadership of the transition does not participate in the planned election.

Despite the repeated calls by ECOWAS, the PSC and other international partners to adhere to the 2020 Transitional Charter and despite earlier promises by Mali’s transition authority to conduct elections by February 2022, a new transition calendar was adopted by the end of December 2021, scheduling the elections for December 2026 and extending the transition period for additional five years.

As highlighted in the report of PSC’s Evaluation Mission to Mali conducted in July 2021, there was already lack of concreate agreement on the establishment of an independent election management body or maintaining the prevailing system of having three institutions to manage the elections. According to the draft electoral law adopted by the Council of Ministers on 24 November 2021, a single election management body is to be established although the process for establishing this organ may be lengthy, a concern already stressed by various Malian stakeholders earlier on as captured in the report of PSC’s Evaluation mission.

Moreover, despite repeated calls from ECOWAS and PSC, Mali’s current transition authorities have refrained from declaring that they will not be taking part in elections at the end of the transition period. The transition process has also been criticised for lack of inclusivity. For instance, reports indicate that despite the participation of substantial number of citizens at the national dialogue – the “National Refoundation Conference” – conducted from 11 to 30 December 2021 which ended with the recommendation to extend Mali’s transition period anywhere from six months to five years, some key regions were not represented, notably Kidal and Ménaka. Moreover, the Cadre d’échange (“Exchange Framework”), a political coalition involving allies of the former presidential majority, not only boycotted the national dialogue claiming “erosion of trust between the transitional government and political parties”, but also voiced clear opposition against the new transition calendar and the extension of the transition period implied therein.

Both ECOWAS and the PSC – notably the PSC at its 1001st session – have underscored the need for holding a national dialogue and urged the transition authorities to coordinate an inclusive national reconciliation and dialogue process. The December 2021 “National Refoundation Conference” was conducted after two postponements. Nonetheless, the dialogue came up with some solid positive outcomes, including recommendations for the creation of a Senate, the acceleration of the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process and a constitutional review.

Malian authorities rejected the decision of ECOWAS and have called upon people in the country and diaspora to participate in protests on Friday 14 January, alongside calls for prayer sessions in places of worship, declaring their decision to ‘safeguard our sovereignty’. A key development in the region that followed ECOWAS’s additional sanctions against Mali was Guinea’s announcement that it is in no way associated with the decision and that it will keep its borders with Mali open, going against ECOWAS’s decision. Guinea, having undergone a coup of its own on 5 September 2021, is currently undergoing a transition period marred with its own challenges and as a member of ECOWAS, is under sanctions imposed by the regional bloc. On the other hand, in the Communiqué of its 4th Extraordinary Session, ECOWAS has called for non-ECOWAS member States neighbouring Mali, particularly Algeria and Mauritania to support the implementation of its decisions. Algeria and Mauritania, both expected to be represented at tomorrow’s PSC session may therefore express their positions in that regard.

The UN Security Council on its part considered the situation in Mali and a draft statement on Mali initiated by France on 11 January 2022. Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN stated that the A3+1 firmly backed the tough ECOWAS decision on Mali, while welcoming the assurance the sanctions imposed will not impede the import of humanitarian air, essential consumer goods, medicines, medical equipment and the operations of UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Despite the support by the A3 and other members of the Council including UK and US for the draft statement initiated by France, the adoption of the draft statement was blocked by Russia and China. Russia underscored at the meeting that it recognises and understands the challenges faced by Malian authorities in organising the general elections as explanation for its position against endorsing ECOWAS’s sanctions. It is known that the involvement of the Russian private military company, the Wagner Group in Mali has been causing tension between Russia on the one hand and other members of the UN Security Council, notably France, UK and US.

On the security front, insurgency and intercommunal violence continue to destabilise the country, with an increasing trend in the usage of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Militant attacks targeted against civilians and MINUSMA forces have continued to claim the lives of many. At its 1027th session where it considered the report of the PSC evaluation mission to Mali, Council encouraged the transition authorities to accelerate implementation of the 2015 Algiers Agreement, particularly the deployment of the Reconstituted Army Battalions (BATFAR) which could contribute in filling some security vacuum that could result from the withdrawal of France’s forces. To evaluate the threat on the ground, the AU Commission was also requested to conduct an assessment at Council’s 1027th session. Tomorrow’s session therefore presents the opportunity for Council to follow up on the progress of the assessment.

The humanitarian situation in Mali also continues to deteriorate. According to the UN, “more than 1.8 million people are expected to need food assistance in 2022 compared to 1.3 million in 2021, the highest level of food insecurity recorded since 2014”. The UN has also recorded a considerable increase in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mali, from 216,000 to over 400,000 in just one year. Despite the worsening circumstances, there hasn’t been sufficient humanitarian assistance in Mali, with a very limited amount of funding received in the past year as emphasised by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the country.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a Communiqué. Council is expected to express grave concern over the prolonged extension of the transition period, going against the terms of the PSC communique of its 1001st session. The PSC may reiterate its earlier calls for the need for upholding constitutional rule and respecting the terms of the transitional charter that sets the parameters for return to constitutional order. It may also endorse the decision of the 4th Extraordinary Session of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government and may appeal to the transitional authorities to work with ECOWAS to address the outstanding areas of difference with a view for facilitating the return of Mali to constitutional order within a short period of time. The PSC may also call on its member States to support the efforts of ECOWAS and the ECOWAS mediator, former Nigerian President Goodluck Johnathan. Council may also appeal to the international community to provide assistance to respond to the grave humanitarian situation in Mali. Welcoming the convening of the national dialogue, the Council may also urge Mali’s transition authorities to take forward and ensure implementation of outcomes such as the recommendation for accelerating DDR processes while complying with the transitional charter and the various communiques of the PSC. It may also reiterate the importance of the 2015 peace agreement and the need to ensure and provide full support for its implementation.


Briefing on the Situation in Mali

Mali and Sahel

Date | 02 September, 2021

Tomorrow (02 September), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is set to convene its 1027th session to receive updates on the situation in Mali and consider the report of PSC’s evaluation mission to Mali which was undertaken from 14 to 17 July, in line with Council’s decision under Paragraph 11 of its 1001st Communiqué.

The session is expected to have an open and closed segment. During the open segment, the PSC Chairperson of the month and Permanent Representative of Chad to the AU, Mahamat Ali Hassan, will be delivering opening remarks to be followed by a statement from the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye. Maman Sidikou, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission (SRCC) for Mali and Head of the AU Mission for Mali and the Sahel (MISAHEL) is also expected to make a presentation during the open segment of the session, which is to be followed by statements from the Representative of Republic of Ghana, Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and the Representative of the European Union (EU) Delegation to the AU. At the closed segment of the session, Victor Adeleke, Permanent Representative of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the AU will present the evaluation report to Council members, as the PSC Chairperson during the month of July, when the evaluation mission to Mali was conducted.

