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Mali’s Algiers Peace Agreement, Five Years On: An Uneasy Calm
Mali’s Algiers Peace Agreement, Five Years On: An Uneasy Calm
Kobani’s central market destroyed by mortars from the Islamic State, December 2014. MAGNUM/Lorenzo Meloni

乘乱而为:基地组织和伊斯兰国

伊斯兰国、基地组织、博科圣地组织等极端主义运动代表了当今世界最致命的危机,导致国际反恐难度不断加大。他们利用战争、国家崩溃和中东地缘政治的动荡局势,在非洲建立新据点,给其他国家和地区带来持续不断的威胁。夺回失地需要各方避免重蹈覆辙,因为正是因为之前的失误造成了恐怖组织的崛起。

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伊斯兰国、基地组织、博科圣地组织等极端主义运动代表了当今世界最致命的危机,导致国际反恐难度不断加大。他们利用战争、国家崩溃和中东地缘政治的动荡局势,在非洲建立新据点,给其他国家和地区带来持续不断的威胁。夺回失地需要各方避免重蹈覆辙,因为正是因为之前的失误造成了恐怖组织的崛起。这就意味着要认清各个组织持不同的图谋;更加审慎地使用军事力量,在打败武装分子之前要具有有效的重建计划;并寻求开启沟通机制,甚至包括和强硬派对话。同样重要的是,敦促各方领导人展开对话,鼓励各方加入反恐,改革现行机制,理性应对恐怖袭击,借以缓解由这些组织助长的危机,阻止其它危机的爆发。最关键的是不能由于打击 “暴力极端主义”而忽略或加剧更严峻的威胁,特别是加剧国际大国和区域列强之间的对抗。

圣战分子——虽然国际预防危机组织不愿如此称呼,但该报告囊括的组织却自我认定为“圣战分子”,具体原因参见第二页——的影响力在过去的几年里迅速扩大。有的运动已经演变成强大的的反政府势力。他们占据领土,推翻政府,并以软硬兼施的方式来统治。虽然仅靠军事手段未必就能挫败他们,但其倡导的目标是难以通过谈判妥协满足的,因为这些目标在不同程度上和国家体制相悖,也遭到当地民众的拒绝。多数的组织显示很顽强,能够适应不断变化的局势。今天危机的区域分布意味着很多类似的组织将挑起未来的战争。

伊斯兰国重塑了全球圣战局势:自2013年脱离基地组织,它采取了比基地组织更血腥的策略;目前已经在伊拉克和叙利亚大部分地区建立了哈里发,掌控了利比亚沿海一带;招募了成千上万的外国人和几十个不同的运动;在穆斯林世界和西方国家开展恐怖袭击。它在几个前线同时作战-对抗伊朗的盟友,逊尼阿拉伯政权和西方世界-将宗教派系之间分歧、革命主义和反帝国主义的理念融入到圣战主义思想。伊斯兰国的领导层主要来自伊拉克,但此组织相当诡异:有的是千禧年信徒,有的是地方叛军;对于一些人他们提供了庇护,对另外提供了社会机会,还有的在此运动中中找到了人生意义;有些帮派希望巩固建立的哈里发,占领巴格达甚至麦加,或者引诱西方国家陷入末日战争。最主要的是,伊斯兰国的崛起反映了伊拉克和叙利亚的近史:美军入侵伊拉克所产生的乱局,逊尼穆斯林遭受排挤,整个社会处于无序混乱状态;总理马利基(Nouri al-Maliki)统治期间的苛待政策,以及叙利亚总统阿萨德及其盟友的暴虐手段。任何应对策略都必须兼顾到伊斯兰国的多面性。但是最主要的是要避免在黎凡特的逊尼穆斯林人受到迫害。在逊尼阿拉伯国家已经广泛传播着一种受迫害心态。这种心态也是个危险信号。

基地组织亦产生了演化,其部分是因受伊斯兰国崛起而被忽略之故。其在马格里布、索马里、叙利亚和也门的分支仍然强大,其中一些的实力还与日俱增。有的和当地叛军合并,显现出一定的务实行为,不轻易屠杀穆斯林,也遵守当地习俗。活跃在乍得湖流域一带的博科圣地组织也是近几年才出现的若干复兴运动之一。 它的根源是北尼日利亚在政治经济上受到的歧视,和根深蒂固的暴力。现在的博科圣地已经从一个个别的种族势力演变为一个泛区域的邪恶组织,即便参加了伊斯兰国也没有改变多少。不同标志的组织—自盟军从阿富汗撤退后东山再起的阿富汗塔利班独立组织、巴基斯坦的武装团体,如宗教派系活动、在中部省份作战的部落武装分子、以克什米尔或阿富汗为目标的隶属巴军方的武装势力-共同构成了演变于南亚地区的圣战现况。

