Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Anna Evstigneeva at UNSC briefing on the situation in Mali
We thank Special Representative El-Ghassim Wane for the briefing on the work of the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali and the situation in that country. We welcome Ms. Sadya Touré, and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali Abdoulaye Diop to this meeting.
We are convinced that Malians can overcome their pressing challenges successfully only once Mali enjoys domestic political stability and security. The larger the territory under governmental control, the more effective fight against terrorism and protection of the population. We see that transitional authorities are committed to addressing the existing problems in a step-by-step manner.
By all means, recovery of the constitutional order is a priority issue. We note the decision of the Malian government to set a 24-month term of the transitional period that started on 26 March 2022. This step was the best possible compromise that we believe colleagues from ECOWAS should take into thorough consideration. We stand for continuation of a dialogue between Bamako and ECOWAS, which would allow to lift the current regional sanctions that are a burden for both the people of Mali, and also population of the countries that first imposed those restrictions.
We are convinced that the authorities and the people of Mali should keep issues related to the transitional period under their control. If elections were convened hastily, and without due account to the dire security situation, it would rather lead to destabilization than recovery of constitutional order.
Russia supports Bamako’s commitment to the 2015 Algiers Peace Agreement that lays down the grounds for establishing lasting peace and national accord. A certain pause in the implementation of the agreements, including disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program, is explained by the need to address the primary task – ensure security.
We agree with the current Malian authorities that the issue of security is an overriding priority of the transitional period. Drawdown of the military contingent of the French operation Barkhane and withdrawal of the European task force Takuba from the country without prior coordination with the Malian side posed additional threat to internal stability.
The desire of Malians to seek military and technical support with other external partners, including Russia, is quite understandable. This cooperation already yields fruit. At the end of March, Malian armed forces carried out a successful military operation, in which course more than 200 Islamist militants were eliminated in central regions of the country. Now consistent steps are being taken to liberate northern and eastern areas of Mali from band formations.
Russia’s cooperation with Mali, as well as cooperation with other African states, i.a. in the military field, has a long history. None of our African partners has ever complained about this cooperation.
In this regard, we have noted an utterly negative reaction of Western states to strengthening of Malian-Russian cooperation. This is another manifestation of neocolonial approaches and double standards. To make their point, Western states turn to corrupt insinuations regarding so-called “massacre” of civilians in the village of Moura by Malian armed forces, where Russian instructors are said to have taken part. Apart from that, they produce disinformation related to a recently discovered mass burial in Gossi. I remind that Russia has already raised this issue in the Security Council, and we were promised some evidence. But at the end of the day, we were given no coherent information apart from some blurred photos with rather obscured images and a couple of publications on social media. We support the investigation of those events that is carried out by the Malian side.
In response to remarks by some our colleagues, let me repeat what we already said on many occasions. There is plenty of private military companies that are active in Africa (Western Africa included). Western PMCs have already tapped the regional market of such private military services. According to Media reports, there are lots of British mercenaries there, many of which have been involved in attempted coups and other unflattering matters. Yet many African states still make contracts with private military companies – because they have a sovereign right to do so. Let me once again underscore what we talk about at every UNSC meeting: states can choose their own ways of ensuring security. This is understandable, because they can never count on anyone else to do it for them.
Once again, Mali and the entire Sahel region is a victim of irresponsible, unjustified, and unauthorized by the Security Council intervention of Libya in 2011. This is what made the region a target for banditry and terrorism. Not only us, but also the Sahel nations are saying so.
But why have the countries of the Sahel come to be so vulnerable? For example, Mali was once home to a major African civilization, a center of education and trade. To a large extent, the reason for this vulnerability is the colonial past. Unfortunately, even after the Sahel states became independent, this colonial legacy did not dissipate completely. It was substituted with so-called dominance by contract, the main goal of which is to preserve political and economic leverage on the Sahel. As a result, most of those states never got an opportunity to ensure security and establish decent living for people throughout their national territories.
For fairness’ sake, I must say that the since the man-made crisis in Libya started through the fault of Western states, the international community has tried to help the Sahel out. But was this assistance effective? Foreign troops entered the region, then came some high-sounding rhetoric about assistance in combating terrorism. Yet the situation destabilized even further, and it keeps deteriorating at this moment.
So Mali called this approach into question – by the way, this stance is getting more and more popular in other countries of the region as well – and what happened next? There came sanctions, denial of assistance for development, accusations of human rights violations, smear campaigns in Western press. What is especially sad is that the West antagonizes neighboring states, making some of them look better than the others. Allegedly, some of them are countering terrorism the right way, with the help of so-called democratic partners, while others do it too brutally, and what’s more – they cooperate with Russia.
This means only one thing. The West is bothered to preserve their areas of influence rather than truly help Africans solve their problems.
We regret that external players use channels of influence in multilateral mechanisms, including G5 Sahel, in order to exert pressure on Mali. Unfortunately, following some internal contradictions in G5 Sahel, Bamako had to secede from this association on 15 May this year. Yet Russia is firmly convinced that the main role in maintaining peace and security across the Sahara-Sahel must be played by the regionals. We support the implementation of a truly independent policy by all states of the Sahel in accordance with the principle “African solutions to African problems”. There surely will be positive results if African states articulate a joint response to the challenge of terrorism – through mutual respect, recovery of trust, and rejection of external pressure.
In conclusion, we support the activities of MINUSMA and commend the engagement of Blue Helmets in Mali, who have to work in very hard conditions characterized by asymmetric threats. Specifically, we pay tribute to those peacekeepers who paid the ultimate price while fulfilling their duties.
The situation in Mali remains volatile. Many issues are up in the air. This is why we do not think it prudent or timely to change the mandate of MINUSMA and burden the Mission with extra tasks, especially the tasks that go beyond the framework of peacekeeping principles or relations with the host country. We support the proposal of the Secretary-General to assess the modalities of MINUSMA in the course of six months and then, if need be, consider some amendments.
In this complicated situation, we believe we should continue assisting the Malian authorities in an efficient manner, and also encourage them to adopt a well-balanced and thoroughly considered policy with regard to crisis settlement. We call on all our colleagues in the Security Council to do this and reiterate our readiness to cooperate with them in the interests of soonest normalization in Mali, ensuring lasting peace and stability across the Sahara-Sahel space.