Ban Ki-moon intends to strengthen the cooperation between UN and African union in managing crisis in Mali.
In his report to the 15 members of Security Council on Wednesday, March 27, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has recommended that the African force (AFISMA) currently in Mali be converted into a UN peacekeeping operation and that a separate combat force be created to confront Islamist threats.
The UN- bolstered African force of 11,200 troops and 1,440 policemen will take over from France as a withdrawal of its 4,000 troops from the country is planned in late April.
Ban Ki-moon has also recommended that a so-called parallel force be created in order to tackle directly Islamist extremists. This force would work in close coordination with the UN mission. “Given the anticipated level and nature of the residual threat, there would be a fundamental requirement for a parallel force to operate in Mali alongside the UN mission in order to conduct major combat and counter-terrorism operations” Said Ban Ki-moon.
This parallel force would not have a formal UN mandate, albeit it would be operating with the informal authorisation of the Security Council. However, the report doesn’t specify a time limit for the aforementioned mission.
The French military offensive against Islamist militants who had taken over the north of the country and seized the southern capital, Bamako started in January after being requested by Malian authorities. As it has been stated by Paris, the vast desert in the north Mali was in danger of becoming a springboard for extremist attacks on the region. After nine weeks, the French operation backed by Chadian and Malian troops has driven the Islamists into desert hideouts and mountains near the Algerian border.
However, after a short truce, during the weekend of 23rd -24th March, Islamist rebels have attacked Gao; the north’s largest town. This third major attack after the liberation of Gao in the late January, occurred some days after Francois Hollande declared that Mali’s sovereignty had almost been restored and while Malian authorities were hoping to hold elections in July.
As pointed out by Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations would only take on security responsibilities in Mali when “the necessary security and political conditions were deemed to be in place.”
The UN Secretary General averred that the majority of the troops of the UN-backed African force would operate in the north of the country and that only a “light presence’’ would be based in capital, Bamako
Ban Ki-moon stressed that the mission “would operate under robust rules of engagement, with a mandate to use all necessary means to address threats to the implementation of its mandate, which would include protection of civilians.” He has also raised issues over human rights violations, trans-national and organized crimes in Mali and has recommended the establishment of an independent investigation group of experts to tackle these issues. The report notes that there would be the possibility to impose punitive and targeted sanctions for such crimes.