扩张的根源难以一言蔽之。激进化的模式因地、因人而异。独裁、政治排挤、西方国家的干预不当,统治不力,和平的政治观点表达受阻,产生在受忽略范围里的对中央政府的不信任,传统的精英势力的权威在衰退,年青人数在增加,却缺少就业机会,这一切都促成了激进主义的增长。另一方面,其他意识形态的吸引力在不断减弱,尤其是圣战主义主要的意识形态竞争对手--和平的伊斯兰政治集团穆斯林兄弟会。随着埃及总统穆尔西(Mohammed Morsi)被罢黜以及随之而来的镇压,穆斯林兄弟会影响力大不如前。在一些地方,(错误)传导不宽容的伊斯兰教义为激进主义奠了基。目前穆斯林国家的教派间的矛盾一方面因伊斯兰国而加剧,同时也在助延伊斯兰国的壮大。

虽然根源错综复杂, 但触发因素则很清楚。2011年发生在阿拉伯的社会运动诸多都陷入了混乱,并为极端主义势力创造了巨大的机会。随着危机的加剧和演变、资金、武器和武装分子的流入以及暴力事件的升级,极端主义运动愈演愈烈。政府间的敌对情绪持续滋长,导致该地区的主要国家更加忌惮传统对手、而非极端主义势力,因此在打击伊斯兰国时,他们借机铲除其他敌人,或默许圣战分子代其行之。尤其是在中东地区,圣战分子的快速扩张是地区不稳定的结果,而非原因,其激进化亦是更多产生在危机中而非在危机前,它得益于敌人之间的相斗而不是靠其本身的实力。因而,这样的激进运动难以在除了战争地带和已崩溃的国家之外的区域扩张势力或占领地盘。

地缘政治博弈导致各国之间难以同仇敌忾。化解危机的起点应设为先减轻沙特和伊朗之间的敌对,因为正是两国之间的敌对推动着逊尼派和什叶派的极端主义势力,加深了区域危机,是今天的世界和平和安全的最严峻的威胁之一。缓和其它紧张局势-比如说,土耳其政府和库尔德武装分子之间、土耳其和俄罗斯、保守的阿拉伯政权和穆斯林兄弟会、巴基斯坦和印度甚至俄罗斯和西方国家-也至关重要。在叙利亚、利比亚和也门,打击圣战分子需要建立全新的秩序,使它们失去支持,团结其他势力。当然,这些做起来都不容易。但是一个更明智的做法是加倍努力去弥补分歧,而不是去遮掩这些分歧,建立一个虚幻的对抗“暴力极端主义”的共识。

同样重要的是要吸取9/11——2011年——袭击的教训。每个极端行动,即便彼此有联系,甚至有跨国联系,都有其自身的特点,植根于当地局势;每个都需要针对实情采取应对措施。但是它们会造成类似的困境和失策。国际大国和受影响的地区势力及政府要努力做到以下几点:

