The Sahel region has generated worrying headlines once again in recent days. We have already spoken about the fact that the recent developments in Chad and the lack of clarity following the death of President Déby harbour the potential to spread even more uncertainty and also to fuel even more violence. That shows again how closely interlinked the states in this conflict region as a whole are, and how in this conflict boundaries are crossed on a day‑to-day basis. The fighters returning to Chad from Libya are just one of a whole series of examples. Terrorists, rebels, smugglers, weapons and drugs also move between Mali – the country we are discussing today – and its neighbours Algeria, the Niger and Burkina Faso.
We therefore have to concede once again how unstable this neighbouring region – and it is indeed a neighbour of Europe – is, with all the risks that lawless zones pose also to our security in Europe. Against this backdrop, the countries of the Sahel region have recognised that they can only achieve security, stability and prosperity through joint engagement, through a common approach. That is reflected in many political initiatives of recent months, weeks and days, but also in the military cooperation among the G5 Sahel. At the same time, it is clear that they all depend on the active support of the international community, and hence also on us.
One key instrument, in fact, the key instrument with regard to Mali, is MINUSMA. This United Nations mission was launched in 2013 to support and flank the peace process in Mali. At this point we need to emphasise that it is a peace process that lays a foundation. That distinguishes Mali from many other countries in the region. And that places a particular onus on us.
After the non‑violent coup in August last year, in this phase of transition the people in Mali are hoping again – probably more than ever – for a new beginning, which they need so urgently to enjoy a better life. They are hoping to see the break‑up of ossified structures in politics and society, to see improved prospects for inner‑Malian reconciliation, which, it has to be said, has not been driven forward sufficiently in the past few years. All parties must embrace their responsibility in this area. Yet we need precisely this prospect of reconciliation. To achieve this, we need to provide a framework for security and the hope of a viable future for the Malian people, and that is the task of MINUSMA. MINUSMA is supporting the ongoing transition through its good offices, so to speak. MINUSMA is ensuring that the inner‑Malian peace process can continue. The challenge remains for the mission and its three components, which I want to cite again here:
First, the military component: with more than 12,000 blue helmets in the country, it creates a safe environment for the population. It safeguards humanitarian assistance and facilitates stabilisation measures and development work. As we witnessed a few days ago, its infrastructure on the ground puts it in a position to protect important meetings and negotiations, particularly in the north, where the situation is especially difficult.
The second point I want to mention is the civil component. The civil component of the mission remains equally crucial to the support of the inner‑Malian peace process and the quelling of the conflicts in central Mali, as has also been stated. Here, monitoring the human rights situation plays a vital role, and we are proud that this will remain the task of MINUSMA. We have worked hard to ensure that this aspect does not merely exist on paper. It is about strengthening civil society and domestic institutions.
But here I also want and need to mention the third component: the police component. This provides support for the Malian police force and the Malian justice system in law enforcement and the fight against organised crime.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I said at the beginning, of course we can’t be satisfied when we see the situation in the country and the situation in the region. I am well aware that in Mali, too, there is a tendency to blame the very visible MINUSMA mission. This is a result of the country’s weak statehood. When we have such a large infrastructure and such a massive presence in the country, we sometimes fuel expectations which are not always covered by the United Nations’ mandate and which are not always realistic. We know all about that, but here I nonetheless want to point it out.
The Secretary‑General of the United Nations himself, António Guterres, specifically warned against the premature withdrawal of troops in his report in March this year. That is another reflex we sometimes hear in these debates. There is dissatisfaction in Mali – of course there is – but withdrawing MINUSMA is not the solution. According to the Secretary‑General’s report, the security structures are not yet sound enough to provide protection for the civilian population without support. That is why we need to continue to work together on this issue, for without security and without stability we will not achieve our goals – the peaceful resolution of the inner-Malian process, the building of the economy, economic development and, incidentally, also urgently needed intraregional cooperation. That also has to be mentioned here.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the previous debate my colleague Otte quite rightly spoke about the difficult deployment conditions in Mali for the Bundeswehr at the moment due to the climate. Any of you who have been to Gao will know that it is a dangerous region. With its soldiers on the ground, the Bundeswehr is making an important contribution, a contribution to long‑term stabilisation. I therefore want to take this opportunity to expressly thank our soldiers and the civilian personnel once again for their vital work.
We are providing not only the engagement of our soldiers, but also urgently needed high‑end capabilities. The Bundeswehr is thereby making a significant contribution to the security of the Malian people and to implementing the goals of MINUSMA. Logistical assistance through operation of Camp Castor in Gao, medical facilities, transport capacities: all this is allowing our partners to continue their work.
Ladies and gentlemen, we know that all this can be no substitute for the endeavours of the Malian stakeholders ultimately to achieve this peace through their own decisions and actions; that’s absolutely right. That is why we will continue to talk to our partners on the ground, to formulate our expectations and coordinate our activity both with our European partners and with respect to the entire region, for we will not succeed if we only focus on one sector or country in isolation.
Allow me to take this opportunity to strongly urge you to support this important mission.
Thank you for your attention.