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.
At Bamako’s request, the UN Security Council has begun drawing down the UN peacekeeping operation in Mali. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts Richard Gowan and Daniel Forti explore the implications for blue helmet missions elsewhere on the continent.
Amid UN mission’s withdrawal, significant clashes erupted in north between govt forces and former rebels for first time since 2015 peace agreement; coming weeks could see more violence and collapse of peace process.
MINUSMA withdrawal put 2015 peace deal under threat. Permanent Strategic Framework, which gathers northern armed groups signatory to 2015 Algiers peace agreement with Bamako, 1 Aug warned about “serious imminent risks” associated with handover to Malian army of UN mission (MINUSMA) camps in areas controlled by signatory armed groups. In following days, major clashes erupted between alliance of former rebel groups Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) and military for first time since peace deal implementation. CMA alleged army and Russian paramilitary Wagner Group 4 Aug attacked CMA-controlled border post in Foyta locality (Timbuktu region) near Mauritania, killing two CMA elements; govt forces and CMA 11-12 Aug also clashed near MINUSMA camp in Ber (also Timbuktu region), leaving unclear number dead. MINUSMA 13 Aug accelerated withdrawal from Ber camp in light of security situation, completing it same day, and 16 Aug also left Goundam camp (Timbuktu). CMA 28-29 Aug accused army of launching airstrikes on CMA positions near Anefis town in Kidal region.
Jihadist violence continued in centre and north. Islamic State Sahel Province 3 Aug attacked army-escorted convoy in Essailal locality, Menaka region (north), killing at least six soldiers. Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 8 Aug imposed blockade on Timbuktu city, creating food and aid shortages, to oppose Malian army’s deployment in context of MINUSMA’s withdrawal. In Bandiagara region (centre), suspected JNIM elements 18 Aug raided Yarou village, killing 23 people.
In other important developments. Bamako and Ouagadougou 1 Aug warned West African regional bloc (ECOWAS) against any military intervention in Niger, saying it would amount to declaration of war against Mali and Burkina Faso. After Niger 6 Aug closed its airspace, French flag carrier Air France next day suspended all flights to and from Bamako (and Ouagadougou) citing “geopolitical situation in the Sahel”. In escalating row, France and Mali 7-9 Aug stopped issuing visas to each other’s nationals.
MONUSCO has largely failed [in DR Congo] because its deployment has not had a significant impact on security over the past decade.
The Malian army is now demonstrating its ability to organize complex operations, particularly in the center of the country.
What we see in Mali is that Russia does not bring more security or improvements in the situation. The Russian army in Ukraine is not doing well, and in Mali, the Wagner G...
On 16 June, Bamako asked the UN Security Council to withdraw the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts Jean-Hervé Jézéquel and Ibrahim Maïga look at the reasons behind the Malian authorities’ decision as well as its consequences.
Crisis-ridden Mali and Burkina Faso face jihadist insurgency and political turmoil. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2023 – Spring Update, Crisis Group outlines what the EU and its member states can do to prevent these two countries from falling into further regional isolation.
In a strategic shift, the Malian authorities have turned away from France and chosen Russia as their main military ally. Relations between Bamako and other Western and regional partners are also deteriorating. Mali and its partners should work to rebuild more balanced diplomatic relations.
The UK, Côte d’Ivoire and other nations plan to pull their troops out of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, clouding its future as it undergoes internal review. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts discuss the mission’s challenges and scenarios for what could come next.
The Malian government’s battle with jihadist insurgencies goes on after two coups in Bamako in the last two years. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022 – Spring Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to endorse talks about a return to constitutional rule, increase support for civil society and back electoral reform initiatives.
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.
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.
In this episode of Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk with Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim, Crisis Group’s Sahel expert, about whether it is time for a new strategy in Mali as the government and its allies struggle against jihadist insurgents.
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