In response to the lack of progress in implementing the 2015 Algiers Agreement, with different sides blaming the other), continued ceasefire violations, ongoing attacks on peacekeeping forces, expanding terrorist and criminal activities in central and southern Mali, and widespread human rights abuses in the country, the Security Council unanimously adopted UNSCR 2374 on 5 September 2017 authorizing a travel ban and an asset freeze on designated individuals and establishing a Sanctions Committee and Panel of Experts to monitor sanctions implementation. No designations were made at the time of the adoption of the resolution, but the criteria for designation were spelled out and included: individuals engaging in hostilities in violation of the terms of the Algiers Agreement, actions that obstructed, delayed or threatened the implementation of the Agreement, financing either of the two preceding activities, planning or facilitating attacks on peacekeepers, obstructing the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the country, violating international human rights law, and/or recruiting child soldiers.
Despite the continued delay in implementation of elements of the Algiers Agreement, continued attacks on UN peacekeepers, attacks on Malian forces, and what the UN Secretary-General described as “a deterioration of the security situation” in the country (due, among other things, to terrorist violence, violence associated with growing criminal activity, and inter-communal violence), there were no sanctions designations until December 2018, when a travel ban was imposed on three individuals. The French had proposed several designations informally in April 2018, but they were not taken up until the end of the year.
The Secretary-General’s Report of 6 June 2018 stated that the security situation in the country had worsened since the signing of the 2015 Algiers Agreement. During 2018, the conflict in Mali became more complex and multi-faceted. In particular, there was a fragmentation among the non-state parties to the Algiers Agreement, as Tuareg groups split up into clan-based factions, the presence of foreign fighters increased, as did attacks by ISIL and Al-Qaida affiliated groups, communal violence broke out in the center of the country, and there were reports of trafficking and criminal activity from regions of the country outside the control of the government.
Presidential elections were held a month later, on 29 July 2018. President Keita was re-elected for a second term with 67% of the votes cast. The opposition candidate, Soumaila Cissé, challenged the results, but AU and EU election observers accepted them, a conclusion which was upheld by the Constitutional Court in August of 2018. Keita was sworn in for a second term on 22 September 2018. In the interim, UN sanctions, still without any designations, were extended for another year with the passage of UNSCR 2432 on 30 August 2018. The first sanctions designations were made at the end of the year, on 18 December 2018. Three individuals were listed for a travel ban (but no asset freeze). One was a senior Tuareg military commander, one the head of a non-signatory political organization, and one a businessman with links to criminal activities and groups engaged in the commitment of acts of terrorism.
Keita's re-election, however, did not translate into progress in the implementation of the Algiers Agreement. In January 2019, a Presidential statement of the Security Council expressed “a significant sense of impatience with parties over the persistent delays in the full implementation of key provisions of the Agreement.” Throughout 2019, attacks on peacekeeping forces continued, as the conflicts within the country took multiple forms: jihadist attacks, inter-communal violence, militias seeking greater autonomy from the central government, and organized criminal activity.
The Sanctions Committee added another five individuals to the sanctions list on 19 July 2019. The Panel of Experts has a mandate to recommend designations for Committee consideration (of “parties responsible for potential lack of implementation of priority measures”), and the Panel initially recommended that eight names and one corporate entity be added to the list. The new designees represented military, political, and business leaders, and were initially subject only to a travel ban. The Sanctions Committee added asset freezes to the five new individuals listed (but not the original three) on 19 December 2019. The eight designees on the list are all from the North and represent a combination of three political figures (including one National Assembly member), two military leaders, and three businessmen. Individuals associated with both CMA and Platforme have been listed. UNSCR 2484 (29 August 2019) renewed the sanctions for another year, and while it stated criteria for removal from the list – a potential innovation for providing an incentive for behavioral change – the resolution stated that the Council had not seen evidence to merit such consideration for any of the designees.
In response to criticisms of the slow pace of implementation of the Agreement and to the continued level of violence in the country, including attacks on peacekeeping forces, President Keita launched an Inclusive National Dialogue in September 2019 to address disagreements over the constitutional review process, and the dialogue concluded in December 2019. The dialogue was boycotted by most opposition groups and did not include jihadists. The Secretary-General’s Report of March 2020 argued that the dialogue had “contributed to decreasing tensions among signatory parties,“ but critics argued that it delayed progress on other parts of the Agreement. The first deployments of reconstituted army units began in the North in February 2020, though they have been slow to become operational and address DDR goals. Key elements of the Agreement remained unimplemented, there was resistance to the deployment of the reconstituted army units in the North, and continued attacks from Al-Qaida and ISIL affiliated groups in both northern and central Mali.
