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.
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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.
After leading a coup against a democratically elected government, junta leader Colonel Assimi Goïta has attempted to rehabilitate the image of military government in Mali.
In defiance of a Sept. 15 deadline to step aside for a civilian transitional government set by the West Africa regional body, ECOWAS, Mali’s coup leaders have proposed a plan that would keep the military in charge. A convenient provision of the plan is that leaders of the Aug. 18 coup would be granted judicial... Continue Reading
Militias can present an attractive alternative to state forces but they carry many risks. Somalia, which hosts many militias, reveals why states and their international partners should resist the urge to create and rely on militias. Some such groups prey on local communities, at times perpetrating serious human rights abuses and enabling mafia-like economic practices. Violent extremist organizations exploit clan and community conflicts and economic grievances. Supporting local conflict resolution within and across communities can begin to alleviate these problems.
The confluence between farmer-herder violence, ethnicity, and extremist groups requires a multitiered response emphasizing a people-centric approach.
Lt. Col. Alou Boi Diarra's research found a strong link between farmer-herder conflict and an emphasis on state security over human security.
The level of violence in Central Mali is higher than anywhere else in the country. Thousands of civilians have been killed since 2015. The conflict between the state and the Katiba Macina has reached a stalemate but intercommunal violence is also increasing, at times as a proxy to other conflicts. The Malian government should work with religious leaders to pursue ceasefires and talks with militants and local communities. New lines of communication with Katiba Macina leaders and sympathizers would facilitate communication about the unaddressed grievances that cause conflict in the region.
Somali and international efforts have shifted to planning for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to transition directly Somali security forces without an interim UN mission. The implementation of the Transition Plan will require new institutions, processes, and commitment to good governance, changing the Somali state and providing lessons for security sector reform. AMISOM’s eventual exit will influence how the AU and the UN mandate and authorize future missions.
The Macina Liberation Front has opportunistically played on perceptions of ethnic, economic, religious, and political marginalization to become one of the most active militant Islamist groups in Mali.
In this Africa Center roundtable, Somalia's National Security Advisor shares his vision for establishing a stable Somalia. Priority reforms include strengthening oversight of the security sector and improving security support to rural communities most vulnerable to Al Shabaab.
Mali faces multiple security challenges that demand both strengthened legitimacy and state capacity to address. Building on credible elections, stabilization will also require reconciliation and extending the presence of the state.