Academic journal article Africa Policy Journal

Symptoms of an Enduring Crisis: Prospects for Addressing Mali's Conflict Catalysts

Academic journal article Africa Policy Journal

Symptoms of an Enduring Crisis: Prospects for Addressing Mali's Conflict Catalysts

Article excerpt

Abstract

Despite the peace agreements and disarmament processes implemented since the 1990s, conflict in Mali has proven to be resilient. Conflict symptoms pertaining to deficient governance and sustained societal discontent have recurrently generated armed violence. This paper will explore the multifarious factors that have continually undermined the political stability and integrity of the Malian state. It will rely on a historically informed analysis to provide an insight on Mali's protracted conflict and will search to contextualize the eruption of an enduring crisis triggered by the January 2012 armed rebellion. A multi-level conflict diagnostic will serve to set the ground for the elaboration of policy recommendations seeking to address Mali's resurgent conflict catalysts in the prospects of a forthcoming post-conflict reconstruction process.

Introduction

Mali has been immersed in an enduring crisis since the outbreak of conflict in January 2012. With the overthrow of the Malian government in the March 2012 military coup, constitutional rule was suspended and a number of armed groups took advantage of the power vacuum to gain control of the northern territory. Despite the formation of a transitional government, efforts to find a political solution to the crisis effectively failed. As armed groups consolidated their presence in the north, international efforts to dismantle them were sluggish whilst an exacerbated food crisis caused great displacement. With the undermining of the Ouagadougou peace talks, the situation became critical following a southwards advance of the armed groups that precipitated a military intervention. Despite the efforts by the international forces in displacing the armed groups, Mali remains in a state of crisis amidst prevalent insecurity, political instability and mass displacement.

As of early March 2013, although the deployed West African troops under the auspices of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) had regained control of the main towns of the north, French and Chadian forces continued to fight the Islamist armed groups in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains of the northeast. As a result of the reported guerrilla attacks in Gao and suicide bombings in Kidal, widespread insecurity and substantial infrastructural damage caused by aerial bombardments continued to limit the delivery of humanitarian assistance. With 260,665 internally displaced Malians and a total of 170,313 refugees registered in neighbouring countries, an estimated 585,000 people remained food insecure under precarious living conditions.

Whereas tensions between the different ethnic groups of the north have been heightened during the past year, signs of instability recently emerged in Bamako following an attack on the President's National Guard by soldiers loyal to Captain Amadou Sanogo. In addition, regional threats have erupted as evidenced by the retaliatory attacks in Algeria and Nigeria by armed groups with alleged links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Boko Haram. As such, despite the swiftness of the military intervention and the preliminary plans to deploy a United Nations (U.N.) peacekeeping operation, threats to the security of the Malian and neighbouring states persist.

With the prospect that the turbulence in Mali will take some time to subside, government authorities have set a tentative date for holding national elections while civil society organizations are progressively turning their attention to the pressing launch of a conciliatory political process. As discrepancies over legislative representation and the future administrative status of the northern regions are likely to emerge, an urgent necessity to prepare for an inter-communal national dialogue process arises. As a result, the displaced and disaffected communities of the north will require international assistance to gain the necessary political and economic leverage to reiterate their protracted grievances and initiate a programme of political reform. …

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