Tomorrow’s session is expected to deliberate on the findings of PSC’s evaluation mission report which may capture some of the key developments that have been unfolding in the country’s socio-political, security, economic and human rights and humanitarian situation since Council’s last deliberation at its 1001st session, which saw the country suspended from all AU activities following the coup of 24 May 2021. While ECOWAS’s suspension clearly defines a timeline (until after the February 2022 elections and the formation of a democratically elected government), the PSC has set some preconditions that need to be met before it can lift its suspension.

One of Council’s demands stressed at its previous session was the immediate appointment of a civilian Prime Minister to lead the conclusion of the 18 months transition period. The appointment of Choguel Kokala Maiga, chairman of the strategic committee of the June 5 Movement, Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP) has hence been a welcome step in the right direction. The release of the former interim President and Prime Minister of the transitional government who were kept under house arrest following their ouster also meets another one of Council’s demands. The pledge made by the current authorities to forge ahead with the elections planned for February 2022 and to remain committed to the full implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali are also expected to receive the attention of the PSC. There has been no indication the Council’s call to refrain from taking part as candidates for the upcoming presidential election will be heeded.

Another development that would be of interest to PSC members during tomorrow’s session is the adoption of the Government Action Plan 2021-2022 (PAG). As highlighted in PSC’s evaluation mission report, the PAG is based on four main pillars which are: strengthening national security; ensuring political and institutional reforms; organisation of general elections and promotion of good governance and the adoption of a social stability pact. While the adoption of this key document is encouraging on its own and demonstrates the commitment of the new transitional authorities to conduct the elections, there is still no concreate agreement on an independent election management body which may result in delaying the planned elections.

The issues contained in the Communiqué summarising the outcomes of the visit by ECOWAS mediator for Mali, Goodluck Johnathan, conducted from 9 to 12 May, would also be of interest to PSC members. In this respect, the areas of progress noted in the communiqué include: the initiation of judicial processes relating to those arrested over alleged attempts of destabilising the country and their eventual acquittal; the gradual return of State authority to parts of the country where terrorist groups are active; and the disarmament (albeit slow) and conversion of some armed self-defence groups. On the other hand, lack of consensus on the choice of the election management bodies; lack of inclusivity and clarity in the conduct of the transition and lack of progress with respect to human rights and rule of law were the major concerns underscored. PSC’s evaluation mission has also highlighted similar concerns, particularly with regards to the implementation of major reforms which are lagging and yet to commence despite the approaching deadline of the transition period. One major example highlighted in this regard is the pending measures towards updating the electoral and referendum timetable of 31 October 2021.

With respect to the security situation, there is reasonable fear that the recurrence of coups in the country could embolden insurgent groups by demonstrating weakness in the State’s cohesion and its security apparatus. The jihadist attack which took place in June 2021 claiming the lives of 160 people and another one staged in August which killed 17 Malian soldiers and was claimed by the al-Qaeda-affiliated ‘Support Group for Islam and Muslims’ are illustrative of such tendency of such groups. Given Mali’s strategic importance in the fight against terrorism in the overall Sahel region, the uncertainty resulting from the country’s political instability also puts at risk the regional response to terrorism and violent extremism and could further destabilise the wider Sahel region. Moreover, despite gains made in disarmament of some armed self-defence groups, the country’s security situation still continues to be marked by the presence of non-State armed groups along its border areas. Inter-communal violence and attacks on national and international militaries and humanitarian actors as well as kidnapping, looting and killings of villagers also continue to characterise the security landscape in Mali. Added to these circumstances are gaps that may result from France’s decision to scale down its military presence and the announcement by Chad of its decision to withdraw half of its troops from the G5-Sahel Joint Force deployed in the three-border region along central Mali. The area which is known to be hit hardest by terrorists could hence experience further deterioration due to the reduction in troops. There is a possibility for filling in these gaps through the deployment by the AU of 3000 troops to the Sahel region in line with Assembly/AU/Dec.792(XXXIII), although progress to achieve this remains limited. Another option that could be considered is the deployment of the Battalions of Reconstituted Armed Forces (BATFAR). Although the redeployment of reconstituted Malian armed and security forces is envisaged in the Algiers Accord, the operationalisation of the process remains incomplete and slow.

Mali’s humanitarian situation also continues to deteriorate. As UN reports demonstrate, the country’s already fragile and complex humanitarian context has worsened as a result of the political volatility from the recent coup. An increase in attacks against civilians, particularly in the central and northern regions of the country, has led to unprecedented increase in displacement rates. As of the end of May 2021, the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country has reached 372,266, out of which, 63% are children. In addition to the increase in displacement rates, various human rights violations have also been recorded including attacks against civilians by security forces, gender-based violence and recruitment of children by armed groups. Added to these, the socio-economic situation in the country is also suffering due the negative impact of the recent coup on Mali’s international relations and the level of insecurity and instability.

The outcome of tomorrow’s session is expected to be a Communiqué. Council may reflect, based on the report of its evaluation mission, on the status of implementation of the conditions it laid down at its 1001st session and highlight the areas where the AU could extend support to Mali’s transition. It may commend the current Malian authorities for taking some encouraging steps to maintain the gains achieved in the country’s political transition and urge them to ensure that the planned elections will be conducted at the end of the transition period, without any delays and preconditions. Council may also once again urge Mali’s transitional authorities to refrain from taking part in the upcoming elections and to work towards ensuring non-interference of the military in political issues. Welcoming the adoption of the PAG 2021-2022, Council may also call on the transitional government to publish a feasible timeline for the actualisation of key activities outlined therein. It may encourage Malian parties to work towards finalising the major outstanding reforms that need to be completed before the end of the transitional period including most particularly reaching consensus on the electoral management body, and welcome the planned visit of ECOWAS mediator on 05-07 September 2021 to engage Malian actors. The PSC may urge all actors in Mali to observe respect for human rights and international humanitarian law and request the AU Commission, working with ECOWAS, to support Mali in implementing a robust framework for compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law. Having regard to the humanitarian needs and security threats in the country and the wider region, Council may also appeal to the international community to strengthen its assistance.


Consideration of the renewal of the mandate of G5 Sahel Joint Force

Mali and Sahel

Date | 6 July, 2021

Tomorrow (06 July) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is set to convene the first session of the month, which will be the 1006th session, to consider the renewal of G5 Sahel Joint Force mandate. The PSC will do so on the basis of the Report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission.

Following the opening remarks of the Chairperson of the PSC for July, Victor Adekunle Adeleke, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs and Peace and Security, Bankole Adeoye, is expected to introduce the report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission. AU High Representative for Mali and the Sahel, Maman Sidikou, and the representatives of the G5 Sahel Secretariat and member states of the regional mechanism are expected to make statements.

It is to be recalled that the Council, at its 939th meeting held in July last year, renewed the mandate of the G5 Sahel Joint Force for a period of one year until 12 July 2021.

The security situation in the Sahel continues to worsen with spate of terrorist violence in the region, especially in Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali. Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and the AL Qaeda-affiliated Jama’at Nusrat Al Islam Wal Muslimin (JNIM) remain major source of violence though they are not the only actors (vigilant self- defense groups are on the rise stirring intercommunal conflicts). Notwithstanding some gains made in the counter-terrorism operations in the region, the threat posed by the armed terrorist groups seems to be extending beyond the Sahel into the West African coast.

