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Africa Briefing N°90 24 Sep 2012
Please note the full briefing is only available in French
In the absence of rapid, firm and coherent decisions at the regional (Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS), continental (African Union, AU) and international (UN) levels by the end of September, the political, security, economic and social situation in Mali will deteriorate. All scenarios are still possible, including another military coup and social unrest in the capital, which risks undermining the transitional institutions and creating chaos that could allow religious extremism and terrorist violence to spread in Mali and beyond. None of the three actors sharing power, namely the interim president, Dioncounda Traoré, the prime minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra, and the ex-junta leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo, enjoys sufficient popular legitimacy or has the ability to prevent the aggravation of the crisis. The country urgently needs to mobilise the best Malian expertise irrespective of political allegiance rather than engaging in power plays that will lead the country to the verge of collapse.
Almost six months after a coup overthrew President Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT) and the Malian army relinquished control of the three northern administrative regions to armed groups – the Tuareg separatists of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Islamist fighters of Ansar Dine (Ançar Eddine), the Movement for Unicity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – none of the pillars of the Malian state was able to give a clear direction to the political transition and to formulate a precise and coherent demand for assistance to the international community to regain control of the north, which represents more than two thirds of the territory. The next six months will be crucial for the stability of Mali, Sahel and the entire West African region, as the risks are high and the lack of leadership at all levels of decision-making has so far been obvious.
The message from Crisis Group’s July 2012 report on Mali is still relevant. It is not a call against the principle of a military action in the north. Indeed, the use of force will probably be necessary to neutralise transnational armed groups that indulge in terrorism, jihadism and drug and arms trafficking and to restore Mali’s territorial integrity. But before resorting to force, a political and diplomatic effort is required to separate two sets of different issues: those related to intercommunal tensions within Malian society, political and economic governance of the north and management of religious diversity, and those related to collective security in the Sahel-Sahara region. The Malian army and ECOWAS’s forces will not be capable of tackling the influx of arms and combatants between a fragmented Libya and northern Mali through southern Algeria and/or northern Niger. Minimal and sustainable security in northern Mali cannot be reestablished without the clear involvement of the Algerian political and military authorities.
Following the high-level meeting on the security situation in Sahel scheduled for 26 September, on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York, Malian actors, their African and non-African partners and the UN will have to specify their course of action and clarify minimal objectives to be reached by March 2013.
The president and the prime minister should:
ECOWAS leaders should:
The UN Security Council and member states represented at the high-level meeting on the situation in Sahel should provide support to the Secretary-General to:
Mali’s foreign partners, in particular the European Union and the U.S., should:
Dakar/Brussels, 24 September 2012