Jean-Pierre Lacroix: “There will be no purely military solution in the Sahel”



La Croix: In Mali, the junta which took power in the summer of 2020 is clinging to it, while opening the door to new players, such as the Russian private military company Wagner. On this issue, China and Russia oppose the firmness desired by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United States, the United Kingdom and France. How does this situation inspire you?

J.-PL: The situation in Mali reflects the growing disunity of member states within the UN. Our goal is to actively support efforts to find a reasonable compromise on the duration of the transition.

Is the arrival of Wagner’s Russians likely to make you leave Mali?

J.-PL: Each State is free to enter into partnerships with whomever it wishes. But it is essential for us to continue to be able to implement our mandates under good conditions of cooperation with the civil and military authorities of the host country. On this point as on others, we must be accountable to the Security Council, from which we receive our mandate.

→ ANALYSIS. In Mali, a not so isolated junta

In addition, Minusma (the UN mission deployed in Mali, editor’s note) has the mandate to report to the Security Council on allegations of human rights violations committed on Malian territory, whatever the alleged perpetrators. We implement this mandate, in Mali as in other countries where we have similar mandates.

What is your reaction to the coup in Burkina Faso?

J.-PL: We are closely monitoring the situation in Burkina Faso, and we are concerned. As you have seen, the Secretary-General called on all actors to opt for dialogue and reaffirmed the UN’s total commitment to the preservation of constitutional order.

→ PORTRAIT. Coup in Burkina Faso: who is the leader of the junta?

Are you pessimistic about the security evolution of the Sahel?

J.-PL: It is certain that there will not be a purely military solution in the Sahel. I understand the frustration of some players in the region who are asking for a stronger mandate to fight terrorists. But, I repeat, the military approach cannot be the only solution. This must be more global: be firmer vis-à-vis all actors in the crisis, but also provide solutions to the insufficient presence of States, the consequences of climate change, and other factors of conflict. such as international criminal activities.

Have we entered a new cold war?

J.-PL: Beware of historical comparisons. However, today we have reached a very high degree of division among the member states of the United Nations. In the Security Council, these divisions do not prevent the renewal of our mandates, even if I observe that this is done less and less unanimously. On the other hand, they often prevent the advancement of political solutions to conflicts.

Taking advantage of the disunity of the most influential members of the international community, intermediary actors have arisen. And by intervening in turn, they further complicate and internationalize crises.

Has the nature of the conflicts changed in this new context?

J.-PL: In the past, we were more involved in interposition missions between several States. But today, we are also engaged in multi-layered conflicts: there are juxtaposed local, national, regional and today global determinants such as criminal activities or terrorism.

This is the case in Africa, where we are currently conducting our largest peacekeeping operations: in Mali, DR-Congo, South Sudan, Central Africa, for example. This overlapping of factors makes these conflicts more difficult to resolve on the security and political levels. They are also more dangerous for our blue helmets.

How are you trying to respond to these new crises?

J.-PL: We turn to the Member States to present to them, with the utmost honesty, all the facts of the problem: from the quality of our equipment to the evaluation of our performance, but also, and perhaps mainly, the need for they are resolutely committed to advancing political solutions. Without a united and determined commitment on their part, in particular the most influential ones, we are not able to achieve the ultimate objective of our operations: getting out of the crisis! Unfortunately, today, none of the conflicts in which we are engaged are characterized by credible prospects for a lasting political settlement.

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