Mali: Security, Dialogue and Meaningful Reform
Mali and its international partners need to seize the moment for national dialogue to forestall renewed political and security crises.
Mali: Security, Dialogue and Meaningful Reform, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the situation in Mali after France’s military intervention to restore the north of the country to government control and as the UN Security Council considers the deployment and mandate of a stabilisation mission. Sporadic fighting in the north continues and formidable threats to security remain. The presidential election, currently scheduled for July, poses particularly acute challenges. An inclusive political process, involving national dialogue and reconciliation between Mali’s various communities, are critical to preventing a resurgence of violence. Over time, only improved governance can ensure sustained peace and stability.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
- Mali’s political leaders need to make public and well-publicised commitments to peace and reconciliation, or risk an election campaign that reinforces divisions, inflaming tensions after the vote, and jeopardising badly-needed reforms.
- Mass communication, especially through the radio and television stations listened to across the country, is crucial to encourage political participation and reduce tension. By the same token, a new mechanism for monitoring the media should check inflammatory or divisive language.
- Mali’s regional and international partners should help persuade the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) that its interests are best served by renouncing its armed struggle and participating in a political process. For their part, leaders in Bamako should avoid imposing conditions on armed groups that close the door to dialogue, however discreet. Such dialogue will be vital to give all northern Malians the opportunity to participate in the elections, without which the far north could again become a base for armed rebellion.
- A clear distinction should be maintained between, on the one hand, the planned UN stabilisation mission, with its large civilian component, and, on the other, a “parallel force” responsible for counter-terror operations, whose legal basis and geographic mandate should be clarified.
“Elections must be held soon but not at any cost”, says Gilles Yabi, Crisis Group’s West Africa Project Director. “Reconciliation must begin now, as should the provision of basic social and economic services to the north. The radicalisation of public opinion is a major risk and Mali’s leaders and institutions must take firm action to prevent people, especially those in the south, lumping together rebels, terrorists and drug traffickers with all Tuaregs and Arabs”.
“Focusing on terrorism alone risks distracting from the main problems”, says Comfort Ero, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director. “Corruption and poor governance are more important causes of the crisis than the terrorist threat, the Tuareg issue, or even the north-south divide. The challenges for the region and the UN are to align their positions on the political process, and to insist that Malians, especially their elites, assume responsibility for reversing bad governance and preventing another crisis”.