Mali crisis: growing tensions, faltering peace, and the uncertain role of foreign troops in country’s north

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The tension between Mali’s transitional authorities, led by Assimi Goïta, and ex-rebel factions, such as the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), is steadily intensifying.

Recent incidents, including low-altitude flights by Malian military jets over northern towns on April 5th, which were seen as hostile by independence factions, have contributed to fears of a potential conflict revival.

Frustration is building over the perceived obstruction of the Algiers peace agreement, a treaty that was signed in 2015 with the intention of bringing peace to the region.

The transitional authorities have been accused of stalling its implementation, a claim that’s exacerbated by the recent adoption of a new constitution.

The city of Kidal in Mali's North. (Photo Internet reproduction)
The city of Kidal in Mali’s North. (Photo Internet reproduction)

The CMA criticizes the new constitution as a clear indication of the government’s dwindling interest in the peace agreement.

A further blow to the peace process came with the UN Security Council’s decision to withdraw its 12,000 peacekeepers by the end of this year in response to Mali’s request.

This move was met with widespread disappointment by the signatories of the peace agreement who see the UN mission as vital to maintaining peace.

The departure of the UN peacekeepers leaves a significant question unanswered: who will take on the mediator role?

Complicating matters further is the speculated involvement of 1,400 mercenaries from the Russian/Belarusian Wagner Group, who are anticipated to replace the withdrawing UN forces.

This development only heightens the already taut situation.

In light of these alarming developments, the CMA has called for open dialogue with all partners, citing Algeria, Turkey, and the UK specifically.

Their primary aim is to ensure that the Algiers agreement is upheld and respected, a crucial step in maintaining peace and preventing any further escalation of tensions.

BACKGROUND

As of mid-2023, Mali remains politically unstable due to recurrent coup d’etats, the most recent of which happened in 2022, casting shadows over its democratic prospects.

Despite attempts to strengthen democratic institutions, the military’s influence continues to play a central role in the country’s political landscape, leading to ongoing international concern.

Insurgent activities, predominantly in the north, including from groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, further complicate Mali’s political situation and hinder stable governance.

Efforts to implement the 2015 Algiers peace agreement have been inconsistent and slow, exacerbating tensions between different ethnic and political groups and threatening the country’s unity.

The persistent lack of effective governance and rule of law, coupled with high levels of corruption, has led to civil unrest and protests, emphasizing the urgent need for comprehensive political reform.

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