In sign of increasing insecurity, Niger, particularly its Western region of Tillabéri, experienced one of the deadliest attacks in March in which at least 140 people were reportedly killed. In Burkina Faso, the 5 June deadliest attack on the village of Solhan— informal gold mining site close to the border with Niger—left more than 160 people dead. This deadly attack reportedly brought the death toll in that country to about 500 since January. Terrorist groups in Mali also continued targeting both civilians and Malian armies as well as UN forces. In the latest attack, six Malian soldiers were killed while 13 UN peacekeeping forces were injured in separate assault staged in central and northern part of the country.

The latest spike of violence—coupled with rising food insecurity, climate change, and COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant economic shock—has exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation in the Sahel. According to the June report of UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 14.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance: Mali (7.1 million), Niger (3.8 million), and Burkina Faso (3.5 million). This has prompted UN agencies to raise the alarm over rising food insecurity, more so in the case of Burkina Faso.

It is also worth noting the impact of the pressing security and humanitarian situation in destabilizing governments of the region. For example, in Burkina Faso where the government has been forced to reshuffle the cabinet as discontent brewing over government’s perceived failure to contain the string of civilian attacks. It is to be recalled that Mali, Niger and Chad experienced coup or attempted coup between March and May illustrating the fragility.

A positive development in relation to the operationalization of the Joint Force is the deployment of 1,200 Chadian forces in the tri-border area in early March pursuant to the G5 Sahel Summit held in N’Djamena in February 2021. This brings the total number of the joint Force troops to 5,534.

The other issue the Council is likely to discuss is the operational and logistical challenges facing the G5 Sahel Joint Force. Though the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the European Union (EU) continue to provide logistical and financial support to the Force, the supports have not been adequate nor predictable. In the latest report on the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (FC-G5S), dated 10 May, the UN Secretary-General stated that ‘while the Force is becoming increasingly operational, it still lacks the necessary financial and logistical means to become autonomous’. It is in this context that the idea of establishing a dedicated UN Office to support the Joint Force gets traction with the view to ensuring predictable and sustainable support to the Force.

The creation of UN Office—similar to the UN Support Office to AU Mission in Somalia—was suggested by the UN Secretary-General June 2020 report on Mali. The G5 Sahel and the AU support and advocate for the UN to make such support package. It is worth recalling that the PSC, during its 939th session, called for the UN Security Council to ‘take necessary steps that will guarantee sustainable and predictable funding for the G5 Sahel Force from the UN assessed contribution’. However, dynamics in the UN Security Council suggest that members are divided on whether the idea of a dedicated and separate UN Office to support the G5 Joint Force should be pursued. Some members (particularly the three African members in the UN Security Council (A3) as well as France) are in support of the establishment of the Office while other members (notably US and UK) clearly object to the use of UN funds to establish the Support Office, preferring bilateral support as the right approach.

A positive development on the UN part is Security Council’s unanimous decision (through the adoption of resolution 2584) to renew MINUSMA’s mandate until 30 June 2022. While the mission maintains its current strength, the Security Council requested the Secretary-General to provide recommendations on the force levels and ceilings of the mission by mid- July, indicating the possibility of increasing the mission’s troop ceiling. A strengthened MINUSMA in a context where the situation in Mali and the wider Sahel is deteriorating would indeed be a positive step in turning the tide against terrorist groups in the region.

In tomorrow’s session, the PSC is also likely to discuss the status of 3,000 troops that the AU Assembly requested for the deployment to the Sahel. Despite some progress in developing the technical documents for deployment of the troops, critical issues of force generation, the command-and-control architecture, and the funding for the additional deployment have as yet to be clarified.

The other issue the Council may find worth reflecting on is the need to complement the military response with comprehensive approach that addresses the structural causes of instability notably underdevelopment, governance and climate change. A welcome development in this respect is the announcement of what is dubbed as ‘civil surge’ by the Heads of State of the G5 Sahel during the N’Djamena Summit last February. The expansion of state administrations and services to the populations, consolidation of rule of law and inclusive governance, and the fight against corruption and impunity are at the heart of the ideal of ‘civil surge’.

The expected outcome is a communique. While commending the efforts of the G5 Sahel Joint Force and its Member States in degrading capability of armed terrorist and other armed groups in Sahel, the PSC may reiterate its grave concern over the deterioration of security and humanitarian situation in the region. The Council is likely to note the progress made in the operationalization of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, particularly the deployment of the Chadian battalion of 1,200 forces as reinforcement to the Joint Force.

On the challenges facing the joint Force, the Council is likely to note the operational, logistical and financial limitations of the Force having detrimental effect to the effectiveness of the force in the fight against terrorism. Commending the efforts of the UN (through MINUSMA) and the EU for providing logistical and financial support, the Council may further call on these partners to continue their support. The Council may particularly reiterate the imperative of providing predictable and adequate resource for G5 Sahel Joint Force and welcome the proposal made by the Secretary-General for the creation of a dedicated UN Support Office. The Council is expected to welcome UN Security Council resolution 2584 of 29 June 2021, extending the mandate of MINUSMA for one year period until 30 June 2022.

The Council is also expected to stress on the need to follow a holistic approach and the need for enhancing non-military efforts that aimed at addressing root causes of the conflict in the region. In this connection, the Council may welcome the initiative of the ‘civil surge’ by Heads of State of the G5 Sahel during the N’Djamena Summit, and further call on partners to rally behind this initiative in addition to the military support. Finally, as growing security threats of the armed terrorist groups highlight the continued military engagement in the Sahel, the PSC is expected to renew the mandate of the G5 Sahel Joint Force for additional one year period.


Ministerial session on the situation in Mali

Mali and Sahel

Date | 24 May, 2021

Tomorrow (24 May) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 999th session at the Ministerial level to consider the situation in Mali.

Algeria’s Foreign Minister, Sabri BouKadoum, chairperson of the ministerial PSC session, is scheduled to make the opening remark. Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali, Zeyni Moulaye, representing Mali as the country concerned, and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Ghana, as Chair of ECOWAS, will deliver statements. Others scheduled to address the PSC include Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Bankole Adeoye, the new Special Representative of the Chairperson of the Commission (SRCC) for Mali and Head of the AU Mission for Mali and the Sahel (MISAHEL), Maman Sidikou and the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Mali and Head of United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), El Ghassim Wane.

The last time the PSC considered the situation in Mali was during its 954th session convened on 9 October 2020, following the issuance of a Transitional Charter and the establishment of a transitional governmentinvolving civilian leadership in October last year, as prescribed by ECOWAS and the PSC. The Prime Minister announced his 25-member cabinet in October. High-ranking military officials including those who took part in the August coup, members of the Movement of June 5-Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP) who led the protest against Keita’s regime, representatives of civil society, as well as four representatives of the signatory movements to the 2015 peace agreement formed the interim government. Against the background of these developments, during that session the PSC lifted the suspension of Mali from participation in AU activities.

