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 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.
Bamako expelled UN mission’s human rights chief, tensions between interim authorities and northern armed groups reached new heights, and new reports of human rights abuses emerged amid military operations in centre.
Relations with UN mission MINUSMA deteriorated further. After civil society representative Aminata Cheick Dicko 27 Jan denounced abuses by Malian and Russian forces before UN Security Council, govt 5 Feb requested MINUSMA’s human rights chief leave country within 48 hours, citing his “partiality” in choosing Dicko for Security Council testimony.
Govt strengthened relations with Russia and military-led neighbours. Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 7 Feb met with Interim President Col. Goïta in first ever visit to capital Bamako, saluted ongoing military cooperation. Burkinabé PM Kyélem de Tambèla 1 Feb travelled to Bamako to discuss bilateral security cooperation, while PM Choguel Maïga 23-26 Feb travelled to Burkinabé capital Ouagadougou, signed counter-terrorism cooperation agreement with Burkinabé counterpart. FM Diop 9 Feb met with Burkinabé and Guinean counterparts in Ouagadougou, discussed joining forces against West African regional bloc ECOWAS sanctions (see Burkina Faso and Guinea).
Northern armed groups and Bamako exchanged threats of military action. Permanent Strategic Framework bringing together signatory groups of 2015 Algiers Accord 1 Feb met with accord’s international mediation mechanism (led by Algeria), warned armed groups would “take action” if govt continues to block accord’s implementation. Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), coalition of three signatory rebel groups, 8 Feb announced merger into single entity. Member of transitional legislature 10 Feb claimed war with signatory armed groups was “inevitable”; CMA immediately denounced “belligerent” comments. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslim (JNIM) leader Iyad ag Ghaly late Jan-early Feb toured northern Mali, reportedly met with local notables including leaders of signatory armed groups to discuss cooperation against Islamic State-Sahel Province.
Army faced allegations of abuses amid ongoing operations in centre. Military 7 Feb announced operation against JNIM in Korientzé village (Mopti region) had killed 37 fighters. Locals alleged Malian and Russian Wagner forces 13 Feb killed five civilians in Soumouni village (Ségou region), whose inhabitants are believed to have reached agreement with JNIM.
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...
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 a...
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.
Successive coups in August 2020 and May 2021 have thrown Mali into turmoil as violence persists in rural areas. While their track record so far has been disappointing, the transitional authorities can still materialise the call for change and hold transparent general elections in 2022.
Military officers have arrested the heads of Mali’s transitional state and government, installed following the August 2020 coup. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Jean-Hervé Jezequel details the possible fallout of this second putsch in a country already weakened by conflict with jihadists.
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.
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