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Tuareg / Islamist Insurrection in Mali - 2013

The most recent Tuareg rebellion, launched in January 2012, sent the country tumbling into a nationwide crisis marked by a military coup in the south followed by an Islamist takeover of the north. This was the fourth time Tuareg rebels had fought for independence since 1960. Previous rebellions ended in peace accords and unkept promises. By 2012, Mali, once called one of Africa's most stable democracies, was being compared to Afghanistan and Somalia.

Following the coup dtat, UN Secretary-Generals Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, offered the support of the United Nations to the Malian authorities. As a result, the Mali interim authorities requested United Nations assistance to build the capacity of the Malian transitional authorities in the areas of political negotiation, elections, governance, security sector reform and humanitarian assistance.

Further consultations led to the deployment in mid-January 2013 of the United Nations Missions in Mali a multidisciplinary United Nations presence which was authorized by Security Council resolution 2085 of 20 December 2012 in order to provide coordinated and coherent support to (i) the on-going political process and (ii) the security process, including support to the planning, deployment and operations of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali.

The deployment of AFISMA was authorized by the terms of the same Security Councils resolution in order to contribute to the rebuilding of the capacity of the Malian Defence and Security Forces, in close coordination with other international partners involved in this process; support the Malian authorities in recovering the areas in the north of its territory under the control of terrorist, extremist and armed groups; transition to stabilization activities to support the Malian authorities in maintaining security and consolidate State authority through appropriate capacities; support the Malian authorities in their primary responsibility to protect the population; and support the Malian authorities to create a secure environment for the civilian-led delivery of humanitarian assistance and the voluntary return of internally displaced persons and refugees.

The security situation in Mali underwent a serious deterioration in early January 2013, when elements of Ansar Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, with the support of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, advanced southwards. They clashed with the Malian army north of the town of Konna, some 680 kilometres from Bamako, forcing the soldiers to withdraw. Terrorist and other armed elements also advanced in the west, taking control of the town of Diabaly on 14 January.

The capture of Konna by extremist groups led the Malian transitional authorities to request the assistance of France to defend Malis sovereignty and restore its territorial integrity. In response, military operations against terrorist and associated elements were initiated on 11 January under Operation Serval, led by France, in support of the Malian defence and security forces. The deployment of AFISMA was accelerated following the military intervention, allowing some of the contingents to move into different parts of northern Mali in February.

As a result of the French and African military operations alongside the Malian army in northern areas, the security situation in Mali significantly improved. By the end of January, State control had been restored in most major northern towns, such as Diabaly, Douentza, Gao, Konna and Timbuktu. Most terrorist and associated forces withdrew northwards into the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains while others, mainly local Malians, reportedly blended into local communities.

Despite these gains, serious security challenges remained, including continued terrorist activities and military operations in some areas. The need to restore the integrity of Malis territory and ensure the physical security of communities in the north continued to be a central priority. Even when full territorial integrity is regained, many serious security risks will remain, including terrorist attacks, weapons proliferation, drug smuggling and other related criminal activities, which are likely to continue to undermine governance and development in Mali for the foreseeable future.

The most significant development in the political process during the first three months of 2013 was the adoption of a road map for the transition, which was unanimously approved by Parliament on 29 January. The road map highlighted two essential missions for the transitional Government: the restoration of territorial integrity and the organization of free and fair elections. The road map provided for further military operations alongside Operation Serval and AFISMA, aimed at recovering the areas occupied by armed groups and restoring the countrys territorial integrity; the full re-establishment of State authority in the north; the reform of the armed forces; dialogue with groups who renounce military struggle and adhere to the unitary nature of the Malian State and its Constitution; the return of refugees and displaced persons; inter-communal dialogue; and the fight against impunity.

The road map also outlined commitments in three areas related to the organization of elections, namely: reforming the legal and institutional framework; finalizing the revision of the voters list; and setting an electoral calendar, which envisaged legislative and presidential elections before the end of July 2013.

Further to the letter to the Secretary-General from the interim President of Mali, in which the transformation of AFISMA into a United Nations stabilization and peacekeeping operation was envisaged, and the corresponding letter from the President of the Security Council, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet, visited Mali from 10 to 16 March, together with a multidisciplinary delegation, to develop recommendations for the Councils consideration on options for establishing a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Mali. On the basis of this missions findings, the UN Secretary-General presented to the Security Council a report, outlining options for the establishment of the UN peacekeeping operation in Mali.



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