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Mali: No Shortcuts to Security
Oct 15, 2012 (121015)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
With thousands of nationalist demonstrators in Bamako
calling for military intervention to regain control of the
north of Mali from Islamic extremists, and a unanimous Security
Council resolution, initiated by France, approving in
principle action by an ECOWAS force with support from the
African Union, United Nations, and France, one might think
that such an intervention is imminent. Those appearances are
almost certainly deceptive. Significant skeptical voices,
including UN officials, U.S. diplomats and military
officials, Mali's northern neighbor Algeria, and expert
civil society analysts say an "ill-prepared" intervention
could be catastrophic.
Reading the fine print of the UN resolution, one can note
that it calls for preparation of a plan for intervention
within 45 days. And while some press reports have cited U.S.
officials acknowledging the eventual need for military
action, less note has been given to the strong emphasis on
the need that any such action be "well planned, well
organized, well resourced and well thought through. And it
must in fact be agreed upon by those who are going to be
most affected by it." It is still possible, of course, that
the pressure for intervention will continue to grow. But the
chances that all those conditions could be met in the
foreseeable future are very small.
The most likely outlook for some months, therefore, is for
more of the same, despite new diplomatic efforts at the
urging of the new UN Special Representative for the Sahel
Romano Prodi of Italy, as well as Algerian support for
negotiations. The direction of their efforts is likely to be
to isolate the hard-line Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
(AQIM) forces, reportedly mostly non-Malian, who are
militarily dominant in Mali's North from other Malian groups
who have been involved in this year's revolt. While AQIM has
little support in Mali, however, any military or diplomatic
action against it is made difficult by disarray among Mali's
soldiers and politicians as well as the diverse
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains several recent documents
with background and analysis on the current status of the
crisis in Mali. They include an article from the UN's IRIN
humanitarian news and analysis, an article from
AllAfrica.com reporting on comments from U.S. Assistant
Secretary of State Johnnie Carson, and the overview from a
report by the International Crisis Group strongly cautioning
against hasty military intervention in Mali. The full Crisis
Group report, with extensive additional background, is
available at http://tinyurl.com/8of6apt.
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Mali, visit
Recent Links for additional background
UN Security Council resolution on Mali, October 12, 2012
"declared its readiness to respond to Mali's request for an
international military force, pending receipt of the
Secretary-General's report and recommendations on the
situation. It also took note of the country's requests to
the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for
military assistance, and requested the Secretary-General
immediately to provide military and security planners to
assist joint ECOWAS and African Union planning efforts."
"UN Urges Caution on Mali," Magharebia, 1 Oct 2012
"Algeria, Mauritania Discuss Mali Crisis," Magharebia, 9 Oct
"The bicycle theory of international diplomacy drives Mali
debate into slow motion" Turtle Bay, October 8, 2012
"Algeria caught in quandary over Mali crisis,' Reuters, Oct.
14, 2012 http://tinyurl.com/8astj4j
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
Mali: Towards Intervention in Mali
2 October 2012
IRIN humanitarian news and analysis
This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the
Bamako - After weeks of shuttle diplomacy, speculation and
contradictory signals, the Economic Community of West
African States (ECOWAS) now looks to have the backing of the
Malian government for a major troop deployment in northern
ECOWAS is still seeking support from the UN Security
Council, whose members are divided on the issue of military
intervention. Internal ECOWAS documents point to a draft
plan, outlining provisional troop numbers, budget and timeframe.
In Bamako, supporters of an ECOWAS deployment are adamant
that a strong outside force is crucial if Mali wants to
"recapture" the north, ousting the Islamic movements which
took over the area six months ago but have dominated an
extensive criminal economy for years.
Speaking at a high-level meeting on the sidelines of the
General Assembly last week, Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon
highlighted the Sahel's need for closer regional cooperation
and a special UN emissary of its own, warning of "terrorist
groups, transnational criminal organizations and
insurgencies", and noting: "Human trafficking is on the
rise, along with drug-trafficking and arms smuggling."
Who is in control in the north?
When the rebellion in northern Mali broke out in January, it
was the Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of
Azawad (MNLA) that quickly out-manouevred a demoralized,
ill-equipped army, capturing large swathes of territory.
The MNLA's demands for an independent state carried strong
echoes of previous insurgencies but its combatants and
fledgling administrations were rapidly supplanted by radical
For Bamako, the main enemy no longer had a separatist
agenda, but a rigid commitment to a Salafist Islam largely
alien to Mali. At the same time, Al Qaeda in the Islamic
Maghreb (AQIM), widely presented as the controller and
financier of the Islamic radicals in the north, has
extensive trafficking and kidnapping networks there -
reportedly secured with the discreet connivance of sections
of the Malian military and Algerian security forces.
