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.
War between the state and jihadists in central Mali has led to growing intercommunal violence. To spare civilians additional harm, the government should explore the possibility of talks with the insurgents about local ceasefires and humanitarian aid – while remaining open to broader discussions.
Protests against govt and international forces erupted in several cities, while suspected jihadist attacks continued in north and centre and intercommunal violence persisted in centre. Suspected jihadists 30 Sept struck bases of regional military force G5 Sahel in Mondoro and Boulikessi, Mopti region in centre; govt said 38 soldiers killed and dozens missing, and fifteen assailants killed. G5 Sahel 30 Sept blamed jihadist group Ansarul Islam, but jihadist coalition Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 6 Oct claimed attacks, saying it had killed 85 soldiers and abducted others. In early Oct, protesters demonstrated in capital Bamako, Sévaré in Mopti region, and Kayes in west, denouncing military’s lack of equipment and poor living conditions and demanding departure of foreign forces, in particular French and UN mission (MINUSMA). Protesters 12 Oct looted MINUSMA warehouse in Sévaré. Suspected jihadists continued attacks in north and centre. In Kidal region in north, MINUSMA vehicle 6 Oct detonated explosives near Aguelhoc, UN peacekeeper killed, and unidentified assailants 18 Oct attacked pro-govt armed groups in Aguelhok, killing six. In Gao region in north, suspected jihadists 23 Oct killed five members of Ganda Izo militia in Tassiga; unidentified gunmen 22 Oct clashed with pro-govt armed groups in Doro, at least fifteen killed including four civilians. In Mopti region in centre, unidentified gunmen 6 Oct attacked UN peacekeepers near Bandiagara, wounding one; 23 Oct killed gendarme in Douentza. French forces 17 Oct killed eight suspected members of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara in Liptako area in south east. Unidentified gunmen killed police officer and civilian in Ménaka city in east 24 Oct. Communal violence continued in centre. Suspected members of Dogon militia Dan Na Ambassagou 7 Oct attacked Fulani civilians near Petaka in Douentza circle, Mopti region, killing three. Suspected Fulani gunmen 6 Oct attacked Sogou and Berda in Koro circle, Mopti region, one Dogon killed.
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.
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.
Créée en février 2017, la Force conjointe du G5 Sahel est une force de nouvelle génération dans un espace sahélien où se bousculent des initiatives militaires et diplomatiques parfois concurrentes. Il ne suffira pas de fournir des armes et de l’argent pour résoudre les crises sahéliennes. Pour atteindre ses objectifs, la force doit gagner la confiance des populations et des puissances régionales et obtenir leur soutien.
Settling the place of Islam in Mali’s society and politics is a less visible but longer-term challenge to the state than its rebellious north and stalled peace process. The government should work toward a partnership with religious authorities to enable them to play a stabilising role.
Violence is escalating in Central Mali, often neglected as the world focuses on problems in the country’s north. Radical groups and criminal gangs are exploiting years of short-sighted security policies that have lost the state much of its legitimacy. The government needs to recognise that state authority also rests on public services and dialogue with its people.
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.
Les groupes djihadistes sont passés experts dans l’instrumentalisation des conflits pour mieux s'implanter.
Dialoguer [au Mali] pourrait permettre d’obtenir des cessez-le-feu locaux, donc de réduire la violence exercée contre les civils.
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.
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?
"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.
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.
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.
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
Rural insurgencies across the Sahel are destabilising the region and undermining local security and governance. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to continue support for the Alliance for the Sahel and promote local dialogue to buttress law and order.