For purposes of tomorrow’s session, it would be of interest for PSC members to follow up on the Council’s call for the interim government to expedite the implementation of the outstanding provisions of the Transitional Charter including the establishment of the National Transitional Council and to work towards the conclusion of the transitional process for holding national elections at the end of the 18-month transitional period. The PSC also recognized the importance of the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement in order to comprehensively address political, security and socio-economic challenges facing the Republic of Mali. In this context, tomorrow’s session presents the Council with the opportunity to receive updates on the progress made in respect of all these various areas.

Those providing update to the PSC, including the representative of Mali, are expected to highlight a number of developments. The first of this is the establishment of the Transitional National Council (TNC), as requested in the communique of the 954th session of the PSC. Established on the basis of a decree that the interim President, Bah N’Daw, issued last November, the 121 seats of the TNC were allocated to Defense and Security Forces, representatives of M5-RFP, signatory movements of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, political parties and other groups. Major political actors including the M5-RFP strongly criticized the arrangement over the perceived unfair representation of the military in the Council who were able to secure 22 seats. The inaugural session of the transitional council elected one of the leaders of the Coup, Malick Diaw, as the President of the Council with overwhelming majority early in December. Second, in February, the Transitional Council considered and approved the action plan of the interim government, setting out six priority areas and 275 specific actions. Of particular interest for the PSC is ensuring the implementation of the action plan within the transitional period focusing on the major milestones for convening national elections.

Despite these positive developments, the recent resignation of interim Prime Minister Moctar Ouane on 14 May and his immediate reinstatement to pave the way for ‘new broad-based’ government illustrates not only the fragility of the transition but also thesimmering tension between the military and civilian elements of the transitional government, due to the dominant role taken by the military leadership in the transition. The report of the ECOWAS mediator and special envoy to Mali, former President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan, also flagged the concerns of stakeholders stating that ‘the mission encourages the government to ensure greater inclusivity of the main socio-political actors…’ This was further echoed by the authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS during its fifty-eighth ordinary session held on 23 January 2021, which underscored the ‘need for the timely implementation of the various decisions relating to the Transition, in a more consultative and inclusive approach with all stakeholders’.

With respect to the preparations for national elections, on 15 April 2021, the Minister of Territorial Administration announced an electoral calendar. Accordingly, a constitutional referendum is slated for October 2021. The parliamentary election and the first round of presidential voting will take place on 27 February 2022, with the runoff presidential election envisaged to take place in March 2022. Local and regional elections are also set to take place in December this year. As UN Secretary- General noted in his last quarterly report, the government is taking positive steps in engaging political parties, civil society organizations and signatories of the 2015 peace agreement to map out agreeable legal and institutional framework for the upcoming elections.

On the implementation of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement resulting from the Algiers process, one notable development was the holding of the fifth ministerial session of the Agreement Monitoring Committee on 11 February in Kidal, for the first time since 2015. Six Malian ministers and the leadership of the signatory armed groups and international mediators took part in that session, with Algeria’s Foreign Minister, the Chairperson of tomorrow’s PSC session, as Chair of the Monitoring Committee. Apart from allocation of seats for signatory armed groups in the transitional institutions, progress is also being made with respect to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process, which forms key part of the peace agreement. A worrying development worth highlighting is the killing of the President of one of the signatory armed groups (Coordination of Azawad Movements), Ould Sidati, in Bamako last month.

Despite the positive political atmosphere from the transitional process and the 2015 agreement, the security situation remains dire. A terrorist attacks in Kidal on 2 April 2020 led to the death of 10 peacekeepers and one UN contractor. In a deadliest attack since August 2020 on a security post in the norther region of Gao in March 2020, 33 Malian soldiers were killed and 14 were injured.

On the humanitarian and socioeconomic front, the situation remains dire causing frustrations on thepart of the population. A nationwide strike was called by the prominent National Workers’ Union of Mali (UNTM), starting on 17 May to demand a better living and working conditions to their members. It is to be recalled that the PSC, during its last session on Mali, requested the Chairperson of the Commission, through the Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development Centre, to ‘engage the Transitional Government of Mali with the view to identifying priority areas that should contribute towards the restoration of national socio-economic development to more effectively prevent relapse to conflict’. In this respect, the Council is likely to follow up on this decision during tomorrow’s session.

In tomorrow’s session, the PSC may also follow up on the tools it agreed to put in place with the view to support the transition in Mali. One of such mechanisms is the ‘follow-up and support committee’, which the PSC requested the Chairperson of the Commission to ‘urgently activate’ at its 954th session to ensure the appropriate participation and contribution of AU to the transitional government. Accordingly, the inaugural meeting of the committee- co-chaired by the AU, ECOWAS, and the UN- was held on 30 November 2020 in Bamako, followed by its second meeting convened on 8 March 2021 in Lome, Togo.

The expected outcome is a communique. The PSC is expected to welcome the progress made in the implementation of the Transitional Charter since its last session on Mali held on 9October 2020. The Council is however expected to share the concerns of different stakeholders in the lack of proper consultation and inclusivity in the transition process, and in this respect, it may echo the fifty-eighth ordinary session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS in stressing ‘the need for the timely implementation of the various decisions relating to the Transition, in a more consultative and inclusive approach with stakeholders’. On the election, the Council is expected to welcome the announcement of the electoral calendar by the Government and urge Malian authorities to work on the outstanding legal and institutional frameworks in consultation with all stakeholders and create a conducive environment that would enable the conduct of the constitutional referendum and a free, fair and credible elections. In this regard, the Council may request the Chairperson of the Commission to initiate electoral support to Malian authorities. The Council may welcome the adoption of the Interim Government’s action plan by the National Council that outlined six priority areas, and may, in this respect, request the Chairperson of the Commission to continue its engagement with Malian authorities with the view to support them in translating this action plan into a reality.

In relation to the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, the PSC is likely to welcome the progress registered and call on the parties to expedite the redeployment of reconstituted forces to the regions that continue to experience armed violence. In relation to the security situation, the Council is expected to condemn the continued terrorist attacks and intercommunal violence pervasive in central and northern part of the country, including the attacks on MINUSMA. On the socioeconomic condition, the Council is also likely to express its concern over the continued disagreement between Malian authorities and labor unions in light of the recent nation-wide strike called by UNTM. In this respect, it may call on all parties to resolve their differences through dialogue to avoid a further damage to the struggling economy. In relation to the ‘follow-up and support committee’, the Council is expected to welcome theactivation of the Committee and the meetings it held, and the plan for the convening of its third meeting next month in Bamako. The Council is also expected to pay tribute to the late former President of Burundi, Paul Buyoya for his service and to welcome the appointment of Sidikou as SRCC and Head MISAHL.


Briefing on the situation in Mali

Mali and Sahel

Date | 9 October, 2020

Tomorrow (9 October) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to hold a briefing session on the situation in Mali. The meeting is expected to take place through VTC.
The AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, is expected to brief the PSC. Additionally, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, is also set to address the Council. It is also anticipated that the PSC will hear from Ghana, the current Chairperson of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The session is convened in the context of the recent developments in Mali that culminated in the establishment of a transitional government and the decision of ECOWAS to lift the sanctions it imposed following the unconstitutional changes of government in Mali on 18 August. It is to be recalled that the PSC at its 941st session of 19 August adopted a decision suspending Mali.