  • 别对待而不是一概而论:非暴力伊斯兰主义者,尤其是穆斯利兄弟会,愿意接受政治和宗教多元化并参与政治;把他们看成敌人的做法无异于自我挫败(错误)。有的运动是为了在国际秩序中寻求一席之地,有的是为了完全颠覆国际秩序;识辨这些不同点也很重要。即便属于后者的伊斯兰国,区域分支和基地组织分支也不是铁板一块。他们拥有忠诚的核心和跨国界目标,但下属官兵拥有不同的,而往往是局部性的动机。这些下属的忠心会随着情势的变化而改变,也可能被改变。(错误)即便都是激进组织,政府也应酌情而对,以终止暴力为大局,而不是把它们一概而论找架打。
  • 牵制是退而求其次的做法国际力量在推翻武装分子的时候必须有一套可行的后续方案;身处其腹地的当地政府也一样。目前实行在伊拉克的策略-摧毁整座城镇来打败伊斯兰,继而希望巴格达逊尼派的领导人能重建而重获失去的合法性-既不能解决逊尼派的苦衷,也不能为逊尼派创建条件来建立新的政治身份。在利比亚(错误)缺少一个大范围的政治和解方案的前提下,采取猛烈轰炸(错误),或使用西方军队来对付伊斯兰国,这个做法是错误的,有可能加剧混乱。无论是在伊拉克还是利比亚,放慢军事行动的步伐虽然也有严峻的风险,在想出可行的解决方案之前,不啻为一种更为保险的选择—对于想要介入的势力和处在受影响区域里的人来说都是如此。
  • 慎地使用事力量:虽然派遣军队是应对方案中不可或缺的一部分,但是政府在加入战争时仍然太过草率。植根于民间的运动利用的是民众真正的不满情绪,而且有时有外国势力的支持。不论他们的意识形态多么令人反感,要想根除十分困难。索马里和阿富汗的战争就反映出一些有缺点的对策:如轻易将敌人定义为恐怖分子或暴力极端主义者,或在没有更广泛的政治对策前提下,包括努力去调停,就试图建立中央集权式政府机构,并配以军事行动打击反对派。俄罗斯在车臣的焦土政策—抛开损伤人命不谈,也无法照搬到今天受影响的地区,因为这些地方有着驻守松懈的边境,垮台的政府,和采用代理人战争的做法。
  • 尊重原通常针对极端主义势力的军事行动要么适得其反,导致更多的人投奔极端组织,要么令当地平民夹在它们严苛的规则和盲目的军事行动之间。而圣战分子能够给当地平民提供护身,使免受政权、其他武装团体和外国势力的迫害,这也是圣战分子的一大优势之一,可以说相比意识形态,更是他们成功的原因。虽然圣战分子也常常犯下暴行,但在这些冲突里,所有参战方都违反国际人道主义法,所以重建规则必须为首重。
  • 减少使用定点清除:无人机袭击在有的地方可以遏制极端组织的行动,限制其打击西方部队的能力,及其领袖的活动。但同时助长了对当地政府和西方的仇恨情绪。那些能承受领袖的死亡的组织,以及取代他们的头目,往往更加强硬。要想预测定点清除带来的影响,在相对稳定的秩序下已是困难,更不要说在都市作战和圣战团体内部混战-基地及其他组织对抗伊斯兰国-的境况当中。即便抛开秘密的做法、合法性和问责制等问题不谈,定点清除并不能够真正结束圣战者的斗争,也不能绝对性地削弱大多数的运动。
  • 开启对话沟通渠道:虽然困难重重,但政府应该表现出谈判意愿,甚至和激进分子谈判的意愿。对于一些组织,象塔利班、索马里青年党领袖以及博科圣地组织和利比亚的伊斯兰教法虔信者,通过对话来减轻暴力的机会已经不复存在。和一个组织能否达成和解的最终决定权在该组织领袖手里,而不在政府手里。虽然政策制定者不能对伊斯兰国和基地组织的头目抱任何幻想,但是通过民众领袖、非国家调停方和其他中介展开非官方的、谨慎的对话渠道,这个做法仍是值得尝试。尤其是在涉及人道主义的问题上,双方或许能找到共同利益。
  • 缩减反暴力极端主(CVE)政策:CVE政策主要由一些发展组织率先提倡,旨在改进后9/11时代的安全政策。这是一个非常重要的议题。同样重要的是认识到哪些情况在某些地方有助于极端势力招募新兵。此外还有一要点是要把军事开支转移到发展援助项目上。但如果一味地把反暴力极端主义日程包装成“治本”之策,尤其是认为政府可以就此不用再尽对公民的基本义务,如提供教育、就业或补助弱势群体等,这样那就太鼠目寸光了。把“暴力极端主义”——一个定义模糊并常常被滥用的词——认定为地区稳定的主要威胁,实际上忽略了其它不稳定因素。民众对政治不满成了不合法行为;侮辱当地社群为潜在极端分子。政府和捐助国必须仔细思考反暴力极端主义政策的定义,对激进化成因进行更深入的调查,并广泛听取受影响区域个方的意见。
  • 建立冲突防机制:伊斯兰国和基地组织最近的扩张进一步显示了预防的紧迫性,应该在危机当中和危机上游采取措施阻止激进化。从西非到南亚,一旦在这一带出现进一步危机,很可能会形成新的极端主义—可能是这些运动本身引发了危机,更可能的是这些运动从危机的升级中受益,虽然一般的对策价值有限,但是敦促领导人建立一个更包容、更具有代表性的政治环境,平抚社群的怨愤,有分寸地应对恐怖袭击,通常是可取的做法。换言之,总的来讲,采取防范措施来遏制暴力极端主义比直接打击更有效果。

