UNITED NATIONS -- U.N. experts say signatories to a 2015 peace agreement in Mali failed to accelerate its implementation as promised amid growing rivalries and popular resentment against the deal as well as increasing attacks by militants in Mali and neighboring countries.
The report to the Security Council by the panel of experts monitoring sanctions in Mali, which was circulated Wednesday, also cited escalating violence in the center of the country and the loss of territory "to terrorist armed groups" by key signatories and other rivals.
Mali has been in turmoil since a 2012 uprising prompted mutinous soldiers to overthrow the president of a decade. The power vacuum that was created ultimately led to an Islamic insurgency and a French-led war that ousted the jihadists from power in 2013.
Insurgents remain active in the region and the West African nation is under threat from a number of extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State organization. The extremists have moved from the arid north to more populated central Mali since 2015, stoking animosity and violence between ethnic groups in the region.
The 2015 agreement was signed by three parties — the government, a coalition of groups called the Coordination of Movements of Azawad that includes ethnic Arabs and Tuaregs who seek autonomy in northern Mali, and a pro-government militia known as the Platform.
The report said the parties have not kept the commitment they made after President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's re-election last August to implement the agreement, apart from signing two pieces of enabling legislation and making a start at integrating former combatants into the army after a six-month delay. Fundamental institutional reforms were interrupted after the prime minister resigned in April, and "general disarmament, demobilization and reintegration has not been started for 63,000 registered combatants," the experts said.
According to the experts, the parties "have been losing ground since the signature of the agreement in 2015, in part to splinter groups, which have multiplied ... and then to terrorist actors." The panel said that "terrorist armed groups have been able to pursue a successful expansion strategy" by pooling their forces into a new alliance, by colluding with "compliant armed groups," and by "fueling a new front in central Mali and surrounding countries."
Mali's electoral calendar, which had called this year for a constitutional referendum in March, parliamentary elections in May, senate elections in July and local elections in November, has been scrapped pending political talks, the panel said. It said that dialogue "is critical" for implementing the peace deal.
The Security Council in April urged the parties to sign a new road map for implementing the 2015 agreement, but the experts said no action was taken at a high-level meeting June 17.
The panel said the 2015 agreement has come under attack from political actors, opinion leaders, community activists and the media who say it would be "a reward to minority communities from the north that would threaten the territorial integrity of Mal and render other communities vulnerable."
The experts reported that in the wider Sahel region, "violent attacks by jihadist and affiliated criminal groups continued to escalate, pitting communities against one another," with Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger most affected. The threat of militant violence is also "spilling over into the northern regions of West African coastal states, notably Benin, Ghana and Togo," the panel said.
The panel said there were an estimated 2,151 civilian victims of militant attacks between November 2018 and March 2019.
"Countries in the region are increasingly concerned about new terrorist connections across Africa and the new focus of global jihadist organizations on the destabilization of West Africa and the Sahel region," the experts said. "Uncontrolled movements of people seeking migration or employment, including in booming artisanal mining, may facilitate such connections."