It is to be recalled that ECOWAS, which assumed leadership on the effort to restore constitutional order in Mali, considered the situation in Mali at a summit level meeting on 7 September and decided that the Malian forces has to appoint a transitional civilian president and prime Minister.

Subsequently, at a meeting that ECOWAS convened on 15 September with the the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), the formation of the military junta that seized power through the 18 August coup, ECOWAS reaffirmed the position on the need for civilians to be appointed to the position of President and Prime Minister of the transitional government and the limitation of the transitional period for 18 months as well as the dissolution of the CNSP upon the formation of the transitional government.

In the communique of its 946th session of 17 September in which it endorsed the ECOWAS decision, the PSC also categorically rejected ‘any attempt by the military to lead or influence the Malian Transition’, reiterated the ‘call for the immediate formation of a civilian-led transitional government’ and expressed ‘full support to the ECOWAS decision that both, the President and the Prime Minister of the Transition should be civilians’.

In the light of the foregoing, for purposes of tomorrow’s meeting the central issue is the lifting of the suspension of Mali. In this regard, one key technical issue that is sure to attract attention during the session is whether the formation of the transitional government complied with the requirements for civilian leadership and the PSC’s rejection of the influence of the military in the Malian transition.

After both the PSC and ECOWAS insisted on the requirement for civilian leadership for the position of President and Prime Minister, the selection committee that the CNSP established announced on 21 September the appointment of Bah N’daw, who is a former colonel and served as minister of defense in 2014, as transitional president. It also named CNSP head Colonel Assimi Goïta as transitional vice-president. On Friday 25 September,Ndaw and Goïta were sworn in as interim president and vice-president respectively for the transitional period that is set for a maximum of 18 months starting from 15 September.

ECOWAS’s Special Envoy, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, after meeting with Ndaw, has also stated of the possibilities for ECOWAS’s sanctions to be lifted with appointment of a civilian prime minister. On Sunday 27 September the transitional government appointed former minister of foreign affairs, Moctar Ouane, as Mali’s prime minister.

The Transition Charter published of 1 October in the Official Gazette has sought to meet the conditions put forward by ECOWAS towards the restoration of the constitutional order in Mali. The provision that allows the vice-president of the transition to replace the president has been removed with his responsibilities limited to security and defense. It also excluded the possibility of the transitional vice president replacing the transitional president. The 18-month cutoff timeline setting the duration of the transition has also been affirmed in the Charter. Taking these developments into account on 5 October ECOWAS decided to lift the sanctions imposed on Mali.

Indeed, despite his previous role, the president of the transitional government has since his retirement been a civilian with no notable influence on the military in Mali. Similarly, the appointment of Ouane as Prime Minister fulfils the demand for a civilian to be appointed to this leadership position. In terms of the reference, in the PSC communique of its 946th session of 17 September, to rejection of the influence of the military in the transition, the dissolution of the CNSP is an important step. At the same time, this reference to the influence of the military touches on the overall composition of the transitional government. Of particular interest in this respect is that four ministries including defense, internal security, territorial administration and national reconciliation are assigned to members of the CNSP.

The President has established a government consisting of 25 ministries. Even though the number of ministries led by army members is not significant as compared to the 25 membership of the cabinet, the portfolios of those ministries are however central for the country’s political transition and security. With the current composition, overall the transitional government can be characterized as a civilian led government with representation of members of the military in key portfolios. The effectiveness of Mali’s transition, similar to that of Sudan, will also depend on the kind of agency that they will be able to exercise.

For tomorrow’s session, the technical considerations, despite their political weight, are not the only or even most important considerations. In its application of AU norms, PSC also takes account of the needs of the context. In this respect, there are at least three important considerations. The first is the necessity for having an authority whose role as government is free from uncertainty. This is critical for both avoiding the political anxiety that results from uncertainty and for effective engagement to support the transitional process. This would be one of the issues that those briefing the Council may underscore. The second, related to the first, is the need for effective engagement of the Malian authorities in the effort to restore peace and security in the country. Indeed, the session may highlight that the fragile transition is taking place within the context of continued operation of terrorist groups in the country and in the region. The third consideration relates to the implementation of reforms including those within the framework of the 2015 peace agreement. On this latter point, it is envisaged that former armed groups parties to the Mali peace agreement of 2015 will also be represented in the transitional government.

There are also clear indications from the dynamics in the PSC that there will be strong support for the lifting of the suspension of Mali. Members of the PSC from the ECOWAS region would in pursuit of the ECOWAS decision lifting the sanctions on Mali would make a case for the PSC to follow ECOWAS. There are also other PSC members who support this position. Mali’s Ambassador, Fafre Kamara, engaged various PSC members and met with Chergui to brief them on progress made in Mali. It is not expected that there will be opposition to the lifting of Mali’s suspension.

At the same time, as part of ensuring support for the transitional process including for implementation of reform measures to address the governance and security issues that led to the political crisis, various members of the PSC may also indicate that the lifting of the suspension is done within the parameters of applicable AU rule constitutional governance. In this respect, apart from the need for adhering to the 18 month period of the transition, such members may highlight, the importance of using the transitional period for strengthening political stability including through mobilizing consensus around the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement, the rolling out of local governance structures and the creation of conditions for the convening of credible parliamentary and presidential elections. The issue of non-participation of the members of the CNSP and the transitional government in the formation of a new government that will be established on the basis of elections as required by AU norms may also arise.

The expected outcome is a communiqué. The PSC is expected to lift the suspension of Mali and express its support for the transitional process as a means for the restoration of constitutional order in Mali. In light of this the PSC may also welcome the decision of ECOWAS. Deciding to continue being seized with the situation, the PSC may underline the importance for the transitional government to adhere to the decisions made during the Accra Summit on 15 September including the need to maintain the civilian nature of the transition, the need to work within the agreed upon timeframe of 18 month and the dissolution of the CNSP. The Council may also reiterate the need for the consolidation of the political and security situation in the country. In this respect, the PSC may welcome the release of government and military officials that were detained in the context of the 18 August coup and commend the transitional government for securing the release of Malian politician Soumaïla Cissé, who was kidnapped in March, and French aid worker, as part of a prisoner exchange involving up to 200 extremist fighters that have been in government custody.


Briefing on the situation in Mali

Mali and Sahel

Date | 17 September, 2020

Tomorrow (17 September) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to hold a briefing on the situation in Mali. The meeting is expected to take place through VTC.

As per the terms of the communiqué of the 941st session of the PSC, the Council is scheduled to receive update from the AU Commission Chairperson on the evaluation of the situation in Mali. This is to be presented by the Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui. The AU High Representative for Mali and the Sahel and the Head of MISAHEL, former Burundian President Pierre Buyoya is also expected to brief the Council. It is also anticipated that the PSC will hear from the current Chairperson of ECOWAS on its engagements with the Malian stakeholders for the restoration of constitutional order in Mali.