在过去的25年里,圣战暴力浪潮此起彼伏:第一次浪潮出现在20世纪90年代初,来自阿富汗反苏联圣战势力加入了其他地区的反政府组织;由基地组织引领的第二次浪潮在9/11袭击达到高潮;第三次浪潮由美军入侵伊拉克触发,今天的第四次浪潮是最危险的。一部分是因为伊斯兰国控制了地盘和提出的新意识形态—它同时利用了当地逊尼派以及普遍的对现行制度的不满。但大体上说,第四次浪潮之所以危险是因为后边有力量在推动,尤其是中东国家的混乱局势,和各地政府与民间社会的关系在断裂。世界领导人的担忧不是没有道理:伊斯兰国的袭击屠杀平民并危害社会团结。面临巨大的压力,这些领导人必须采取行动,但他们必须小心行事。一旦失策—无论是轻率的海外军事行动、血腥的国内镇压、将反激进化置于援助之上、网撒得太广、冒然出手打击“暴力极端主义”从而忽略更严重的威胁等—这一切都将加剧圣战暴力浪潮,让圣战分子计谋得逞。

布鲁塞尔,2016年3月14日

Le président du Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (G), donne l'accolade à Mahamadou Djery Maiga (D), vice-président et porte-parole du Conseil de transition de l'Etat de l'Azawad, le 20 juin 2015 à Bamako. AFP/Habibou Kouyate
Q&A / Africa

Mali’s Algiers Peace Agreement, Five Years On: An Uneasy Calm

La mise en œuvre de l’accord de paix au Mali demeure incomplète et laborieuse cinq ans après sa signature. Mathieu Pellerin analyse la situation actuelle et explique pourquoi il faut accélérer les efforts pour instaurer les réformes de fond prévues par l’accord de 2015. 

Five years after it was signed in June 2015, what has happened to the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali?

In June 2015, the Malian government, a coalition of pro-government armed groups from northern Mali called the Platform and the Coordination of Azawad Movements (Coordination des mouvements de l’Azawad, CMA) – an alliance of rebel groups – convened in Bamako and signed an agreement to restore peace in the country. The signatories were under great pressure from an international mediation team to accept the final text, which was drafted after less than a year of often indirect negotiations. The mediation team was led by Algeria and included the UN Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) and the European Union, as well as the United States and France, who were initially designated “friends of the mediation”.

The agreement seeks to restore peace in Mali principally through a process of decentralisation or regionalisation, reconstituting a national army from the members of the former armed groups that were signatories, and boosting the economy (particularly in the north), based on dialogue, justice and national reconciliation.

None of the agreement’s five pillars have been satisfactorily applied.

The parties claim to support the agreement five years after signing it in June 2015, but its implementation has proved to be extremely difficult. The Carter Center – appointed as the Independent Observer in Mali in late 2017 – reports virtually no progress on this front: in 2017, 22 per cent of the agreement’s provisions had been put into effect, compared to 23 per cent three years later. None of the agreement’s five pillars have been satisfactorily applied.

The parties have not carried out the substantive political and institutional reforms defined in Section II of the agreement (the first section lays out the agreement’s general principles), starting with regionalisation. So far, the measures have been temporary or too limited to make any real impact on the ground. It took months of negotiation between the signatories and international partners of the Peace Agreement Monitoring Committee (Comité de suivi de l’accord, CSA) to appoint interim authorities in the northern regions, and with few tangible results. Three years on, these authorities have insufficient financial and human resources, and lack the training, to manage the regions effectively. The two new regions (Ménaka and Taoudenit) created in northern Mali, based on commitments made by President Amadou Toumani Touré in 2011, also lack resources. Voters in these regions could not choose deputies in the April 2020 legislative elections because the electoral districts had not yet been delineated.

