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 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.
Jihadist militants launched spate of attacks in south, transitional govt encountered resistance to constitutional reform plans, and months-long tensions with Côte d’Ivoire abated.
Jihadist attacks continued including in southern region. Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 2 Jan launched simultaneous attacks in southern Koulikoro region, killing two people in Kassela village (20km from Bamako) and another five in Markacoungo town (80km from Bamako). Also in Koulikoro, JNIM 15 Jan reportedly ambushed armed forces near Kolokani village, killing five soldiers while also losing 15 combatants. In centre, JNIM 10 Jan launched twin attacks on govt forces between Dia and Diafarabé towns (Mopti region), and Koumara and Macina towns (Koulikoro and Ségou regions, respectively); 14 soldiers and 31 jihadists reportedly killed. Meanwhile, in Ménaka region further north, Islamic State Sahel Province (IS-Sahel) militants targeted civilians, notably killing eight people in Inagam and Assakereye villages 5 Jan.
Transitional authorities’ constitutional reform plan faced opposition. Several opposition groups, including supporters of influential Imam Mahmoud Dicko 9 Jan, announced boycott of meeting convened by govt to discuss draft constitution ahead of constitutional referendum scheduled for March. Meeting 12 Jan proceeded with only 50 of 281 invited participants present. Authorities 14 Jan used tear gas to disperse demonstration to welcome Dicko back from Saudi Arabia to capital Bamako.
Tensions with Côte d’Ivoire eased as Mali freed Ivorian soldiers detained since July. Interim President Col. Assimi Goïta 6 Jan pardoned 49 Ivorian soldiers detained in July 2022 on allegations of undermining state security; 46 soldiers next day returned to Côte d’Ivoire (three had been released in Sept 2022). In phone call, Ivorian President Ouattara 9 Jan invited Goïta to visit Côte d’Ivoire (see Côte d’Ivoire).
In other important developments. After signatory armed groups late Dec suspended participation in 2015 Algiers Accord, Malian FM Abdoulaye Diop 15-16 Jan travelled to Algeria, met counterpart Ramtane Lamamra and President Tebboune to discuss issues related to peace agreement. Bamako later in month reportedly declined Algerian proposal to host meeting between stakeholders of 2015 agreement, which would have conformed with signatory armed groups’ request for meeting “on neutral ground”.
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 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 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.
In Mali, violence in the areas to the south and east of Mopti is taking on an increasingly ethnic dimension. The transitional authorities should harmonise dialogue initiatives and strengthen state presence, while seeking to resolve substantial issues such as land disputes.
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