After continued popular protest for several months organized under the umbrella alliance of opposition groups and CSOs known as the June 5 Movement-Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP), on 18 August mutinying soldiers detained Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse. The same day the President announced his resignation and the dissolution of his government and the National Assembly.

Following these developments, which the PSC deemed as an unconstitutional change of government, the Council held an emergency meeting on 19 August and decided to immediately suspended Mali from participating in all AU activities until the restoration of constitutional order in the country.

On 20 August ECOWAS Heads of State and Government held an extraordinary session through videoconference on the situation in Mali. They called for the immediate restoration of the constitutional order and the immediate reinstatement of President Keita. In a pursuit of this objective, a delegation led by the ECOWAS mediator former President Goodluck Jonathan was dispatched to Mali. The delegation met President Keita, with the Constitutional Court as well as with the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) to discuss the steps for the restoration of the constitutional order in the country. Few days after ECOWAS’s mission CNSP announced the release of President Keita.

On 28 August, in a follow up extraordinary summit, ECOWAS Heads of State and Government recalibrated their 20 August decision on reinstatement of President Keita and took note of his resignation. The ECOWAS summit called for speedy establishment of a civilian transitional authority with appointment of a civilian transition president and civilian prime minister. It decided that the political transition should not exceed 12 months and the civilian transitional administration should be established based on consultations with the Constitutional Court, political parties, CSOs and other members of the public.

The Malian protest group known as the M5-RFP met with the military junta that ousted President Keita and expressed its intention to work with CNSP. After delays of the initial plan for the meeting between the M5-RFP and the CNSP, the meeting was finally held at the Kati military base outside of Bamako. The two held another meeting on 4 September. The CNSP also held consultations with political parties on 31 August at the Ministry of Defence and Veterans. Although the CNSP announced a plan to travel to northern Mali for meeting with key political forces, it was reportedly cancelled due to bad weather conditions.

After the various meetings held with various stakeholders including the M5-RFP, political parties and CSOs, on 6 September the CNSP announced that a national consultation will be held for an agreement on the transitional roadmap. The national consultation on the transition in Mali took place on 10-12 September. Convened in Mali’s capital Bamako, the national consultation brought together 500 participants from various sectors of the public including the M5-RFP, CSOs, political parties, and journalists. Among the international observers present at the opening of the consultation was the AU High Representative for Mali and the Sahel, Buyoya.

In his briefing, some of the areas in respect of which Buyoya may provide details include the national consultation and the transitional charter. In this respect, issues of particular interest for tomorrow’s session also include the composition of the national consultation and the degree to which it reflects the diversity of social and political interests in Mali, the conduct of the consultation and the implications of the strong objection that the M5-RFP expressed against the transitional charter.

Despite the apparent national character of the participants of the national consultation, armed groups that are active in Northern Mali, including the Coordination for the Movement of Azawad, who signed the 2015 peace agreement, did not participate. Sidi Brahim Ould Sidatt, the leader of the Azawad group, is reported to have said ‘we have two choices …either we enter the transition process and have made a new constitution of Mali together in which we reorganize ourselves or we wait after the transition and we continue negotiations with the government that will be put in place.’

At the start of the consultation the leader of the CNSP colonel Assimi Goîta stated that the consultation was an opportunity for the nation’s vital forces to discuss the concerns of the moment and the future, underscoring the need to diagnose the evils which undermine efforts of democratization and adopt urgent measures. During the consultation, the participants considered and proposed inputs for a transitional charter that was drafted by an expert committee. At the end of the two days of national consultations, participants adopted a transitional charter, which faced opposition, among others by the M5-RFP.

The transitional charter establishes the office of the president, the vice president, a transitional government with a prime minister and maximum of 25 ministers. It also defines their responsibilities with the vice president for example assigned to be in charge of defence, security and the reorganization of the state. The Charter also establishes a transitional national council, which will serve as a legislative assembly. The membership of legislative body is envisaged to be made up of 121 members from the defense and security forces and all sectors in the country.

According to the spokesperson who presented the report on the consultation, under the Charter the interim president can be a civilian or a military and will preside over a transitional period of 18 months before elections are held. It is also envisaged that the interim president will be selected by a council chosen by the military junta. This is indicative of the enormous influence and pressure that the junta exerted on the national consultation and in shaping the contents of the transitional charter.

Indicating the lack of consensus on the transitional charter finalized during the national consultation and the political disagreement on the transitional process, the M5-RFP, the influential coalition which led the mass protest that created the conditions for the downfall of President Keita, stated that it ‘distances itself from the resulting document.’ The M5-RFP said the document did not take into account what it said was a majority vote for civilian interim. It deemed the document as an attempt by military leaders to ‘grab and confiscate power.’

It is clear that the situation in Mali has descended into further political uncertainties. The factors that account for this include the apparent determination of the juntas to exercise firm control over the transition, the opposition that the M-RFP raised to the transitional charter and the non-participation of key northern actors in the national consultation. Unless urgent measures are taken to address this situation, there is risk of deepening uncertainty on the governance of the country. If the opposition to the transitional charter escalates into political contestation over the transition with return of protesters to the streets, it can plunge Mali into further instability, aggravating the prevailing insecurity in the country.
ECOWAS’s 57th ordinary session of Heads of State and Government held on 7 September adopted a decision that the Malian forces has to appoint a transitional civilian president and prime Minister by no later than 15 September or face further sanctions. It is to be recalled that ECOWAS has already imposed sanctions on Mali including closure of its borders with its neighbours.

When ECOWAS convened a consultative meeting in Accra, Ghana under the Chairperson of the ECOWAS Authority, President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo on 15 September, the deadline that ECOWAS set for the appointment of a civilian led transitional government has not been met. The AU was represented in the ECOWAS meeting through the AU High Representative for Mali and the Sahel, Buyoya, who, in his intervention is also expected to provide updates on the Accra meeting. Apart from underscoring the urgency of establishing a responsible government in Mali at the start of the meeting, President Akufo-Addo, who told reporters that ‘we have not reached agreement with the military junta’, insisted that ‘we need a civilian leadership of the transition and we have also made it clear that the minute that leadership is put in place, the sanctions would be lifted.’ ECOWAS had decided that the transition has to be led by civilian president and prime minister throughout the entire period of the transition. Upon the establishment of the civilian transition ECOWAS pledged to accompany Mali in the effort toward the reestablishment of constitutional order in conformity with the applicable protocols of ECOWAS. It is however agreed that the duration of the transition period would be for 18 months as stipulated in the transitional charter rather than the 12 months set by ECOWAS.

The situation presents a major challenge to both the ECOWAS and the AU norms banning military coups. With its deadline unmet, the military junta bent on assuming leading role during the transition and the civilian opposition to the transitional charter, the applicable norms are sure to necessitate further sanctions on the military junta if it persists with its wish to preside over the transitional process. It is to be recalled that in 2012 ECOWAS imposed economic, financial and diplomatic sanctions after the junta that usurped power by coup failed to meet a 72-hour deadline set by the regional body. Similarly, rejecting what it called, ‘all delaying tactics of the perpetrators of the coup d’état’, the PSC at its 316th session decided, ‘in view of the refusal of the military junta to respond immediately and in good faith to the requests of the AU and ECOWAS, to impose, with immediate effect, individual measures, including travel ban and asset freeze, against the leader and members of the junta, as well as against all individuals and entities contributing, in one way or another, to the maintenance of the unconstitutional status quo and impeding AU and ECOWAS efforts.’

