Condemning the forcible seizure of power in Mali earlier this year, the United Nations Security Council today demanded the immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities by rebel groups in the country’s north and indicated its willingness to consider the deployment of a stabilization force in the troubled West African country.
In a unanimously adopted resolution, and acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the 15-member body also expressed serious concern about the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation and the increased terrorist threat due to the presence of members of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in the country.
In addition, it called upon Member States to “undertake measures to prevent the proliferation of all arms and related material of all types in the Sahel region,” and urged all rebel groups in Mali to refrain from any form of association with AQIM, calling on countries to enhance their regional cooperation to develop strategies to combat AQIM’s activities.
Emphasizing the importance of sanctions as a tool in the maintenance and restoration of peace and security, the Council called on Member States to submit to its Al-Qaida sanctions committee the names of individuals, groups and entities associated with Al-Qaida and connected to Mali’s current unrest.
Fighting resumed in northern Mali between Government forces and Arab Tuareg rebels in January this year. The instability and insecurity resulting from the renewed clashes, as well as the proliferation of armed groups in the region, and a deepening crisis due to a coup d’état in March, have uprooted nearly 320,000 people, with many of them fleeing to neighbouring countries.
On the humanitarian front, the United Nations and its partners have appealed for $1.6 billion to provide vital humanitarian aid to people in Africa’s crisis-stricken Sahel region, which includes Mali. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the situation in the Sahel region has deteriorated dramatically through 2012 owing to drought and sporadic rains, poor harvest, rising food prices, displacement and insecurity. The Council called on all parties to ensure access for the timely delivery of humanitarian aid, and to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel.
Last month, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union requested a Security Council mandate authorizing the deployment of an ECOWAS stabilization force to ensure the protection of Malian state institutions and assist in upholding the territorial integrity of Mali and in combating terrorism.
In its resolution, the Council expressed its readiness to further examine this request and encouraged close cooperation between the Malian Transitional authorities, ECOWAS, the African Union, and other countries to prepare detailed options in regard to any such force’s mandate.
The Council also called on all national stakeholders in the country to “create the necessary conditions for enabling the transitional authorities to fully exercise their primary responsibilities and to ensure the full restoration and preservation of constitutional order.”
The Council strongly condemned the damage and destruction over the past week of sites of holy, historic and cultural significance, including the fabled city of Timbuktu.
Last week, the World Heritage Committee – part of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – placed Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia on its List of World Heritage in Danger. Since then, various senior UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have repeatedly called for its protection.
According to UNESCO, Timbuktu was an intellectual and spiritual capital and a centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. The 17 metre high pyramidal structure of the Tomb of Askia was built by the Emperor of Songhai in 1495, and bears testimony to the power and riches of the empire that flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries through its control of the trans-Saharan trade.