Russia blocks sanctions renewal against Mali at UN Security Council
Russia’s decision to veto the renewal of sanctions against Mali imposed in 2017, which were imposed to sure up the peace process and in response to repeated violations, was widely seen as a retaliation to veiled allegations made by the United Nations monitors stationed in the region, that Wagner mercenaries (deemed to be acting at the behest of Russia) had been complicit in abuses in the military controlled West African state.
Thirteen out of 15 members of the Security Council vote in favour of extension of sanctions
Thirteen of 15 members of the UN Security Council voted to support the renewal of sanctions and the continuation of a UN monitoring presence, for a further twelve months. China abstained from the vote. Russia exercised its vetoing authority to torpedo the French and UAE led extension and instead proposed a resolution, which would extend the sanctions but remove the monitors. Almost the entire council abstained from voting in support of Russia’s motion.
The sanctions imposed travel bans and asset freezes on specific actors deemed to be central to the breaches and in accordance with advice received from the UN monitors – supposedly independent, who reported to the council bi-annually. Russia had clearly interpreted the language included in the dispatches from the monitors which referred to ‘Malian forces and their ‘foreign security partners’ as committing violent acts against women and other human rights breaches', as a direct reference to Wagner forces. The monitors have alleged in particular, that a mass slaughter, which took place in Maura in central Mali last year, had all the hallmarks of Wagner involvement.
Russia disputes the independence of the UN Monitors stationed in Mali
Russia’s assertion is that the monitors were not so independent and they further suggested that the monitors were politically involved in trying to influence events in Mali. The Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said:
Despite the fact that we repeatedly urged a constructive approach and a sensible compromise, the texts did not in any way take into consideration the concerns of the Malian side or the Russian Federation's position…It is fundamentally important that UN Security Council sanctions deal purely with that issue and not be used as a means of foreign influence on Mali, and that is something that the panel of experts of the Security Council has been involved in’
Mali has demanded the removal of 13,000 UN peacekeeping forces which have been stationed in Mali since 2013
The move comes as recent developments in the region have seen a military overthrow of the elected president in Niger. Mali and Burkina Faso last month declared their solidarity and military alliance with Niger in the event of an invasion force being deployed to restore the former president at the behest of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The veto also follows Mali’s military leadership’s demand for UN Peacekeeping force (MINUSMA) to pack up and leave Mali in advance of the conclusion of the 10 year UN agreement, which is due to expire at the end of this year. The military rulers of Mali have given the UN just six months to leave and remove their 13,000 UN peacekeeping troops still based in Mali – where they have been stationed since 2013. The UN special envoy for Mali, El-Ghassim Wane, explained the full scope of the undertaking to the UN Security Council on Monday. He said that 12,047 UN peacekeepers and police must be sent home and their 12 camps and a temporary base handed over to the new military government. Additionally another 1,786 civilian staff will need to be relocated before the deadline of December 31st 2023. The UN will need to move out approximately 5.500 sea containers of equipment and 4,000 UN vehicles.
Fears for an 'epidemic of contagion' as the trend of military overthrows spreads
This weekends events in Gabon, which witnessed yet another overthrow by the military, of a president in the central African state, will have undoubtedly added to the concerns of the members of the UN Security Council, who will be pondering whether the current trend of overthrows may become an ‘epidemic of contagion’. Africa has seen 10 uprisings by the military in just four years and none of the promises of a transitionary period towards democratically elected civilian governments, have been honoured.