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.
Le primat donné aux réponses militaires et le recours à des groupes armés à base communautaire pour combattre les mouvements jihadistes implantés dans la zone frontalière entre le Niger et le Mali n’ont fait qu’accentuer les tensions intercommunautaires. Les autorités nigériennes doivent adopter une approche plus politique, incluant réconciliation entre communautés, dialogue avec les militants et amnistie dans certains cas.
Ahead of presidential elections in July, intercommunal violence escalated in Mali-Niger border area and continued in central Mali, while in north signatories to 2015 peace agreement made some progress in implementing deal. In Mali-Niger border area, mainly ethnic Dossaak armed group, Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA), and Self-Defence Group of Imrad Tuareg and Allies (GATIA) – both involved in counter-insurgency operations alongside national forces and supported by French forces – reportedly committed abuses including killings against Fulani groups suspected of supporting jihadists, provoking counter-attacks against Dossaak civilians. At least 150 civilians from Dossaak and Fulani communities reportedly killed in attacks 26 April-26 May. In centre, intercommunal violence persisted in Mopti region: unidentified assailants attacked Bandiagara 7 May causing considerable material damage, and kidnappings and killings reportedly continued. In north, deployment of Operational Mechanism for Coordination (MOC) – mixed military units comprising men from army, ex-rebel Coalition of Azawad Movements (CMA) and pro-national unity Platform coalition intended to shore up security – began in Kidal 4 May and Timbuktu 24 May. In centre and north, attacks continued on national and international forces and civilians. Bombing killed four children in Mopti region 2 May. GATIA vehicle detonated mine in Gao region 8 May, one fighter killed. Gunmen kidnapped prefect of Ténenkou and his driver in Mopti region 8 May. EU 14 May extended its military training mission in Mali (EUTM) for two years, doubled its budget and expanded it to include training of G5 Sahel Task Force. In lead-up to July elections, coalition of almost 70 parties named President Keïta as its presidential candidate 6 May and he officially declared candidacy 28 May in field of about twenty.
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.
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.
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
La stratégie qui privilégie une option militaire disproportionnée à la frontière entre le Niger et le Mali fait peser un risque sur la région : celui de créer un nouveau foyer d’insurrection. C'est le constat que dresse l’International Crisis Group, qui fait une série de recommandations.
Originally published in Jeune Afrique
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