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Since 2012, Mali has faced a volatile crisis as political armed groups, including ethnic based movements, jihadist groups and transnational criminal networks, fight for hegemony and the control of trafficking routes in the North. The 2015 peace agreement remains very difficult to implement and signatory groups still resort to violence to settle differences. Jihadist violence against security forces is increasing and militants have gone rural to capitalise on local conflicts and the absence of the State to secure safe havens and new recruits. Mali’s instability has regional consequences as violent extremism spills into neighbouring countries.  Through field research, timely reports and advocacy with regional and local actors, Crisis Group seeks to broaden understanding of the complex roots of violence in Mali via local, gendered and regional lenses and to find solutions to problems of governance.

CrisisWatch Mali

Deteriorated Situation

Intercommunal and jihadist violence intensified in centre amid ongoing counter-insurgency operations; France pledged to boost its military presence in Sahel from 4,500 troops to 5,100. In Mopti region in centre, suspected Dogon militiamen 16 Jan attacked Fulani village of Sinda, killing at least fourteen; explosive device 21 Jan killed two soldiers on Boni-Douentza axis; unidentified assailants 22-23 Jan killed six soldiers in Dioungani area. In Ségou region in centre, jihadist coalition Group to Support Islam and Muslims claimed attack against Sokolo military camp that killed twenty soldiers 26 Jan; 29 Jan reportedly captured Sokolo village. French forces continued counter-insurgency operations, notably killing thirty suspected members of jihadist group Katiba Macina south of Mopti 14-15 Jan. Also in centre, protesters demonstrated against UN mission (MINUSMA) in Koro, Bankass, and Bandiagara early Jan. Signatories to 2015 Algiers peace agreement took steps to pacify relations in north east. Delegations from ex-rebel Coalition of Azawad Movements and Platform coalition of pro-govt armed groups held talks in Ménaka 7-8 Jan, signed agreement on security arrangements to prevent confrontation between their respective local factions, committed to join forces against banditry in Ménaka region. Following Dec national inclusive dialogue, govt 11 Jan held meeting with political parties and signatory armed groups to discuss conditions for organising legislative elections before May. Movement of sympathisers of prominent Muslim leader Mahmoud Dicko 15 Jan said it would present list of candidates. Despite 10 Jan protest in capital Bamako against French military presence, President Keïta met with other G5 Sahel heads of state and French President Macron in Pau, France, 13 Jan, agreed to step up military cooperation with France to counter jihadist threat in Sahel; Macron same day pledged additional 220 troops to French Barkhane operation. French govt early Feb said it would deploy 400 more soldiers to focus on border area between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. PM Cissé 29 Jan pledged to increase size of armed forces by 50% in 2020.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

4 Nov 2019
The main fault-line for conflict in the Mali-Niger border has shifted. A year ago, it was drawn between communities. Now it lies between militants loosely fighting under an IS banner and state forces. Twitter

Hannah Armstrong

Senior Consulting Analyst, Sahel
22 Oct 2019
Les groupes djihadistes sont passés experts dans l’instrumentalisation des conflits pour mieux s'implanter. RFI

Jean-Hervé Jezequel

Director, Sahel Project
30 May 2019
Dialoguer [au Mali] pourrait permettre d’obtenir des cessez-le-feu locaux, donc de réduire la violence exercée contre les civils. Le Monde

Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim

Consulting Analyst, Sahel
24 Jul 2018
Jihadist groups present since the 2012 crisis in Mali exploited local unrest and the weak presence of the state in northern Mali to launch cross-border attacks against the Nigerien army... Despite direct support from Chadian troops since 2015 and closer collaboration with the Nigerian army, Nigerien forces have been unable to fully secure the border with Nigeria from attacks, including some linked to the Islamic State. Voice of America

Hannah Armstrong

Senior Consulting Analyst, Sahel
6 Mar 2017
Are we building any kind of sustainable peace [in Mali] through this kind of process that gives the most resources to the guys with guns? Reuters

Jean-Hervé Jezequel

Director, Sahel Project
17 Nov 2016
"We're again, as we've been several times since 2013, at a defining moment [in the fight against jihadist groups in northern Mali]. On the political side things have improved, but it is very worrying security-wise. Daily Nation

Jean-Hervé Jezequel

Director, Sahel Project

Latest Updates

Report / Africa

Narcotrafic, violence et politique au Nord du Mali

Dans le Nord du Mali, un trafic de drogue particulièrement concurrentiel suscite de graves violences et entrave l’application de l’accord de paix de 2015. Le Mali et ses partenaires devraient chercher à réduire les effets les plus délétères du narcotrafic en démilitarisant ses acteurs.

Also available in English
Commentary / Africa

Mali’s Elections Are an Opportunity to Reboot the Peace Process

Inter-communal violence along the Niger-Mali border and a scattered jihadist presence have left large swathes of Mali insecure. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018 annual early-warning update for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges Mali’s next president to reinvigorate the Bamako peace agreement and embark on long-term structural reform.

Watch List 2018 – Second Update

Crisis Group’s second update to our Watch List 2018 includes entries on seizing a chance for peace in Mali, avoiding escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh, mitigating conflict in Syria’s peripheral regions, and helping Somalia overcome obstacles to reform. This annual early-warning report identifies conflict situations in which prompt action by the European Union and its member states would generate stronger prospects for peace.

Op-Ed / Africa

A la frontière Niger-Mali, le nécessaire dialogue avec les hommes en armes

La stratégie qui privilégie une option militaire disproportionnée à la frontière entre le Niger et le Mali fait peser un risque sur la région : celui de créer un nouveau foyer d’insurrection. C'est le constat que dresse l’International Crisis Group, qui fait une série de recommandations.

Originally published in Jeune Afrique

Report / Africa

Frontière Niger-Mali : mettre l’outil militaire au service d’une approche politique

Le primat donné aux réponses militaires et le recours à des groupes armés à base communautaire pour combattre les mouvements jihadistes implantés dans la zone frontalière entre le Niger et le Mali n’ont fait qu’accentuer les tensions intercommunautaires. Les autorités nigériennes doivent adopter une approche plus politique, incluant réconciliation entre communautés, dialogue avec les militants et amnistie dans certains cas.

Also available in English

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Hannah Armstrong

Senior Consulting Analyst, Sahel