The expected outcome of the meeting is a communique. The PSC is expected to express its concern about the lack of progress towards the establishment of a transitional civilian authority and the restoration of constitutional order and the adverse impacts of this delay on the peace process in Mali and the effort to stabilize the country. The PSC may reiterate its strong rejection of the interference of the military in political affairs contrary to the 2000 Lomé Declaration on Unconstitutional Changes of Governments and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and condemn the intransigence of the military junta and the delays for transferring power to a civilian transitional authority. Expressing its support for the efforts of ECOWAS, the PSC may also endorse the decision of the ECOWAS from its 15 September meeting in Accra on the necessity of transferring power to a civilian transitional authority paving the way for the restoration of constitutional order, which needs to be in accordance with the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. The PSC may also take further measures for adding pressure on the junta to facilitate, within the framework of ECOWAS decision and the rules of the various applicable AU norms, the speedy designation of the civilian authorities that will preside over the transitional period.


PSC emergency VTC meeting on the situation in Mali

Mali and Sahel

Date | 19 August, 2020

Today (19 August), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council is expected to convene an emergency meeting on the situation in Mali. The Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui is expected to brief the PSC. It is also expected the meeting will benefit from update received from the AU Mission for Mali and Sahel (MISAHEL) through the AU High Representative for Mali and the Sahel and the Head of MISAHEL, former Burundian President Pierre Buyoya. This emergency meeting comes after the day long dramatic acts of mutinous Malian army on 18 August led to the arrest of Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and the country’s Prime Minister. Soon after the arrest, President Keita declared his resignation and the situation culminated in a full-fledged coup. In his televised address, the President also announced the dissolution of the national Assembly and the government. Members of the army involved in the coup announced in a televised address announced their plan to set up a transitional government that will pave the way for fresh elections in the shortest time possible.

The coup in Mali comes after nearly two months of political instability. A coalition of opposition and civil society groups known as the June 5 Movement-Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP) under the leadership of Imam Mahmoud Dicko organised several mass protests since 5 June. Prompted by complaints about the election outcome and the abduction of leading opposition leader Soumaila Cisse while campaigning ahead of the parliamentary election in March, protesters campaigned for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita because of continued insecurity, the struggling economy, corruption, and the Constitutional Court’s decision that annulled 5.2 % of the disputed parliamentary votes cast, increasing the President’s party representation by ten additional seats.

During the protests held on 11 and 12 June, 11 protesters lost their life and 150 others were injured. This came after security forces fired live ammunition at protesters as some of them looted the parliament and others besieged the national broadcaster’s office, and attacked the offices of the ruling party. The sociopolitical crisis in Mali has been a source of concern for regional, continental and international actors. In a joint statement issued on 12 June that encouraged the government to release arrested protest leaders, the AU, ECOWAS, MINUSMA and the EU expressed their condemnation of acts of violence by protesters and ‘the use of lethal force’ by security forces.

Despite conciliatory measures on the part of President Keita including his announcement to dissolve the Constitutional Council on 12 June, the protest movement continued to gain further momentum prompting the regional group the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to initiate mediation efforts. From 18 to 20 June, a high-level delegation of ECOWAS including the Nigérien Foreign Minister, Kalla Ankourao, and his Nigerian counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama, and the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou that travlled to Mali to mediate the dispute called for the formation of a unity government and rerunning the elections for the disputed legislative seats. Notwithstanding these proposals, further protests involving large group of people took place on 19 June. Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who became the ECOWAS mediator, led a second ECOWAS mission to Mali. After meeting with the delegation, the protest movement rejected the ECOWAS reform proposals for not including the resignation of the president. On its part the ECOWAS mission rejected the call for Keita’s resignation, stating that it would ‘not tolerate’ any unconstitutional ascension to power.

On 22 June, AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, issued a statement expressing ‘deep concern’ about ‘the serious crisis that has plagued Mali since the popular protest on June 5, 2020’. Heightening its efforts, on 23 June ECOWAS leaders involving the presidents of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal went to Bamako to meet with President Keita and Dicko. In the extraordinary summit that ECOWAS held on 27 June, it reiterated the earlier proposals for rerun of the parliamentary elections and the formation of a unity government.

ECOWAS has also been quick in its response to the acts of the military on 18 August. In a statement it issued, it expressed its deep concern regarding the acts of the army and urged the military to return to their barracks without delay. It also reiterated its firm opposition to any unconstitutional change of power. Following the announcement of the resignation of the President, ECOWAS announced suspension of Mali from participation in its decision-making processes and suspended trade links with Mali. Similarly, the AU Commission Chairperson Faki in a statement he issued before the resignation of President Keita expressed his strong condemnation of ‘the forced detention of the President…the Prime Minister and other members of the Malian Government’ and called for ‘their immediate release.’ Faki further stated strong rejection of ‘any attempt at the unconstitutional changes of government in Mali’ and called for unity of voice of ECOWS, the UN and the entire international community in opposing ‘any use of force as a means to end the political crisis in Mali’. In a statement issued on behalf of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the same day, the UN expressed condemnation of the actions of mutineers and called for ‘the immediate restoration of constitutional order and rule of law in Mali’ with ‘the immediate and unconditional release of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and members of his cabinet.’

While the situation appears to be chaotic, the mood of the public in Bamako seems to be in contrast to the reaction of regional and international actors. People in Mali’s capital have been seen cheering the army and celebrating the resignation of President Keita, which was core demand of the 5 June movement that has been leading the protests against the government. It is possible that once again this sentiment of the public could give rise to the debate about the relationship between popular uprisings and unconstitutional changes of government.

In today’s session, it is expected that the PSC will make a determination on whether the actions of the army in the context of the announcement by President Keita of his resignation and the dissolution of parliament constitutes a military coup warranting the application of the measures envisaged under the Lome Declaration on Unconstitutional Changes of Government of 2000, the AU Constitutive Act
and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. While the acts of mutiny including the arrest of the President and members of his cabinet, the announcement by members of the army on a plan to establish a transitional authority for preparing elections are all the constituent elements of a military coup, the
President’s announcement of his resignation, which resonates with the announcement by President Mugabe in
2017 of his resignation, makes it different from the March 2012 coup. Yet, given the level of consensus in the initial response of the AU, ECOWAS and the UN and the decision of ECOWAS suspending Mali, it is expected that
the PSC will designate the situation in Mali as an unconstitutional change of government.