On matters of defence and security (Section III), the process of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) initiated by the state and backed by MINUSMA has weakened. Despite the deployment of a reconstituted Malian army battalion in February 2020 in Kidal, a hotbed of rebellion and CMA’s centre of operations in Mali’s far north, this force has never patrolled the town, and the CMA – chafing at its exclusion from a command role – has now “assigned” the battalion’s third company to Gao. The leaders of the movements and the Malian state’s chiefs of staff have not discussed the framework for a lasting means of integrating former armed groups’ members in the national army and its chain of command.

On the fifth anniversary of the agreement, this DDR process involves only 1,840 combatants from the signatory groups in an “accelerated DDR” phase, and they are not even the ones who fully reintegrated. UN Security Council Resolution 2480 (2019) set the goal of reintegrating 3,000 fighters by 2020, but it remains distant, and the next phase is uncertain. With nearly 85,000 combatants registered by the signatory groups, DDR remains incomplete and a sensitive issue. The mixed units of the Operational Coordination Mechanism (Mécanisme Opérationnel de Coordination, MOC), consisting of Malian soldiers and combatants from the signatory armed groups and partly assigned to the reconstituted army, were supposed to provide security in large towns in northern Mali. They are rarely seen on patrol, however, and have been targeted for attack, especially the 2017 Gao bombing of their camp. Some former fighters belonging to the MOC or to the reconstituted army have been involved in banditry and trafficking.

The joint administration of a long-term development fund by the Malian authorities and armed groups remains a challenge.

The parts of the agreement on development (Section IV) and reconciliation (Section V) remain largely overlooked. Nothing points to the possibility of genuine economic growth supported by the state or donors. A long-term development fund designed to support initiatives in northern Mali has been set up, but its joint administration by the Malian authorities and armed groups remains a challenge. Mali’s truth, justice and reconciliation commission, established in 2014, has continued its role as defined in the 2015 agreement, and it began holding public hearings in December 2019, but it generates hardly any interest.

Why the standstill?

The delayed implementation is symptomatic primarily of a lack of will among the signatories. Neither the Malian government nor the other parties were enthusiastic about the agreement’s text in 2015; international duress, particularly from Algeria, France and the U.S., pushed them to sign it. Civil society organisations in both northern and southern Mali that were supposed to represent local populations were effectively excluded from the process. While the Malian state and the signatory armed groups feel that outsiders foisted reconciliation upon them, southern Malians remain strongly distrustful of the former rebels and an agreement that was largely opaque to them. Many from the south think that the agreement is the first step toward an eventual partition of the country. According to the Mali-Mètre opinion survey (March 2020), “the vast majority of citizens interviewed (80.1 per cent) stated that they had ‘no’ knowledge (61 per cent) or ‘hardly any’ knowledge (19.1 per cent) of the peace agreement”.

Apart from the lack of will, the Malian state and the CMA are also keen to preserve the status quo: the CMA enjoys considerable de facto autonomy in its areas of influence in northern Mali, while many of its members have paid employment in the bodies set up by the agreements, such as the CSA and the interim authorities. In parallel, this state of affairs allows the Malian state to delay implementation of the 2015 agreement’s more sensitive provisions, particularly those implying constitutional reform. In August 2017, pressure from the public – mobilised in part against the agreement’s implementation – forced the government to postpone a draft constitutional referendum. By maintaining the status quo, the government prevents social unrest while still honouring its commitment to the international community to continue implementing the agreement.

We are not going to lay down our arms before getting what we took them up for in the first place.

The main parties to the agreement are therefore in a deadlock: the lack of political and institutional progress is leading the signatory armed groups to reject defence and security commitments. In an interview, one CMA official summed up the situation as follows: “We are not going to lay down our arms before getting what we took them up for in the first place”.

The international mediation team that pushed for the signing of the agreement has failed in its commitment to act as “the guarantor of [its] scrupulous implementation”, as specified in its text. The CSA has not exerted enough pressure on the parties to ensure the agreement’s proper implementation, in particular with regard to its key political and security provisions. International actors seem content with the status quo that allows them to focus on the jihadist threat, particularly in central Mali.

If the parties have not clashed since the agreement was signed, why does the impasse pose a problem?

The current stability is significant, and represents a source of satisfaction for some. But it is deceptive. The peace agreement may be partly responsible for the calm, but it owes more to a combination of factors that may turn out to be short-lived.

