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Mali: Guterres urges junta to "speed up" civilian return

Mali: Guterres urges junta to "speed up" civilian return
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the Radisson Hotel in ...   -  
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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged Mali's ruling junta to "accelerate" the pace of returning power to elected civilians by early 2024 as it has pledged to do, in a report to the Security Council.

In this report, consulted by AFP on Tuesday on the eve of a Council meeting, Mr. Guterres is also concerned about the persistence of violence and its impact on the population, and the "impasse" in which an important peace agreement between the Malian state and armed groups in the north is located.

Mali has been plagued by the spread of jihadism and violence of all kinds since the outbreak of insurgencies in the north in 2012. The violence has spread to the center of the country and into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger. It is spreading southward.

A U.N. stabilization mission, Minusma, has been deployed in Mali since 2013, with about 13,800 troops and police so far.

The security turmoil goes hand in hand with a deep humanitarian and political crisis. Mali has been the scene of two putsches since 2020 and is ruled by a junta. The junta has pledged under international pressure to step down by March 2024.

In his quarterly report, Guterres notes "progress" on this path, such as the drafting of a constitution and the creation of an election management authority.

But, he added, "there has been a delay in the implementation of some key activities. "With less than a year to go before the end of the transition, it is incumbent on the Malian authorities to do everything in their power to accelerate this process so that constitutional order is restored within the agreed timeframe," he said.

The junta has just announced the indefinite postponement of a referendum on the constitution.

Guterres expressed concern about the "impasse" or "persistent paralysis" in the implementation of the 2015 Algiers agreement. The implementation of this agreement between the armed groups in the north and the state is considered essential for the stabilization of the country. However, the signatories, particularly the Tuareg groups, are at loggerheads with the junta.

Mr. Guterres spoke of a "climate of deep mistrust".

"It is essential that the parties urgently overcome the current impasse given the prevailing security situation, particularly in northeastern Mali, where terrorist groups are relentlessly targeting civilians, and all the humanitarian consequences associated with this situation," he said.

In a memorandum published on social networks, the Malian government assures that "the diligent implementation of the transition timetable remains a priority for the Malian authorities. It also assures that it remains "committed and available for the diligent implementation" of the Algiers agreement.

He questioned the basis of Guterres' accusations that Malian forces had abused civilians during operations in which "foreign security personnel" had taken part. The Malian army has enlisted the help of hundreds of men described by some sources as Russian army instructors or mercenaries from Wagner, a criticized private Russian security group.

The government claims an "improvement in the security situation" and "the neutralization of hundreds of terrorists" during these three months.

Mr. Guterres spoke of security conditions that were still "precarious. He noted the restrictions imposed by the Malian authorities on the air and land movements of the Minusma, a criticism also rejected by the government.

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