What is not clear is whether the PSC will proceed, following the lead of ECOWAS, to institute the consequences that flow from the occurrence in a member state of an unconstitutional changes of government. While the reading of the Lome Declaration on Unconstitutional Changes of Government of 2000 and other relevant instruments of the AU including the AU Constitutive Act and the dominant practice of the AU suggests that the application of suspension of the county in which unconstitutional change happened to be automatic, there have been instances in which the PSC opted for holding back the automatic application of these legal consequences. Such was the case in respect to the situation in Burkina Faso in November 2014 and that of Sudan in April 2019. In both of these cases, the PSC instead of imposing the immediate suspension of the two countries used the threat of suspension as a leverage for quick transfer of power by the military to a transitional civilian authority. Accordingly, the PSC gave Burkina Faso’s army a period of two weeks for handing over power to such civilian authority. Similarly, the PSC followed the Burkina Faso model for Sudan giving a period of two weeks for the military to transfer power followed by a suspension of Sudan after the 3 June massacre of civilians by the army before the expiry of the additional two months of time for transfer of power to civilian transitional authority.

Unlike the situations in Burkina Faso or Sudan, President Keita has been reelected last year and his term would only have come to an end in 2023. At the same time, given the announcement by President Keita of his resignation and the dissolution of parliament and his government, it is also not clear if the PSC will reiterate the call of Faki and Guterres for the reinstatement of President Keita. It is however sure that this meeting will set the tone for the meeting of the UN Security Council expected to take place on 19 August as well.

The expected outcome of the session is a communique. It is expected that the PSC would condemn the acts of the mutinous members of the army. It may also urge the army to restrain from any acts that further endanger the peace and stability of the country and to safe guard the safety and security of government leaders in its custody. The PSC would welcome the decision of ECOWAS and consider the situation in Mali as military coup contrary to the Lome Declaration of 2000 and the African Charter on Elections, Democracy and Governance. It is also expected to invoke Article 7(1)(g) of the PSC Protocol and call for the restoration of constitutional order.


Briefing on the Revised Strategic Concept Note Planning Guidance for the Deployment of an Additional 3000 troops to the Sahel

Mali and Sahel

Date | 30 July, 2020

Tomorrow (30 July) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to receive a briefing on the draft revised Strategic Concept Note Planning Guidance for the deployment of an additional 3000 troops to the Sahel. It is expected that PSC members will conduct the meeting through video teleconference. The AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, and Burundi, as the Chair of the PSC Military Staff Committee are expected to brief the Council. Representative of members of the G5 Sahel also expected to deliver statement.

The 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly (decision 792) decided to deploy 3000 AU troops for six months to degrade terrorist groups in the Sahel region. Pursuant to this decision, the PSC held its 920th session, on 21 April 2020, to consider the draft Strategic Concept Guidance on Planning for the deployment of 3000 strong force. The PSC welcomed the draft concept as an initial document to be further enriched by consultations among the concerned member states in the region more particularly the Ministers of Defence of the G5 Sahel countries and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as the PSC military staff committee. The Council further requested to receive a comprehensive briefing on the security situation in the Sahel and to consider the revised strategic concept note by 15 June 2020.

In light of this decision, one aspect of tomorrow’s briefing is expected to shed light on the security trends in the region and the other part will present the revised draft of the Strategic Concept Note Planning Guidance for Deployment of 3000 troops to the Sahel. The security situation in the Sahel remains highly volatile. The June 2020 report of the Secretary-General of the UN revealed the deterioration of the security situation in the region in the first half of 2020. The recurrent coordinated terrorist attacks on civilians and security forces, as well as forced recruitment and abductions, has continued particularly in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.

Moreover, the compounded effects of COVID19 in the region have also brought limitation on mediation and diplomatic efforts as well as humanitarian action. Also of concern for the PSC is the political instability facing Mali and the lack of breakthrough in the confrontation between the Government and June 5 protest movement and the impact of this situation on the peace process in Mali and the security situation in Mali and the Sahel. Similarly, the 8 May 2020 Secretary-General report on the G5 Sahel illustrated the dire humanitarian and security situation in the region. According to the report, the number of people that died due to terrorist attacks has increased five fold since 2016. In 2019 alone 4000 people have died compared to 770 in 2016. The humanitarian situation in the region is alarming. In Burkina Faso alone the rate of displacement over the past fours years has increased ten fold.

Hence the deployment of the additional force is taking place within the context of deteriorating security situation in the region. To this end the briefing is expected to provide an update on the steps taken and the consultations held since the April 2020 PSC session to inform the development of the strategic concept note. In this regard the briefing may highlight the major consultations held including the 20 May 2020 virtual meeting of the Commissioner for Peace and Security with Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the G5 Countries namely Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad. The Ministers requested for the Chiefs of Defence Forces of the G5 Sahel Countries to provide technical advice.

Following this meeting, the PSC military staff committee has also held various informal and formal consultations during the chairpersonship of Lesotho and Algeria in May
and June respectively. Moreover on 24 June 2020, a virtual meeting was held between the Commissioner for Peace and Security and the Chiefs of Defence Forces (CDFs) of the G5 Sahel Countries. The need for the deployment of the additional 3000 troops was also echoed by the CDFs and they were also able to contribute in providing guidance on the technical aspect of the deployment.

The various consultations have informed the revision of the strategic concept note. The document, which will be considered in tomorrow’s session is expected to present the overall objective of the force, the terms of reference of the technical committee for planning of the deployment of the force, which was established following the 16 March 2020 the AUC High-Level Consultative meeting with ECOWAS and G5 Sahel representatives in Niamey.

Moreover, the revised strategic concept note is expected to provide further details on force generation, command and control as well as the planning and timeframe of the
deployment process. It would be of interest for the PSC to seek clarification on how the new force will relate to and coordinate with existing security mechanisms most notably the G5 Sahel Force. Moreover, the PSC may further inquire on the mechanism of restructure, the changes in command and harmonization of policies and operation between the G5 and the new force.

It would also be of interest for the PSC to follow up on the Assembly decision 792 which requested the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) to explore funding options to cover the expenses of the deployment. Additionally, pursuant to the same decision it may also follow up on the disbursement of ECOWAS’s pledge of 100 million USD in support to countries in the region namely Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso to support the deployment of the force. With regards to resource mobilization and funding for the force, the PSC may also recall ECOWAS’s decision at its 56th ordinary session, which adopted the 2020-2024 Action Plan to eradicate terrorism in the Sahel region. The action plan budgeted an estimate of two billion three hundred million USD, among which one billion USD is expected to be generated internally by member states. The PSC may follow up on this decision and seek clarification how this budget can also support the deployment of the new force.

The expected outcome is a communiqué. The PSC may express concern over the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation as well as the intensification of terrorist attacks in the region. It may particularly make reference to the current context of COVID19 pandemic and its impact on the security situation in the region. The PSC may express its concern about the political crisis in Mali and underscore the necessity of urgent resolution of the crisis through inclusive and agreed roadmap to ensure that it does not undermine the peace process and the security situation in the country any further. The PSC is expected to adopt the strategic concept note on the deployment of the 3000 strong AU force and provide guidance on the planning of the deployment of the force in consultation with ECOWAS, G5 and UN under the technical committee framework. It may further request the UN Security Council to consider the authorization of the force. It may request the AUC to provide regular update on the deployment process.