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.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood are joined by Sahel Project Director Jean-Hervé Jezequel to discuss how Sahelian states and their main backers in France can use dialogue and better governance to craft a more effective strategy against Islamist insurgents.
Jihadists launched deadly attack on govt forces and temporarily lifted months-long siege of Farabougou village in centre, while French forces accused of killing civilians. In Gao region (north), suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 15 March ambushed army patrol near Tessit town, Ansongo district, killing at least 33 in deadliest attack on security forces in months. In Mopti region (centre), suspected al-Qaeda-linked Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 4 March attacked army position in Dinangorou village, Koro district; one soldier and eight militants reportedly killed. Also in Mopti, govt troops 1-3 March allegedly killed six ethnic Fulani civilians in Douentza and Youwarou districts. National reconciliation minister, Col-Maj Ismaël Wagué, 9 March met with Youssouf Toloba, leader of prominent ethnic Dogon self-defence group Dana Ambassagou to discuss intercommunal tensions and fight against jihadists in Mopti region; move comes after group late Feb refused to sign Fulani-Dogon peace agreement in Koro district. In neighbouring Ségou region, JNIM-affiliated Katiba Macina and Bambara communal “Donso” militias 15 March reached ceasefire agreement; jihadists agreed to lift months-long siege of Farabougou village, Niono district, for one month. French Operation Barkhane faced new accusations of killing civilians. Local officials 26 March said Barkhane airstrike previous day had killed at least five civilians in Indelimane area, Gao region; Barkhane immediately denied allegation. Media reports 30 March claimed UN investigation concluded Barkhane airstrike near Bounti village in Mopti region in Jan had killed 19 civilians. Interim legislative body National Transitional Council VP Issa Kaou Djim 6 March called on transition’s VP Colonel Assimi Goïta to contest next presidential election despite transition’s charter barring interim leaders from doing so. Influential cleric Mahmoud Dicko next day criticised interim govt’s handling of transition. Bamako Court of Appeals 2 March dismissed charges of “plot against the state” against five politicians, including former PM Boubou Cissé, arrested in Dec 2020 for allegedly planning to “destabilise” transitional govt; attorney general same day appealed decision to Supreme Court. Mauritanian diplomat El-Ghassim Wane appointed new head of UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) 15 March.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Une attaque visant des populations peul dans la région de Mopti a fait au moins 134 morts le 23 mars, dernier épisode d'une série de violences intercommunautaires. Dans ce questions-réponses, notre directeur du projet Sahel Jean-Hervé Jézéquel appelle les autorités maliennes à enrayer l'engrenage du nettoyage ethnique.