If they have failed to secure genuine implementation of the agreement, the international forces present in Mali have succeeded at deterring the signatories from resorting to the use of force. Their presence, however, will not be permanent. With instability spreading in central Mali, and across its borders, international actors such as Barkhane (a French anti-terrorism operation in the Sahel) and MINUSMA are increasingly turning their eyes elsewhere, such as Burkina Faso and Niger. In this vast region, the limited military forces (5,100 Barkhane and 13,000 MINUSMA soldiers) cannot be present everywhere.

Moreover, the stability in northern Mali is paradoxically linked to the CMA’s position of strength. Since 2015, violations of the peace agreement have pitted the armed groups of two coalitions against each other (rather than against the Malian state) due to political rivalries between the strongmen of different Touareg tribes or clashes between traffickers. The Platform – the coalition of pro-Bamako armed movements – has steadily weakened since 2017, and many of the factions have split off to join its rival, the CMA. Skirmishes are now rare again in northern Mali. Although the three parties signed the agreement in 2015, the Platform’s dwindling power has now left the CMA facing off against the government. In the longer term, the non-implementation of the agreement could give a pretext for the CMA, now in a strong position in the north of the country, to revive its quest for autonomy.

The non-implementation of the agreement could give a pretext for the CMA to revive its quest for autonomy.

The stability is also linked to the discovery of gold in the Kidal and Gourma regions. Panning for gold has effectively enabled a type of spontaneous yet temporary demobilisation of combatants from armed movements, especially the CMA. But the gold deposits will eventually run out. The current phase of artisanal mining will either come to an end or – more likely – yield to a phase of semi-mechanised mining that requires fewer workers. At that point, taking up arms could become more appealing.  

The current situation is therefore based on a precarious balance and cannot be described as a lasting solution; a flare-up of violence in the medium term cannot be ruled out. The peace process must deliver considerable progress in order to avoid becoming an empty shell that the signatories will end up abandoning in order to resume their hawkish positions.

Could improving the agreement’s implementation help solve the problem of jihadist insurrections spreading across other parts of northern Mali?

Some international actors and the Malian state consider that the reconstituted army, which must bring together Malian soldiers and combatants from armed groups, should engage in the fight against terrorism. It is risky, however, to connect the struggle against jihadist groups to the peace agreement’s implementation.

First, this idea gives the illusion that the signatory armed groups are capable of tackling jihadists. Many members of these signatory groups have been killed in the jihadists’ suicide bombings and other attacks; they are often forced to negotiate unofficial non-aggression pacts with the militant groups. Moreover, the “anti-terrorist” alliance created by Barkhane with two armed groups belonging to the Platform between 2017 and 2019 in the Liptako-Gourma region has proved unable to stem the jihadist expansion. Worse, it has exacerbated the situation by heightening local intercommunal tensions (see Crisis Group’s most recent report on Niger). The armed groups see no advantage in weakening their position in the anti-jihadist fight while the Malian state continues to raise the spectre of revising the peace agreement. Furthermore, most armed groups from the north have combatants in their ranks who were former members of jihadist groups before the French intervention, or else have family or tribal links to jihadist elements.

The issue of territorial and political autonomy is the core motivation for taking up arms in this region.

Although fighting terrorism attracts international attention, it is only one of the problems facing northern Mali today. Even if international and national forces were to succeed in eliminating or sidelining the jihadists, the signatory parties would still demand a satisfactory response to their demands for territorial autonomy in the north, which would almost certainly derail the Malian peace process. The issue of territorial and political autonomy – arising for the fourth time since 1963 – is the core motivation for taking up arms in this region. This is reflected in the agreement’s provisions on the implementation of effective regionalisation. In Niger, the state has allowed elites from the north, including former members of armed groups, to participate fully in running local administration. These elites have thus become better integrated into political and institutional affairs at a national level. Mali could follow this example that resolves a fundamental issue: how to dissuade people from joining armed groups and encourage military actors to take part in political and economic matters; even though it would be naïve to suppose that weapons and trafficking would disappear overnight. The most pressing goal is to ensure that these realities do not play into the hands of those with hawkish agendas.

How can the peace process move forward without jeopardising progress toward stability?

