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.
In-depth interviews with more than 100 youth in Northern Mali found that they join armed groups out of sense of duty or to gain respect, because they feel excluded and the government doesn’t support them, they have experienced abuse or corruption at the hands of the governments, or in hopes of joining the military. To build lasting security in the region, the Malian government, donors and NGOs should focus on violence prevention at the community level, rather than only on “at risk” youth. Improved service delivery, including mitigating the perception that security forces serve only segments of the population, and inclusive community-government decision-making would further improve local governance.
The absence of state administration, both during the colonial period and since independence, defines this region. But when limited administration has existed, whether from the formal state or from various armed groups that operate there, it has been marked by continued competition over natural resources and land use between traditional chiefs, cross border traders, and rebel leaders. Inhabitants themselves have also played various roles in civil and proxy wars here. While a large economic development project failed to bring much needed assistance to the region, the recent discovery of gold has led both to conflicts and to newfound wealth.
Libya has been carved into multiple tribal fiefdoms whose economies depend on internal and external flows of income, licit and illicit. The political rise of the previously marginalized Toubou by leveraging their control of the smuggling economy, for example, reveals the many ways local conflict dynamics influence and are influenced by external forces including organized crime. It also exposes the resulting disincentive the various parties have to rebuild a unified nation. Identifying and addressing the many layers of internal and external involvement in Libya’s fractionalization will help transition the “patchwork state” to a central state.
Security Topics: Sahel Security Trends