Statement by Ms Candith Mashego-Dlamini, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, during the United Nations Security Council Meeting on the situation in Mali and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, Jean-Yves Le Drian, for convening this meeting. The scheduling of this meeting is timely as the Security Council prepares to renew the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) later this month.
I also wish to extend my thanks to Secretary-General António Guterres and the African Union High-Representative for Mali and the Sahel, H.E. former President Pierre Buyoya, for their informative briefings.
We are meeting today as the global community continues to mitigate the devastating impact of the novel COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic has affected all of us in numerous ways, including the efforts of the various stakeholders responsible for promoting international peace and security. We were saddened to learn about the recent demise of two MINUSMA peacekeepers to this pandemic. Peacekeepers are at the frontlines of our efforts to maintain peace and security and our condolences go to their families during these trying times.
There have been a number of developments in Mali and the wider Sahel region in recent months. South Africa, therefore, wishes to share some observations on the security, political and humanitarian situation in Mali as well as on the G5-Sahel Force and on MINUSMA.
Firstly, South Africa remains deeply concerned about the security situation in Mali and the Sahel, due to increased terrorist attacks and inter-communal violence particularly in Central Mali. It is also disturbing that terrorist groups have taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to expand their reach and intensify their activities.
We regret that this continued violence has claimed far too many human lives including those of peacekeepers, Malian defence and security forces as well as civilians. These developments surely compel this Council to continue providing support to the people of Mali to achieve peace and stability.
Secondly, the prevailing humanitarian situation is cause for concern. Increased efforts must be made to mitigate the deteriorating humanitarian situation as a result of the persistent violence, particularly, during this COVID-19 pandemic. We recognise that the pandemic has had adverse effects on the most vulnerable, the internally displaced and refugees, in particular women and girls. We call upon the international community to continue providing humanitarian aid to the people in need and contribute to the Malian Humanitarian Response Plan, which remains underfunded. It is also important that access to people in need of humanitarian aid is unhindered.
Thirdly, progress towards the restoration of state authority and sustained peace depends on progress in the political processes guided by the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali. In this context, we welcome the inclusive national dialogue that concluded in December 2019, which laid the foundation for the recently held national legislative elections. We hope that the installation of the newly elected National Legislative Assembly will pave the way for the envisaged institutional and political reforms.
Most reforms require collective commitment from all relevant parties. We are encouraged by the progress made in the deployment of the reconstituted and reformed Malian forces as an essential step towards the restoration of state authority in Northern Mali. This is indicative that Malians are capable of rebuilding their own state - as it is said where there is a will there is a way.
We, therefore, encourage the Malian parties to ensure the full operationalisation of these deployed forces and redouble their efforts towards further deployments in other parts of the country. This will enhance the preservation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Mali and serve as a measure for building trust and confidence amongst the signatory parties. We commend MINUSMA for providing the necessary assistance for this process.
Throughout this process, it remains imperative that the signatory parties should refrain from reneging on their commitments, in particular regarding the recruitment and use of children in the conflict, as well as other international human rights and humanitarian law violations.
As a country and as part of a Continent that firmly supports women empowerment and gender equality, South Africa commends the significant strides that the Malian authorities have made in advancing the participation and representation of women in political and peace processes as evidenced by an increase in women representation in the National Legislative Assembly and their inclusion in the Agreement Monitoring Committee. This is indeed a positive development that should be cultivated in order to strengthen inclusive, meaningful participation, and national ownership of the peace processes in Mali.
We also agree, that to eliminate the challenges of instability and insecurity, their drivers and root causes must be identified and adequately addressed. A comprehensive and holistic approach based on political, economic and security interventions is necessary to address the challenges facing Mali. In this regard, the Northern Development Zone is an important initiative that must be supported and fully operationalised to aid development in the northern regions. Equally, we urge for the support and implementation of the 2019 Declaration of Bamako on Access to Natural Resources and Conflicts between Communities.
Fourthly, South Africa would like to address the vital role played by the G5-Sahel Joint Force and MINUSMA. The efforts of the G5-Sahel countries and the region require international support in order to succeed. In this regard, we are grateful for the generous contributions made thus far and urge the Security Council and the international community to provide the necessary support to the G5-Sahel countries. We are of the view that UN coordinated, predictable and sustainable logistical and operational support is urgent and necessary. The roles of the African Union and ECOWAS are also important in support of the Joint Force.
In this regard, the initiative taken by the African Union to deploy 3 000 forces to support the G5-Sahel Joint Force in addition to the ECOWAS adopting an action plan and making financial resources available to combat terrorism in West Africa complements the collective efforts needed by not only Mali but by the region.
MINUSMA has made a valuable contribution towards the stabilisation of Mali. We, therefore, support the extension of the mandate of MINUSMA to continue to provide assistance to Mali particularly in the protection of civilians, implementation of the Peace Agreement, and restoration of state authority in Northern and Central Mali.
In conclusion Mr President, we would like to take this moment to pay tribute to the fallen peacekeepers and wish a speedy recovery to the injured and those battling COVID-19. We also express our solidarity with the women and men that form part of UN peacekeeping who continue to forge ahead despite working in a complex and dangerous environment.
I thank you.