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.
In this episode of Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk with Sahel experts Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim and Richard Moncrieff about France’s announcement it will pull troops from Mali, and what the withdrawal means for the fighting against jihadist insurgents.
Jihadist violence persisted in Mopti region amid national and international outcry over alleged “massacre” of hundreds of civilians at hands of govt and Russian forces; EU suspended in-country training missions. Army 1 April said military 23-31 March “neutralised” over 200 jihadists in major operation in Moura town (Djenné district) in central Mopti region. Several media and rights groups however accused govt forces and allies of “massacre”. Notably, NGO Human Rights Watch 5 April said army and foreign fighters, identified as Russians, late March “allegedly summarily executed” 300 civilian men in Moura town, urged “independent, credible inquiry”. UN envoy in Mali El-Ghassim Wane 7 April told Security Council military govt had denied request to grant UN mission investigators access to site; Bamako same day announced military tribunal would handle investigation. Meanwhile, violence continued in Mopti. Notably, explosive device attack by suspected al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 19 April killed Russian paramilitary near Hombori village (Douentza district); in apparent retaliation, govt forces and Russian private military company Wagner Group elements same day reportedly stormed Hombori. Armed forces reported air strikes 14 April killed 12 militants, including Franco-Tunisian JNIM leader Samir Al-Bourhan, in Ganguel forest, and overnight 27-28 April killed 12 other combatants near Yirma village, both Djenné district. Simultaneous jihadist attacks 24 April also targeted military camps in Sévaré (Mopti region), Bapho and Niono towns (Ségou region), leaving six soldiers dead. JNIM 24 April claimed it had captured Wagner operatives during first week of April in central Ségou region. Junta continued to take increasingly harsh line on political opposition: authorities 4 April allegedly sought to arrest opposition leader Oumar Mariko after he publicly accused army of killing civilians in Moura. Amid rumours of govt reshuffle and internal conflicts within PM Choguel Maïga’s support base, Maïga 21 April presented transitional govt’s activities to legislative body National Transitional Council, emphasised 24-month transition timeline and praised army’s recent advances. Thousands 1 April demonstrated in capital Bamako against French presence and West African bloc ECOWAS’ sanctions. Following year-long tensions between Bamako and Brussels, EU 11 April announced full suspension of EUCAP and EUTM missions in Mali.
Authorities in Mali seem to be considering negotiations with Jamaat Nusratul Islam wal-Muslimin, the country’s largest Islamist insurgency. Pursuing talks will be a tall order, given the stakes and the group’s al-Qaeda connection. Both the government and the militants should begin with incremental steps.
Les deux coups d’Etats d’août 2020 et mai 2021 ont plongé le Mali, toujours en proie aux violences armées, dans l’instabilité. Malgré un bilan jusqu’ici décevant, les autorités de la transition malienne peuvent encore concrétiser l’aspiration au changement et organiser des élections générales transparentes en 2022.
Since 2013, when it sent troops to Mali, France has led international efforts to root out Islamist militancy from the Sahel. Yet the jihadist threat has grown. Paris and its partners should reorient their military-centred approach toward helping improve governance in the region.
Au Mali, les violences dans la zone située aux sud et sud-est de Mopti prennent un caractère de plus en plus communautaire. Les autorités de transition devraient harmoniser les initiatives de dialogue, renforcer la présence étatique et traiter les problèmes de fonds, notamment les conflits fonciers.
Au Mali, au Burkina Faso et au Niger, le boom aurifère représente une nouvelle source de financement, voire un terrain de recrutement pour divers groupes armés, y compris jihadistes. Les Etats sahéliens devraient rétablir leur présence aux abords des mines d’or et mieux formaliser l’exploitation aurifère artisanale.
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.
Considering Ecowas’ recent failures to deter coups, what happened in Mali and Burkina Faso may inspire other officers in the region.
Everyone seems obsessed with what is going on in Bamako, and that is another indication for the people in [Mali's] countryside that the state is not coming back.
Mali has a lot of issues related to the Sahel.
Eight years of effort, investment, presence to basically return to the situation of Mali at the time of the 2012 coup, with a confused situation in Bamako, more violent armed insurrections and increased inter-communal violence.
The composition of the national assembly is disputed. If the [Malian] president were to resign, it would mark a big jump into the void.
[Mahmoud Dicko] has been able to position himself as this person who can channel the people's anger toward protest on several issues.
Des militaires ont arrêté les chefs de l’Etat et du gouvernement de transition maliens installés suite au coup d'Etat militaire d’août 2020. Dans ce Q&A, l’expert de Crisis Group Jean-Hervé Jezequel détaille les retombées possibles de ce second putsch dans un pays déjà fragilisé par le conflit avec les jihadistes.
Le 18 août 2020 au Mali, un coup d’Etat militaire intervient après deux mois de manifestations contre le président Keïta. Les acteurs maliens et leurs partenaires doivent restaurer l’ordre constitutionnel, sans se contenter de rétablir le système et de remettre en place les personnalités renversées, qui ont largement contribué à générer la crise.
La mise en œuvre de l’accord de paix au Mali demeure incomplète et laborieuse cinq ans après sa signature. Mathieu Pellerin analyse la situation actuelle et explique pourquoi il faut accélérer les efforts pour instaurer les réformes de fond prévues par l’accord de 2015.