From 8 to 12 May 2017, the United Nations Legal Counsel, Mr. Serpa Soares, travelled to the Central African Republic and Mali. The main objective of this mission was to visit the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), in order to get a better understanding of the main challenges that these peacekeeping missions are currently facing on the ground, so that the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) can optimally target its advice in the area of peacekeeping.
At the invitation of SRSG Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, Mr. Serpa Soares visited MINUSCA on 8 and 9 May 2017. A significant part of OLA’s work is to provide advice on a wide variety of legal issues arising in the area of peacekeeping. Against this background, Mr. Serpa Soares decided at the beginning of his tenure to visit at least one peacekeeping mission every year, and in particular those where new approaches to the way we go about peacekeeping emerge. Another reason to visit MINUSCA was to get a first-hand impression on how the Secretary-General’s new policy on preventing and responding to sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) is being implemented in a Mission where allegations of SEA have been a major issue.
Upon arrival in Bangui, Mr. Serpa Soares was received by SRSG Onanga-Anyanga, who invited him to participate in the weekly senior management group (SMG) meeting. At the SMG meeting, Mr. Serpa Soares got a good understanding of the current operational challenges faced by the Mission. Subsequently, he met separately with the team of the Legal Affairs Section, led by Mr. Sylver Ntukamazina, with General Balla Keita, MINUSCA’s Force Commander, and with Brigadier General Roland Zamora, MINUSCA’s Police Commissioner. The briefings that Mr. Serpa Soares received allowed him to fully appreciate the difficulties that the Mission faces in implementing its mandate in a country, rich in natural resources, where the Government’s efforts to extend its authority throughout its vast territory is constantly challenged by armed groups. Mr. Serpa Soares’s first day in Bangui ended with a very productive meeting with Mr. Musa Yerro Gassama, the Chief of MINUSCA’s Human Rights Division.
Mr. Serpa Soares participates in the Senior Management Group
The meetings during his second day in Bangui covered many legal issues in a narrower sense that OLA follows very closely. Mr. Serpa Soares met with Mr. Frank Dalton, the Chief of MINUSCA’s Justice and Corrections Division, and with Mr. Bakayoko Djakaridja, the Chief of MINUSCA’s Conduct and Discipline Team. The focus of the Legal Counsel’s meeting with Mr. Djakaridja was naturally how the Mission implemented the Secretary-General’s policy on preventing and responding to SEA incidents. The issue of SEA was a recurrent topic in all meetings with colleagues in the Mission. With Mr. Dalton and his team, in particular with Mr. Jasper Pauw, the Head of the SCC Support Unit, Mr. Serpa Soares had a good discussion on the challenges in connection with the establishment of the Special Criminal Court (SCC). The Legal Counsel also visited both the Camp de Roux and Ngaragba prisons.
Mr. Serpa Soares at Camp de Roux prison in Bangui
In the margins of his visit to MINUSCA, Mr. Serpa Soares was received by Mr. Félix Moloua, Minister of Economy, Plan and International Cooperation.
From Bangui, Mr. Serpa Soares travelled to Mali where he visited MINUSMA on 11 and 12 May 2017. In the absence of SRSG Mahamat Saleh Annadif, Mr. Serpa Soares was received by DSRSG Koen Davidse who briefed him on the political situation in Mali. Throughout his visit to MINUSMA, Mr. Serpa Soares was supported by MINUSMA’s Legal Adviser, Mr. Thierry Kaiser, and his team. The visit provided a welcome opportunity to discuss with him and the members of MINUSMA’s Legal Affairs Section salient issues that the Mission is confronted with. The first meeting in Bamako was with Mr. Jean-Nicolas Marti, the Head of the ICRC delegation to Mali, with whom he had an extensive discussion on the status of MINUSMA under international humanitarian law.
Mr. Serpa Soares meets with the ICRC Delegation in Mali
MINUSMA is a peacekeeping mission that operates in country plagued with terrorism. Therefore, Mr. Serpa Soares made a particular effort to meet with members of the military. In Bamako, he met with Brigadier General Daniel Menaouine, MINUSMA’s Force Chief of Staff, and with General Patrick Gournay, the representative of the French Barkhane forces. In Timbuktu, he had the opportunity to be briefed by a Colonel Lars Karlsson of the Swedish Armed Forces.
Mr. Serpa Soares, Colonel Karlsson of the Swedish Armed Forces and Mr. Riccardo Maia, Head of MINUSMA’s Timbuktu Office
In Timbuktu, Mr. Serpa Soares was received by the Head of Office, Mr. Riccardo Maia. He had an opportunity to visit the “super camp”, as well as the mosque and the UNESCO world heritage sites, including the mausoleums. It was impressive to see MINUSMA implement its mandate to protect Mali’s cultural heritage and how it worked with UNESCO to restore those sites that were vandalized. Mr. Serpa Soares was honoured to be received by the Governor of Timbuktu, Mr. Koina AG Ahmadou, with whom he discussed the situation in the North of Mali from the point of view of the Malian territorial administration. Back in Bamako, Mr. Serpa Soares held a meeting with the Chief of MINUSMA’s Human Rights and Protection Division, Mr. Guillaume Ngefa-A.Andali.
Mr. Serpa Soares and Mr. Guillaume Ngefa, Chief of MINUSMA’s Human Rights and Protection Division
The objective of visiting MINUSCA and MINUSMA was to get a better understanding of the challenges that arise in new types of peacekeeping operations. Both missions operate under extremely difficult conditions in a very hostile environment. In Mali, the issue of the gathering and use of intelligence through drones presents a new set of legal questions that will require further reflection in New York. In the Central African Republic, it will be interesting to see the beginning of operations of the Special Criminal Court (SCC). In many ways, the establishment of the SCC is the beginning of the third generation of accountability mechanism after the international tribunals and the hybrid courts. The OLA will continue its support for bringing about accountability and fighting impunity in the two countries that the Legal Counsel visited.