Mali and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have agreed for the United Nations to deploy a stabilization mission to Mali.
Reports say Mali authorities have chosen an option given by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which is to expand present African-led force into a full-fledged U.N. stabilization mission of about 11,200 troops.
Alongside the UN stabilization mission, a parallel force is reportedly be created to conduct counterterrorism operations.
US fully supports a multi-dimensional, integrated U.N. operation in Mali
US Ambassador Susan Rice says from the U.S. point of view, it fully supports a multidimensional, integrated UN operation under Chapter VII, led by a strong Secretary-General’s Special Representative that can sustain the security gains made by French and African forces in recent months and galvanize the political process.
Ms. Rice notes the purpose of the UN operation, should be to contribute to the development of a secure, inclusive, and democratic state in Mali that includes all of the country’s communities, and to support the full restoration of Malian sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“The transition from AFISMA to a UN blue-helmeted force under Chapter VII must occur, in our judgment, as soon as security conditions permit.” – Ms. Rice
The new mission ought to be to stabilize the liberated areas and assist the Malian state in protecting civilians, she added.
Effective UN leadership vital to the success of the mission
According to Ms. Rice, an effective UN leadership of such a mission can, very importantly, spur concrete steps towards a political transition, including an inclusive national dialogue, a reconciliation process, and democratic elections.
The US will be consulting with its partners on the Council on next steps for such a blue-helmeted operation.
In addition, Ms. Rice says the US will be working with its French colleagues and others on a draft resolution to accomplish that over the coming weeks.
AFISMA should be integrated into a UN peacekeeping force with a robust mandate?
Ms. Rice explains that U.S. view is that any UN blue-helmeted force in this context needs to have a robust Chapter VII mandate to stabilize liberated areas and assist the Malian government in protecting civilians.
She adds it also needs to have a very strong political component that is focused on helping the Malians put in place a transition process that is inclusive, that is credible, that supports a democratic transformation and institution building, and that gets at some of the root causes of the problems that have plagued Mali for many years.
With the international community continuing to respond to the ongoing crisis in Mali, the United States of America has revealed the four underlying challenges Mali continues to face.
US Responds to Evolving Crisis in Mali
US names the challenges Mali continues to face: al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) continued presence in northern Mali, the restoration of democracy, the need to begin negotiations with northern groups that renounce terrorism and recognize the unity of the Malian state, and a significant ongoing humanitarian crisis.
The evolving crisis in Mali is one of the most difficult, complex, and urgent problems West Africa has faced in decades.
US says Mali’s problems reflect the fragility of governance in the region, the lack of economic development especially in northern Mali where the absence of meaningful opportunities for people to engage with their governments, and the widespread desperation that exists in an unforgiving, arid region with chronic food insecurity.
Poor governance, weak democratic institutions, and a lack of development and economic opportunity create fertile ground for terrorism and instability.
Threats from Terrorists in Mali and Beyond
The presence of extremists in northern Mali poses a threat to the entire Sahel region and beyond.
While the security situation in northern Mali has changed over the last month due to French intervention, the US remains concerned about the continued presence of terrorist and extremist groups, including AQIM and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).
Neutralizing the full scope of the terrorist threat in Mali, however, is a long-term effort.
Efforts to address the surge of extremism
The US is partnering with countries throughout the region to support their efforts to strengthen border security and their capacity to respond to threats. Our regional counterterrorism support is coordinated through the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP).
The primary goal of this program is to address the threat of AQIM. As AQIM has expanded its reach through the flow of arms, supplies, and fighters from North Africa into the region, US assistance and support through the partnership continues to evolve to meet the changing threat.
The US continues to unequivocally state that coup leader Captain Sanogo and the rest of the military junta members must remove themselves – completely and permanently – from Malian politics.
US response to the challenges
The US has imposed targeted travel sanctions on 87 individuals who were involved in the coup, who supported its authors, or who continue to impede the restoration of democracy.
In addition, the US also condemns those in northern Mali who continue to align themselves with terrorists.
The US also recognizes that the indigenous populations of northern Mali, who have a history of resisting foreign Islamic extremists and have welcomed the arrival of French forces, have legitimate political, social, and economic grievances.
The US strongly supports the resumption of negotiations with all parties who have cut ties to terrorist organizations, have renounced violence, and who recognize, without conditions, the unity and territorial integrity of the Malian state.
The US is encouraging the Malian Government to quickly establish the Commission for Negotiations, as called for in the roadmap.
The US commends Burkinabe President Compaore, the ECOWAS-appointed mediator, for his leadership in the negotiation process and support his continued efforts in this regard. We are also working closely with neighboring countries and the international community to lend support to the negotiating process.
Any successful process must address the short-term need to restore Mali’s territorial integrity, while at the same time laying the foundation for the long term, open dialogue needed to address legitimate grievances, and build trust between the northern populations and their government.
Humanitarian Crisis in Mali
Mali and the rest of the Sahel region have long suffered from chronic food insecurity.
The conflict in Mali exacerbated an already difficult humanitarian situation caused by drought and poor harvests followed by flooding.
Since the start of the fighting in Mali, more than 400,000 people have become refugees or internally displaced.
This includes over 240,000 people displaced within Mali and nearly 170,000 refugees in Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Algeria, he noted.
US Response to the humanitarian crisis
The United States continues to work to mitigate the effects of this humanitarian crisis.
In fiscal year 2012 and to date in fiscal year 2013, the United States provided more than $120 million in humanitarian assistance to address the emergency in Mali, he reported.
The humanitarian situation is and will likely remain very fluid, requiring strategies and programs to adapt in order to meet changing conditions on the ground.
The US continues to call on the international community to support a comprehensive humanitarian response, including assistance for the displaced and conflict-affected in Mali and in the broader region.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs recently issued its 2013 consolidated appeal, seeking more than $370 million to assist 4.3 million vulnerable Malians countrywide, Mr. Carson said.
The US is also urging the international community to respond comprehensively and adequately to the humanitarian needs across the whole Sahel region.
The violence in Mali has displaced nearly 500,000 people from their homes, and 4.5 million more are suffering from dwindling food supplies.
The United States has already provided more than $378 million to meet the escalating humanitarian needs in the Sahel.
The US asserts that only a democratically elected government will have the legitimacy to achieve a negotiated political settlement in Northern Mali, end the rebellion, and restore the rule of law.
The outbreak of conflict in northern Mali was caused by clashes between Government forces and Tuareg rebels.
Tuareg rebels launched a new rebellion in the north on 17th of January. Since then, troops have clashed with rebels in several northern towns.
Tuareg nomads are present throughout the Sahel region of Africa. Both Mali and Niger have battled Tuareg uprisings in the last decade.
The Sahel has regularly been afflicted by food insecurity as drought, poor harvests and rising food prices have left the region on the brink of a humanitarian crisis.
The Sahel belt of Africa stretches from Senegal to Eritrea.