Expectations must be realistic. No one should feel satisfied with the current situation. At the same time, no one should exert pressure that may rekindle violence, for example by organising an unsuccessful referendum or redeploying the reconstituted army, which the signatory groups would judge as heavy-handed. The parties must take careful steps toward more effective implementation of the agreement. Given the various parties’ reluctance to apply the agreement in full, there is no magical solution for the problem. There are, however, two main areas where the peace process could gain new impetus: trust in the peace process, and political will to see it through.

Southern Malians’ opposition to the agreement has prevented progress toward its implementation. Since 2017, the government has postponed the deadline for the referendum on constitutional reform now scheduled for late 2020. This reform seeks to bring Mali’s constitution into line with the agreement’s terms, particularly by setting up a senate and regional assemblies whose presidents would be elected through direct universal suffrage. Opposition to the agreement, compounded by widespread discontent with a state weakened by seven years of crisis and recent disputed legislative elections, makes a positive outcome in such a referendum unlikely this year. Southern and central Malians account for almost 90 per cent of the electorate, and their mistrust of an agreement they do not properly understand would most likely lead them to reject the planned constitutional reform.

It is vital for southern Malians to give more support to the process.

It is therefore vital for southern Malians to give more support to the process through the political elites and civil society organisations supposed to represent them. They played no part in the discussions that led to the signing of the agreement in 2015, and many reject a text negotiated without their input. The 2015 text gave the Malian government the job of providing information and raising public awareness about the agreement’s content, but as the Carter Center observed, the government did little in this regard. There are now more public campaigns protesting against the peace agreement than in support of it. Awareness-raising initiatives have focused on northern populations, disregarding the fact that the agreement also applies to southern Mali, particularly through the regionalisation reform and the creation of a senate.

Five years after the signing of the agreement, it remains essential to address this shortcoming. Without the support of the population of southern Mali, many of its local interest groups will continue agitating to put the agreement on hold and to renegotiate its terms. Renegotiation is not in the interest of either the international community or the CMA, and over time could even lead to a resumption of belligerent discourse. The denunciation of the peace agreement is one of the grievances voiced by the organisers of the Movement of 5 June - Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP), a protest movement calling for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita that gathered tens of thousands of demonstrators on 5 and 19 June 2020, mostly in Bamako. Some of the movement’s leaders, such as filmmaker and former Minister Cheick Oumar Sissoko, have publicly called for the agreement to be revised, a position the M5-RFP has so far not adopted officially. The agreement remains a secondary issue for the movement, with other grievances aimed directly at President Keita taking precedence.

The CMA therefore needs to engage with southern Malians to explain that the agreement does not threaten to split up the country, and that regionalisation is a national reform and not limited to the north. The southern regions have everything to gain from a regionalisation process that would guarantee them a transfer of powers and resources unprecedented in Mali’s history. This awareness-raising could continue the work started with the inclusive national dialogue of 2019, namely the initiation of talks between the CMA and civil society organisations from southern Mali. Local elected representatives and traditional authorities from the north should be involved in these information campaigns in the southern regions. International partners sitting on the CSA monitoring committee, in particular MINUSMA, could help organise this work. Without guaranteeing the success of the referendum, such a move could still help relieve the pressure on the government exerted by southern elites that is holding up the agreement’s implementation.

The political authority in charge of implementing the agreement needs to be invested with greater power. The country’s president or, failing that, the prime minister, should become directly involved and support this authority, since these figures are the only ones able to give orders to the technical ministries and to resolve any disputes. The creation in 2016 of the president’s high representative to implement the agreement was a step in the right direction, but the person chosen for this job never had the necessary political clout or support to impose his views on a government that often remains unwilling to implement the agreement. The ministry of social cohesion, peace and national reconciliation, currently the government body in charge of this portfolio, has had no more success.

The key to implementation lies with the signatories themselves.

The top-level authorities of the signatory groups should be a more regular presence in Bamako, especially during the CSA’s most important sessions, since these constitute the main dialogue framework among the signatories. Otherwise, second-tier actors represent the groups, and their decisions fail to influence the other movements.

The international community must also continue to monitor progress, and to press for more, even though the current situation reveals the clear limitations of an externally imposed peace. The key to implementation lies with the signatories themselves.

The reality, however, is that Mali’s president must commit himself decisively and publicly to support the most sensitive provisions of the agreement – particularly the transfer of resources and power in terms of regionalisation and a reconstituted army. As long as he does not do so, the parties’ lack of will to implement the agreement will prove an insurmountable barrier.