New York, US - Members of the UN Security Council, who recently visited Mali, saiy that any sustainable solution on the security, political and development challenges facing the country must be agreed and led by Malians themselves.
Leader of the mission, Ambassador Gerard Araud of France, on Wednesday said that one of the most salient lessons the diplomats learned during their 1-3 February visit was the fact that any lasting political solution regarding northern Mali must be decided by Malians themselves.
Mr. Araud, who briefed the Council alongside the mission’s co-leader Bante Mangaral, Deputy Permanent Representative of Chad to the UN, said that the team had also found that ensuring lasting security in the north of Mali would require a compressive policy that, first and foremost, was nationally-led and internationally supported.
He said the delegation met in Bamako with Malian authorities who had come to power through successful elections in 2013, including President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, members of his cabinet, and Prime Minister Oumar Tatam Ly.
He disclosed that the delegation also met with armed groups that signed the preliminary Ouagadougou Accords, as well as those that adhered to the tenets of the deal.
Mr. Araud said the Council also travelled to Mopti which is 600 kilometres northeast of Bamako, and met with local authorities and civil society representatives from the town as well as from Goa and Timbuktu.
The ambassador said they visited the MINUSMA base and evaluated the status of the Mission’s deployment.
Of his overall impressions, Mr. Araud said it became clear that any political agreement should be reached in Mali itself.
He recalled the Council had said that rebel factions must be disarmed in accordance with the Ouagadougou Accords, while the authorities felt that disarmament and dialogue should be part of the same movement.
He said that while the armed groups asked that the preliminary Accords be implemented swiftly the Council delegation reminded them that they needed to agree to cantonment and thus enter the disarmament process.
Mr. Araud said the Council was very pleased that close to the end of their visit, Malian authorities had presented the basics of a roadmap for helping the country emerge from the crisis.
He also commended the recent adoption by the government and armed groups, supported by the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), of a method for cantonment and encouraged all the parties to take this path in a determined and committed fashion.
'We will be watching them as they meet their commitments,' he added, while reiterating the Council’s call for MINSUMA to deploy fully in the North, particularly as French troops drew down.
On his part, Mr. Mangaral said that Council’s visit raised much hope among Malian people because they believed that dialogue was the only path to returning to sustainable peace.
'A real will to move towards inclusive dialogue was shown,' the Chadian envoy noted.
He stated: 'Malians are unanimous that the cause of the crisis affecting their country is neither religious nor tribal', explaining that the populations were mostly Muslim and the presence of various ethnic groups throughout the territory had led to mixed unions and created links which increased intolerance.
He said that the Malian parties believed in the merits of the preliminary accords and felt it was time to move forward with their finalization.
'Yet despite progress, real challenges remained in the security, political, food, health, law and education sectors. Also, persistent criminal activity due to a lack of judicial authority, especially in the North was also noted,' Mr. Mangaral stressed.
Furthermore, he said, the fact that there were signatories to the Accords along with armed groups who adhered to it was a cause of dissension, those who adhered to it must be included in the ongoing political talks.
For example, he said, the Aswad movement had two separate factions, each claiming legitimacy, a situation that, if left unaddressed, might complicate negotiations.
The Malian government is seeking to restore stability and rebuild following a series of setbacks since early 2012, including a military coup d’etat, renewed fighting between government forces and Tuareg rebels, and the seizure of its northern territory by radical Islamists.
The UN Security Council last April authorized the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to assist the authorities in their efforts, with support from the French security mission in Mali, known as Serval.