The threat of militant Islamist groups is spreading to all parts of Mali as the military junta stakes its claim to stay in power indefinitely.
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The military junta in Mali has alienated regional and international security partners amid escalating violence by militant Islamist groups, leading to a spike in civilian fatalities.
Militant Islamist group violence is accelerating in Mali, advancing a complex insurgency in north, central, and increasingly southern Mali that further threatens the country’s stability.
Militant Islamist violence in Africa has risen continuously over the past decade, doubling in just the past 3 years.
Mali’s military coup has thrust the country into a deeper security crisis as the junta quashes dissent and resists a democratic transition.
Most illicit markets in Mali are, in fact, part of an informal economy run by communities seeking economic opportunities in a highly insecure environment. Nevertheless, stabilization efforts mistakenly view them as linked to organized crime or terrorist activities. Militarized responses have added to, not mitigated, instability in the region. Interventions should better support Malian communities and help them mitigate the negative impact of criminal agendas.
Sixteen years of a militarized approach toward al Shabaab has resulted in a stalemate. Negotiation between the two sides has yet to be explored in earnest. There are several barriers impeding negotiations, and there would need to be sufficient deterrents (such as limiting al Shabaab’s ability to extract taxes from the population) and incentives (such as ensuring that the Somali government can make good on its promises) to keep the parties engaged. Nevertheless, negotiations must be on the table.
A Webinar on Thursday, December 3, 2020, designed to expand understanding of the key technological and geopolitical trends driving Africa’s digital revolution of most concern to African security sector professionals; explore the main ways in which rising internet penetration, technological innovation and the diffusion of cyber capabilities are influencing Africa’s national security landscape; discuss and consider how the COVID-19 pandemic influence how the digital revolution will impact Africa’s security landscape; and identify the cyber capabilities and intentions and of key national security actors, including states, criminal networks and terrorist groups.
The prospective deployment of Russia’s Wagner mercenaries should not be confused with addressing Mali’s security situation but is a means of expanding Russian influence while propping up the military junta.
MINUSMA relies on diesel for to power its vehicles and its generators. This has implications beyond the security of its fuel supply convoys however, since the diesel trade plays an important part in the political economy of northern Mali. In that region, less than five percent of the population has access to reliable electricity and armed groups often control fuel supply chains. MINUSMA has begun piloting using renewable energy sources, including solar energy. Beyond reducing the exposure of its fuel convoys, such initiatives could also help to build peace by serving as an entry point to renewable energy in northern cities.
Expanded militant Islamist group activity combined with increased wealth from artisanal gold mining in the tri-border region between Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, and Burkina Faso has heightened the risks of insecurity, fueling demand for illicit small arms. This scenario may degenerate into a self-perpetuating cycle where the availability of arms sparks further insecurity, pressuring communities to seek more firepower for self-defense or retaliation. Community members frequently participate smuggling and trafficking as informants, providers of storage, and subcontractors for the repair of motorcycles, etc. Law enforcement activities must balance against the possibility of disrupting income streams to already poor border communities, or they risk pushing some actors further into the criminal economy perpetuating this cycle.
Despite 8 years of violent insurgency in northern Mali, the region continues to be a transit zone for regional and global drug-trafficking networks. The networks have endured by ingratiating themselves with a rotating cast of actors whose tactics are based on pragmatic local conditions rather than ideology. For example, an implicit nonaggression pact among key elements of the CMA, Plateforme, and jihadist groups enables traffickers to continue unmolested. International partners should help regional governments better understand and dismantle these networks.