“The attacks of terrorist groups against civilians, the struggle for influence among them and the violent activities of community militias remain a chilling daily reality, as do the attacks against the Malian defense and security forces and MINUSMA,” the UN peacekeeping organization said. strength, he said.
Guterres said in the report to the UN Security Council that “in the future, military operations to fight the extremist groups will continue to be a critical part of restoring security.”
In central Mali, he said, the extremists are taking advantage of intercommunal conflicts to expand their influence and secure new recruits.
In the northern regions of Gao and Menaka, Guterres said fighters from the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, known as JNIM, and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara also continue to clash, causing civilian deaths and killing thousands. to flee. the violence.
He said the number of displaced people in Mali rose from 397,000 to 442,620 in October, with some 1,950 schools closed, affecting more than 587,000 children. Humanitarian aid reaches only 2.5 million people of the 5.3 million in need, he said.
The Secretary-General stressed that the ultimate success against the extremist groups will depend on whether the operations are accompanied by efforts “to ensure respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, promote social cohesion, address structural vulnerabilities and basic services.”
Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist extremist insurgency since 2012. Extremist rebels were ousted from power in Mali’s northern cities with the help of a French-led military operation, but they regrouped in the desert and began launching attacks against the Malian army and its allies. . Insecurity has been exacerbated by attacks on civilians and UN peacekeepers.
In August 2020, the president of Mali was overthrown in a coup involving Assimi Goita, then an army colonel. In June 2021, Goita was sworn in as president of a transitional government following his second coup in nine months. France, Mali’s former colonial power, withdrew the last of thousands of French troops in August 2022 amid bitter exchanges with the caretaker government.
In late 2021, Goita reportedly decided to allow the deployment of Russia’s Wagner Group, a private military contractor with ties to the Kremlin that also operates in Ukraine to support Moscow’s troops in the 11-month war.
The report does not name Wagner, but says MINUSMA has “committed documented violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during military operations conducted by the Malian armed forces, accompanied by foreign security personnel and dozos,” who are traditional fighters.
It says the UN force has also “documented some cases where foreign security personnel appear to have committed violations of human rights and international humanitarian law while conducting both air and ground military operations in the center of the country.”
Politically, Mali’s presidential elections, which were scheduled for February 2022, will now take place in February 2024.
Guterres noted progress in putting into operation a single electoral governing body and the submission of a preliminary draft constitution. He urged the authorities to speed up the implementation of the election timetable published in July 2022.
Equally important to Mali’s lasting stabilization, he said, is the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement signed by three parties: the government, a coalition of groups called the Coordination of Movements of Azawad, which includes ethnic Arabs and Tuaregs seeking autonomy in Northern Mali, and a pro-government militia known as the Platform.
“However,” said Guterres, “the recent decision by the movements to suspend their participation in the implementation process is cause for serious concern.”
The Secretary General stressed that the primary responsibility for advancing the peace process rests with the parties, urging them to “engage constructively with each other and the international mediation team to overcome the current hurdles”.