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.
Ethnic militia carried out large-scale attacks in centre leaving at least 73 dead and raising risk of reprisals in July, and insecurity persisted in north. In Bandiagara circle, Mopti region, suspected Fulani gunmen 9 June attacked Dogon village of Sobane Da, killing between 35 and 95, and 17 June attacked Dogon villages of Gangafani and Yoro, killing at least 38. Dogon militiamen (Dozos) said Sobane attack was “declaration of war”. President Keïta and PM Cissé 11-12 June visited Sobane and promised strong measures, including immediate disarmament of all armed individuals. Keïta 20 June announced appointment of Dioncounda Traoré as High Representative for Central Mali to spearhead efforts to halt attacks. Unidentified assailants 23-24 June killed eight civilians in different attacks in Koro and Douentza circles, Mopti region and Macina circle, Ségou region. In north, violence increased in Ansongo circle, Gao region: unidentified assailants 3 June reportedly raped thirteen women and six girls in Gariya; attack in ethnic Daousak village of Amalaoulou 5 June killed seven. In joint military operation on Niger-Mali border 7-19 June, Malian and French forces killed twenty suspected jihadist militants in Akabar area. Govt 12 June asked for more UN peacekeepers to help protect civilians in centre; UN Security Council 27 June renewed UN mission (MINUSMA)’s mandate for one year, requesting it to respond to deteriorating security in centre in addition to original mandate of stabilising north. Some UN Security Council members, including U.S., urged parties that signed 2015 Algiers peace agreement to step up implementation. As part of govt efforts to implement deal, over 200 disarmed and demobilised former combatants of Mécanisme Opérationnel de Coordination (MOC) arrived in capital Bamako 12 June to start three-month military training before integration into army. National assembly 27 June passed bill proposed by govt to extend MPs’ mandate to 2 May 2020, notably due to insecurity in centre. Opposition leader Soumaïla Cissé 13 June described bill as “illegal”.
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.
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.
Les populations du centre [du Mali] ont vu dans l'accès aux armes de guerre un moyen de se protéger et parfois de contester les hiérarchies en place.
Despite the training provided by the European Union since 2013, the [Malian] army lacks capacity until today. We’re talking about a long-term undertaking.
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.
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.
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.