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.
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.
Rampant jihadist violence and counter-insurgency operations left hundreds killed, mostly in central regions; President Goïta announced two-year transition period before elections. In Bandiagara region (centre), al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM)-linked Katiba Macina 18-19 June killed 132 civilians in multiple attacks in Bankass district; military 11 June killed at least 13 JNIM militants including three commanders in air and ground operation near Makou town. In neighbouring Mopti region, JNIM-led siege of Boni town (Douentza district), which started 25 May, continued throughout month. Further west in Koulikoro region, military 6-8 June killed ten JNIM militants in Banamba district. In northern Gao region, JNIM ambush 2 June left 11 soldiers dead near Doro village, and suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 18 June killed at least 20 civilians in several hamlets of Anchawadj commune (both Gao district). French Barkhane forces 12 June arrested ISGS leader Oumeya Ould Albakaye in Ansongo district of Gao region. Further east in Ménaka region, govt forces joined 2015 peace agreement signatory groups to launch joint offensive to recapture strategic town of Andéramboukane from ISGS; clashes 4-5 June reportedly killed around 115, including 90 jihadists, but town remained under jihadist control. ISGS 12 June killed 22 people, including displaced persons, near Izingaz village (Tidermène district). West Africa regional bloc ECOWAS heads of state 4 June postponed decision on lifting sanctions on Mali to next summit on 3 July. Transitional President Col Goïta 6 June unilaterally set transition’s length at 24 months, starting 26 March 2022; ECOWAS 7 June “regretted” decision, said dialogue would continue. Govt 30 June adopted electoral calendar scheduling constitutional referendum for March 2023 and presidential election for Feb 2024. After UN mission MINUSMA late May accused govt forces of human rights abuses, UN Sec Gen António Guterres 1 June highlighted authorities’ diminishing control over territory and active hindering of MINUSMA activities. UN Security Council 29 June renewed mission’s mandate for another year, called for govt to allow free movement for peacekeepers to investigate human rights abuses; Russia, which campaigned against mission’s rights mandate, abstained.
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.