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.
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.
Despite 28 March signing of new roadmap to implement 2015 peace agreement by govt, ex-rebel Coalition of Azawad Movements (CMA) and pro-national unity Platform coalition, at 11 April UN Security Council meeting with France, UK and U.S. advised council to impose sanctions on spoilers. Attacks continued to target govt forces (FAMA), international forces and civilians, as counter-insurgency operations continued in north, north east and centre. In north, gunmen 2 April killed FAMA soldier in Timbuktu city. Unidentified assailants 5 April fired shells at UN mission (MINUSMA) camp in Kidal region, killing two peacekeepers. Assailants disguised as UN peacekeepers 14 April attacked MINUSMA and French Barkhane camp in Timbuktu city, killing one peacekeeper, fifteen assailants reportedly killed; jihadist alliance Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM) claimed responsibility. Barkhane had reportedly recently killed alleged weapons expert and trainer for jihadist groups in Timbuktu region, and four other alleged jihadists. French forces said they had killed three alleged jihadists 21 April in confrontation near Goudam village, west of Timbuktu. In north east, joint operations of Barkhane, Platform coalition member Self-Defence Group of Imrad Tuareg and Allies (GATIA) and CMA splinter group Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA) 1 April neutralised 60 alleged GSIM militants in Akabar area, Ménaka region. Assailants same day ambushed MSA-GATIA unit near Akabar, killing at least three members. MSA-GATIA and FAMA, backed by Barkhane, 6 April clashed with alleged jihadists in same area, two GATIA and unknown number of assailants killed. MSA-GATIA unit 10 April killed three suspected jihadists near Niger border. MSA 15 April said gunmen on motorbikes had killed one of its officers in Ménaka region. Suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara militants 26-27 April attacked villages of Awakassa and Anderanboucane, Ménaka region, killing at least 40 Tuaregs. In centre, gunmen 2 April attacked checkpoint in Ségou region, killing gendarme. Army 20 April killed fifteen suspected jihadists in Tina forest, Mopti region. Army 6 April killed fourteen suspected jihadists in Dioura, Mopti region; army said they had tried to escape, while local sources accused army of summary executions.
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.
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.
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
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.
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