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.
Following late Aug and early Sept ceasefires, rebel Coalition of Azawad Movements (CMA) and pro-national unity Platform coalition 20 Sept in Bamako signed agreement that includes release of prisoners and return of Platform forces to Takalot, 40km from Kidal from where CMA forced them out. Security situation remained volatile in north, with attacks targeting govt forces (FAMA) and UN mission (MINUSMA). Two IED explosions near city of Aguelhok, Kidal region and on Ansongo-Ménaka axis, Gao region 5-6 Sept killed two peacekeepers and one civilian; unidentified assailants 6 Sept ambushed FAMA patrol in Ménaka city market, killing one; French Barkhane forces 8 Sept reportedly killed two Islamist militants in Gao city; unidentified assailants killed FAMA soldier and peacekeeper in ambush near Ménaka city 14 and 20 Sept; IED explosion targeting MINUSMA vehicle in Kidal city 14 Sept wounded two peacekeepers; military 20 Sept reported attacks on MINUSMA camp and outposts in Kidal region, no casualties reported; MINUSMA vehicle triggered bomb 24 Sept on road some 50km north of Gao, at least three peacekeepers reportedly killed. Preparations for launch of G5 Sahel force to counter jihadism in region continued: MINUSMA 7 Sept transferred control of camp in Léré near Mauritanian border to FAMA for use as G5 force base; President Keita 9 Sept inaugurated new G5 command base in Sévaré, Mopti region, and 19 Sept at UN General Assembly appealed for increased financial assistance to cover estimated €423mn budget. As requested by govt, UN Security Council 5 Sept adopted new sanctions regime to impose travel bans and asset freezes on those undermining peace agreement.
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