|Jan. 17, 2019 -- A senior UN official warned on Wednesday that the security situation in Mali remains of grave concern, and a major challenge to peacebuilding in the African country.
"Asymmetric attacks continue to target peacekeepers, national and international forces, and increasingly civilians," UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita told the Security Council.
She expressed particular concern over the further deterioration of the security situation in central Mali, where inter-communal violence, instrumentalized by extremist armed groups, has intensified over the past months.
The deteriorating situation resulted in the dramatic increase in displaced persons by 75 percent in December 2018, compared with June 2018, she said.
"Overall, the humanitarian situation in Mali remains dire, with 2.3 million vulnerable people targeted by the 2019 humanitarian response plan. Over 800 schools remain closed due to insecurity."
Addressing the challenges facing Mali must take into account the complex cross-border dynamics and drivers of conflict occurring within the broader regional context, she said.
The joint military force of the Group of Five Sahel countries -- Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- remains an instrumental part of the response needed to address the threat of violent extremism in the region, said Keita.
She called upon the five countries to take all steps necessary to resume the operations of the joint force as soon as possible, and on international partners to provide support.
"In parallel, we also must redouble our efforts to address resilience, governance and development deficits in the region. In this regard, the United Nations will continue to move forward in the implementation of its integrated strategy for the Sahel."
Having visited Mali a month ago, she said she was encouraged by the progress to implement the 2015 peace agreement and the constructive nature of relations between the parties.
"It is important to continue impressing on all parties to the peace agreement to maintain positive momentum in order to continue accelerating the implementation of priority measures of the peace agreement and register meaningful progress, without further delay," she said.
Mali is plagued by a civil war and the rise of Islamist militants. The United Nations set up a peacekeeping mission in Mali in April 2013 to help stabilize the situation in the country. Enditem