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UN Mission backs constitutional referendum in Mali

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© UNOCHA/Eve Lomina A woman walks through the town of Mopti in Mali.

“This is obviously an important time for the mission, coinciding with discussions on the renewal of its mandate, and also for Mali, which continues to face complex security and other forms of challenges,” Special Representative El-Ghassim Wane told ambassadors.

The long-awaited vote on Sunday marks the first phase towards presidential elections next year following a coup in May 2021. Citizens in the West African country will choose whether or not to support a draft constitution.

MINUSMA was established in the wake of a 2012 coup and armed rebellion in the north, leading to the signing of a Peace Agreement in Algeria three years later. Its mandate is up for renewal at the end of the month.

Link to peace process

Mr. Wane said the mission and the UN country team have provided support for the holding of the referendum, which was originally scheduled for March.

They have transported necessary equipment and staff, assisted with the training for members of the Independent Election Management Authority, and disseminated the draft constitution.

Consultations on the constitution were held in December 2021. “The discussions on the draft constitution have shown, as if it were needed, the close links between the transition process and the peace process,” he said. 

Bridging differences

Addressing the Peace Agreement, he noted that while some signatory movements had stated that their interests were not adequately reflected in the draft constitution, others are “calling for a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum.”

MINUSMA and Algeria worked to help the sides overcome their differences and to understand the link between the draft constitution and the peace agreement.

“As a result of this exercise, it appears that nothing in the draft constitution runs counter to the implementation of the agreement, including the legislative and regulatory provisions relating to the institutional framework and to territorial reorganization,” he said.

Insecurity remains a challenge

Meanwhile, terrorist groups continue their deadly operations in some areas of Mali, affecting citizens, the security forces and UN peacekeepers.  Five “blue helmets” have been killed since January, and 31 injured, in hostile acts.

Persistent insecurity is also having an impact on humanitarian activities in a country where nearly nine million people will require assistance this year.

As the end of its mandate approaches, Mr. Wane took stock of MINUSMA’s work over the past year, highlighting examples such as its support for the transition, “stabilizing presence” in urban areas and action to protect civilians.

“After almost 10 years in Mali, I would like to underscore that MINUSMA, like all other United Nations peacekeeping operations, is there to establish the right conditions for its exit from Mali in assisting Mali to ensure the security of its population and its territory, and to lay the foundations for lasting stability,” he said.

Request for withdrawal

Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop also addressed the Council. He called for MINUSMA to withdraw from the country “without delay”, saying the Mission has not been able to adequately respond to the security situation.

“Realism means noting the failure of MINUSMA, whose mandate is no longer up to facing the security challenges in the country,” he said.

Additionally, “MINUSMA seems to have become a part of the problem in fueling inter-community tensions exacerbated by allegations of extreme gravity which are extremely harmful to peace, reconciliation, and to national cohesion,” he added.

“This situation is begetting mistrust among the Malian population and also causing a crisis of confidence between Malian authorities and MINUSMA.”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr. Wane was asked about the Minister’s request. 

He said the UN Mission is mandated by the Security Council, and “we stand to be guided by whatever decision the Council may take.” 

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