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Mali

The following text forms part of Crisis Group’s Early Warning Watch List for December 2015, compiled for the European Union (EU) and its member states to provide analysis and updates on conflicts, and on opportunities for preventive action. Each Watch List identifies up to ten countries or conflicts which are particularly vulnerable to an outbreak or intensification of conflict or crisis – or which in some cases offer an opportunity for prevention or resolution – in the following six to twelve months.

Each country or conflict is chosen from the 70 crisis situations monitored by Crisis Group and regularly reported on in CrisisWatch; the choice of countries is representative of a range of conflicts and is not meant to be all-inclusive or a ranking of deadly violence. Each country summary contains an outline of recent developments and forthcoming events that may increase risks, and lays out opportunities for action for national, regional and international actors, in particular the EU and its member states.


Overview

After ten months of stop-start negotiations, the Malian government, the Algiers Platform – the pro-government coalition – and the main rebel coalition, the Movements of Azawad Coalition (CMA), reached a peace agreement in Bamako in June 2015. Clashes between armed groups in the north resumed shortly thereafter. However a meeting in September by northern leaders in the town of Anefis paved the way for a series of local deals, or “mini-pacts”, bringing a halt to the fighting, and allowing for renewed attention to the June Bamako Agreement and its implementation. Still, persistent distrust between the main parties, combined with flaws within the peace deal and other application challenges, suggests securing peace in the north will remain a thorny issue in the coming months. Meanwhile, worsening insecurity and a jihadi threat extending to central and southern Mali carries broader security implications not just for Mali but for the larger Sahel region.

The EU and its member states should:
  • Call for a clarification of areas of responsibilities in the implementation of the Bamako agreement to avoid future tensions, especially between the Algeria-led Follow-up Committee (CSA) and the Mali-led National Committee in charge of coordinating the implementation of the accord.
  • In its capacity as co-chairman of the CSA’s Development Commission and as one of Mali’s major donors, the EU should support a substantial review of economic development policies in the north to ensure that they will benefit communities more directly and not solely the elite.
  • Encourage all actors, including those who took part in the Anefis process, to abide by the framework of the Bamako agreement, and welcome an inclusive Anefis process extended to the largest number of actors and communities in the north.
  • Sustain EU efforts to promote the fight against transnational crime, in part through the EUCAP Sahel Mali mission (the EU’s capacity building mission in Mali), especially by initiating a long-term strategic framework supporting the demilitarisation of the economy and helping justice efforts to tackle criminality and other past abuses, even if it involves actors part of the peace process.
  • Encourage the European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM), which has close connections to the Malian army, to play a facilitating role in the implementation of key security sector reforms specified in the Bamako agreement, including on the sensitive issues of integration of former rebels into security forces.
Background

After ten months of an Algerian-led international mediation, the conflict’s main protagonists signed in Bamako a peace agreement to end the conflict in northern Mali in June 2015. The government and the Algiers Platform were the first to sign on 15 May, followed by the CMA on 20 June. This deal was reached following considerable pressure by the international mediation, since the negotiation process had failed to build trust between the parties. The talks were characterised by recurrent deadlocks and ceasefire violations, despite UN peacekeepers’ efforts to stop the fighting. The Bamako agreement has thus far failed to end ongoing armed clashes in the north, as evidenced by continued attacks in Anefis and In-Khalil (in the Kidal region) throughout August and September. The persistent insecurity has in turn delayed the implementation of key aspects of the peace agreement and forced authorities to postpone local elections, initially planned in October, for the third time.

Nonetheless, a positive signal came from the north on 27 September, when CMA and Platform leaders met for three weeks of negotiations in Anefis, reaching a series of mini-pacts on 16 October. Their aim was to settle local disputes pertaining to the control of trafficking routes and reconcile divided communities, and to discuss power-sharing options during the implementation of the Bamako agreement. Soon after the signing, the CMA and Platform initiated a series of campaigns and reconciliation meetings in an attempt to consolidate and extend the Anefis process to other leaders and communities. The Anefis pacts have significantly improved security conditions in the north by ending clashes between CMA and Platform groups. However, while the peace process is benefiting from this local initiative, Mali’s international partners remain reluctant to offer full support to the Anefis process given the prominent role played by drug traffickers and armed movements.

The Bamako Agreement in turn contains fundamental weaknesses which limits its long-term sustainability. A central limitation is its similarities with previous failed peace agreements. As before, the deal is top-down, excluding large sections of society, and places too great an emphasis on decentralisation and short-term security solutions instead of addressing deeper governance failures, including poor access to social services, limited employment opportunities, and lack of functioning justice mechanisms. While decentralisation should in theory offer local communities closer access to governance mechanisms and thus enhanced accountability, it has never achieved this stated goal in northern Mali. First of all, instead of reaching local communities, past decentralisation initiatives have mostly benefitted local leaders, who concentrate resources at their level. Secondly, decentralisation is not a sufficient solution to address the root causes of the current crisis and its major cause of violence: local grievances between northern communities. Instead, this approach only serves to address the Malian conflict from a south to north perspective.

Since the agreement’s signing in June, the Algeria-led agreement monitoring committee, the CSA, has encountered several problems that have significantly hindered implementation, casting further doubt on the viability of the peace deal, both in the long term and possibly also the short term. Issues of inclusion of different parties within the implementation process and representation within the CSA have proven particularly contentious, with disagreements arising between the Platform and CMA on the one hand, and the recently formed Coordination of movements and signatories of the 15 May agreement (COMPIS 15), which demand full involvement in the implementation process, on the other. Tensions have also been growing within the international mediation, with the EU, UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and other actors challenging Algeria’s attempt to maintain a strong leadership over the monitoring committee. This could lead to some of Mali’s partners implementing development and reconstruction programs outside of the CSA framework, effectively threatening the coherence of the peace process.

Meanwhile, growing insecurity in the country’s central and southern regions presents a further challenge to maintaining peace in the north and threatens the stability of the still-fragile Malian state, as well as the broader Sahel region. Mali has seen a dramatic increase in jihadi activity in the centre since January 2015, particularly in Fulani areas. These areas were severely affected by the 2012 security crisis – when rebel groups, later joined by jihadis, took over the north and demanded independence, while simultaneously Bamako was rocked by a coup – but remain largely excluded from the June Bamako Agreement. Radical groups excluded from the negotiations continue to attack security forces and peacekeepers. Concerns over spreading insecurity heightened following the attack and hostage crisis at Bamako’s Hotel Radisson on 20 November, in which 22 people were killed – though this does not yet appear to have weakened the peace process. While international and domestic security forces have stepped up counter-terrorism measures throughout the country, the multiplication of arrests and targeted executions by Malian and French Barkhane forces could prove counterproductive in the long term, feeding recruitment efforts to jihadi groups. From a security perspective, targeted killings might not have any deterrent effect as each member killed becomes a martyr whose death is celebrated and taken as an example by jihadi recruits.

The Anefis agreement has allowed for fragile, but needed progress in providing room for implementation of the Bamako Agreement. The government and its partners should use this current window of opportunity to lay the groundwork for sustainable peace.

Read the full Watch List for December 2015 (pdf).

Learn more about the Watch List.


Note: The Watch List is produced as part of the project “Strengthening Early Warning and Mobilising Early Action”, co-funded by the European Union. The project aims to strengthen the links between early warning, conflict analysis and early response, and to build civil society’s capacity for early warning.

The Crisis Group EU Early Warning Watch List is one of many products the organisation produces to alert policy makers and the general public on unfolding crisis or conflicts, and which offers them solutions to support conflict prevention, management and resolution initiatives.

 
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