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.
Serious fighting between signatory parties of June 2015 peace agreement resumed in Kidal region in north. Self-Defence Group of Imrad Tuareg and Allies (GATIA), member of pro-national unity Platform coalition, 6 July clashed with separatist rebel alliance Coalition of Azawad Movements (CMA) near Aguelhok, over ten reportedly killed. Clashes erupted again 11 July in Djancheche area, 65km from Kidal city, casualties unknown. In east, ethnic Doosaak linked to CMA splinter group Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA) and Tuaregs linked to GATIA clashed with ethnic Fulani reportedly close to jihadist groups, especially Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, in Ménaka region 5-10 July. Armed assailants continued to attack Malian, UN and French forces and civilians in several areas. Eight unidentified gunmen 8 July clashed with policemen in Ségou region in centre. IED 11 July hit UN mission (MINUSMA) vehicle near UN camp in Kidal city. Unidentified gunmen same day attacked police vehicle in Timbuktu, wounding two policemen. Malian and French troops 8 July arrested six alleged jihadists in camp near Ber, Timbuktu region in north, including Alhousseini Ag Assaley, close associate of Amadou Koufa, leader of jihadist group Macina Liberation Front. Alleged jihadists ambushed eight govt troops 9 July near Ménaka whose bodies were found 17 July. At summit of G5 Sahel (Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania) in Bamako 1-2 July, members each pledged €10mn to finance 5,000-strong joint military force to counter jihadism in region, EU repeated pledge of €50mn and France pledged €8mn and operational and technical assistance; pledges still fall short of estimated €385mn required. Civil society and political parties protested in Bamako and in Kayes, Sikasso and Ségou regions 1 July against proposed changes in new draft constitution including those that would strengthen presidential powers; govt announced no new date for referendum, initially planned 9 July.
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.
Hesitant steps toward peace in Mali have been helped by the recent pacts signed in Anefis by pro-government armed groups and by rebel representatives. While not sufficient or without risks, they are rooted in local initiatives and tackle issues left out of June’s Bamako accord. This offers a serious opportunity to put the peace process back on track.
The Sahel’s trajectory is worrying; poverty and population growth, combined with growing jihadi extremism, contraband and human trafficking constitute the perfect storm of actual and potential instability. Without holistic, sustained efforts against entrenched criminal networks, misrule and underdevelopment, radicalisation and migration are likely to spread and exacerbate.
Fighting recently resumed in Mali, while a peace accord remains a façade. Both sides, with help from international mediators, need to re-open negotiations. They must go beyond prioritising security to include all belligerents and improve access to basic social services, jobs and justice.
As the last phase of negotiations resumes on 20 November, the Algeria-led talks between the Malian government and the armed groups in the north should not be rushed as they offer a unique opportunity for a sustainable peace agreement.
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.
Las partes se niegan a deponer las armas antes de saber quién va a gobernar localmente, cuál será su destino y qué posiciones serán para la Plataforma y cuáles para el CMA
Africa is experiencing the highest number of humanitarian crises since the 1990s. As the new chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, takes office, International Crisis Group suggests how he can strengthen the organisation’s response to threats to continental peace and security.
With jihadists and armed groups exploiting political and security vacuums across the Sahel, Mali and neighbouring states will continue to face insecurity. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2017 annual early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to rethink international development strategies and to support local government initiatives that combat radicalisation.
Jihadist groups have regrouped in the neglected hinterlands of Sahel countries and are launching attacks from them. To regain control of outlying districts, regional states must do far more to extend services and representation beyond recently recaptured provincial centres.
Originally published in Le Monde