In June 2020, tens of thousands protested in Bamako against the government. The protests were led by a coalition of opposition groups and civil society organizations who called themselves the “June 5 Movement – Rally of Patriotic Forces” (M5-RFP). They called for President Keita to resign and expressed concerns about the security situation in the country, the state of the economy, endemic corruption, and the Constitutional Court’s annulment of 5.2% of the votes cast in the legislative elections (affecting 31 constituencies), which resulted in an increase in President Keita’s party’s representation in the National Assembly by 10 seats. The government used live ammunition against demonstrators on 10-12 July 2020, and on 27 July, ECOWAS convened an extraordinary summit on the crisis calling upon the government to re-do the 31 contested elections and threatening sanctions on those who impede the plan. In the midst of the political crisis, the Council renewed the mandate of MINUSMA for another year in UNSCR 2531 (29 June 2020). The Council acknowledged “some progress” with the implementation of the Algiers Agreement, noted that sanctions were a factor in securing that progress, and in the second operational paragraph of the peacekeeping resolution, threatened further sanctions, should parties to the Agreement take actions to obstruct its implementation.
The Panel of Experts' report of February 2020 noted that there was “little progress” on implementation of the Agreement, due in part to the distraction from the 2019 Inclusive Dialogue, challenges stemming from lack of clarity regarding the government’s chief interlocutor, and fragmentation among elements of both the CMA and the Platforme. The Panel recommended the extension of the financial asset freeze to the first three designees from December 2018 (as had been done to the five added in 2019) and that sanctioned individuals be prevented from participation in the mechanisms for the implementation of the Agreement in an explicit move to increase their stigmatization. The fact that two listed individuals had made formal delisting requests and that one had mobilized public protests against his designation demonstrate the stigmatizing effects of the individual designations made to date. The Panel’s report of 7 August 2020 reiterated some of these points, particularly with regard to discrepancies between the government’s public statements and its lack of implementation of the Algiers Agreement. The fact that Malian state actors continue to provide support to individuals designated by the Council for an asset freeze was also highlighted. While the Panel sees some progress on DDR, atrocities by ethnic-based militias continue “unabated” in central Mali and the deteriorating situation diverts attention from implementation of the Agreement in the North.
A military coup toppled the Keita government on 18 August 2020. President Keita was initially held under house arrest by the coup leaders, but subsequently fled the country. Mali was sanctioned by ECOWAS and the AU for the non-constitutional change of government. The military junta appointed Keita’s former defense minister Bah N’Daw as a transitional president on 25 September 2020, with the head of the junta as his vice president. Under sanctions and diplomatic pressure from ECOWAS, they have promised to restore power to civilian authorities following an 18 month transitional period. ECOWAS sanctions were lifted on 6 October 2020, citing “significant progress” after a civilian Prime Minister was appointed.
UNSCR 2541 (31 August 2020) expressed “deep concern” over the coup, reiterated “strong support” for ECOWAS mediation efforts, and extended the sanctions regime and the mandate of the Panel of Experts for another year.
Coerce parties to the 2015 Algiers Agreement to abide by the terms of the agreement (maintain the ceasefire and implement its power sharing arrangements) and abstain from threatening the political process of stabilization and reconciliation.
Constrain the signatories from violating the terms of the Agreement.
Signal support for mediation and peacekeeping operations (UN,AU, ECOWAS, G5-Sahel, EU, and France) in support of the Agreement.
Travel ban against individuals and asset freeze against individuals or entities engaging in hostilities in violation of the terms of the 2015 Algiers agreement, actions that obstruct, delay or threaten its implementation, financing either of the two preceding activities, planning or facilitating attacks on peacekeepers, obstructing the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the country, violating international human rights law, and/or recruiting child soldiers.
Current and maximum number of designees during the episode: 8 individual designees (three with travel ban restrictions in December 2018 and five with travel ban restrictions in July 2019, supplemented with asset freezes in December 2019).
UN sanctions should have little impact on the general population since they are focused exclusively on specific individuals and entities.
Sanctions were imposed for a limited time period (1 year) and renewed periodically. Sanctions Committee and Panel of Experts were created. Designation criteria were specified and targets designated. PKO has enforcement role.
Important elements of the 2015 Algiers Agreement have been implemented (such as deployment of reconstituted army units to the North), but delays on constitutional reform and decentralization continue. Ceasefire agreements have been signed, but are often violated. The SG’s June 2020 report concluded that the security and humanitarian situations remain unsatisfactory.
Designations have been made and are credited by the Security Council in UNSCR 2531 with securing progress in implementation of the Agreement; regional diplomatic negotiations and the presence of military forces on the ground (MINUSMA, G5, EU, and French forces) are also significant to the outcome.
Jihadist attacks have expanded from the north to include central portions of the country; attacks on PKOs continue from multiple sources (jihadist groups, non-signatories, and communal groups).
Designations indicate a focus on sources of conflict financing, but presence of PKOs and insufficient extension of government authority appear most significant to the outcome.
UNSC and SG statements signaled support for regional mediation efforts and reinforced support for transitional and peace agreements.
Panel of Expert reports suggest that formal delisting requests by two individuals and public protests against the listing of another indicate stigmatization of some targets, even though two of them receive support from segments of the Malian state; UN peacekeeping mission and regional negotiation efforts were also significant to the outcome.
Significant organized criminal activity along the borders to circumvent sanctions restrictions; concerns about balance and fairness of UNSC designations, since all eight designees hail from the same region of the country (the North).