While there has been endless speculation about the size,
military strength, internal structures and support networks
of the three main movements (Ansar Dine, the Movement for
Unity and Jihad in West Africa - MUJAO, and AQIM), hard
information has often proved elusive.
Visitors to the north suggest AQIM's leadership is very much
present, but extremely mobile, individual warlords
frequently shifting location, while MUJAO's strength is
allegedly growing, much of it fuelled by non-Malian West
What about mediation?
Regional mediation efforts have yielded little. ECOWAS's
designated mediator, Burkina Faso President Blaise
Compaore, was much criticized in Mali, seen as pro-Tuareg
and taking unilateral initiatives without consulting the
transitional government in Bamako.
Peace initiatives from Mali have been exploratory. Among
those to have headed north was the Guinna Dogon (GD)
movement, representing the Dogon ethnic community, mainly
based around Mopti and Djenne in the north. "We went as
cousins", GD president and Foreign Ministry adviser Mamadou
Togo told IRIN. Both "occupiers and those being occupied"
wanted peace and dialogue, but he found AQIM and MUJOA to be
dominated by non-Malians, who seemed to have little
understanding of the country, he said.
Togo found Ansar Dine veteran Tuareg leader and long-term
negotiator Iyad Ag Ghali more approachable, but still with a
wholly unrealistic agenda. "Iyad wants Sharia", Togo
explained. "The Islamists argue that 95 percent of Malians
are Muslims, so Sharia must be imposed now. How do you
negotiate with that?"
What are the human rights concerns?
In a 23 September report Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned
that under the control of Islamic radicals "stonings,
amputations and floggings have become the order of the day
in an apparent attempt to force the local population to
accept their world view."
There is evidence of strong cohesion between the three
movements on imposing Sharia, with courts now sitting
regularly in Timbuktu and Gao, according to senior HRW
Africa researcher Corinne Dufka, who also confirmed major
recruitment drives of children and adults.
Could intervention make matters worse?
The reports of excesses in the north have inevitably
strengthened the calls for prompt, decisive military action,
with warnings that the longer the Islamists are left to
their own devices, the more difficult they will be to
But there are serious caveats about the humanitarian
implications of renewed conflict. "There are no easy
answers," Ban ki-Moon warned. According to Oxfam West Africa
Regional Director Mamadou Biteye, "there is a major risk
that military operations in northern Mali would make an
already fragile humanitarian situation much worse."
Dufka of HRW warned of a conflict where humanitarian law
would get little recognition, emphasizing that aerial
strikes and drone attacks were likely to feature.
She also warned of a "fratricidal" element to the conflict,
with armed groups like the northern militia group Ganda Koy
(made up of ethnic Songhai and traditionally violently
opposed to the Tuaregs), coming into the picture. Many
Tuareg refugees told IRIN they were too afraid to return
home because they would be targeted in attacks.
Dufka also expressed concern about the professionalism of
the Malian military. An investigation has been promised into
the killing of 16 Malian and Mauritanian Islamic preachers
from the Dawa movement at Diabaly, 400km northeast of Bamako
on 8 September, an incident which has further complicated
Mali's relations with Mauritania and drew a furious response
from Islamists in the north.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) has warned in a recent
report that "all scenarios are still possible in Mali,"
including a wave of attacks, major social protests, or
another coup. The ICG urged the international community to
help heal divisions and build strength in Mali's military,
re-establish stalled development aid, and give the crisis a
much higher profile.
Is ECOWAS capable of effective intervention?
Diplomats, who see a conflict as likely if not yet
inevitable, suggest an intervention begun in haste will be
catastrophic, not least because serious questions remain
about ECOWAS's own capacity.
Key member states like Senegal appear lukewarm about
intervention in Mali. Nigeria, facing its own Islamic
fundamentalist threat in the shape of the radical Boko Haram
movement, may face domestic pressure not to commit troops.
Few available ECOWAS troops have combat experience in a
desert. Mauritania, which has criticized Mali in the past
for being "soft" on "Islamic terrorism", and has sent its
own troops into Mali on counter-insurgency operations, is
not an ECOWAS member.
Neither is Algeria, accused by many Malians of spawning the
Jihadist movements and their accompanying kidnapping and
trafficking networks, which have played such a destructive
role in northern Mali.
Neither the Malian army nor ECOWAS will be able to tackle
the influx of arms and soldiers from Libya to northern Mali
through southern Algeria and northern Niger, warns the ICG
without "clear involvement of the Algerian... authorities".
ECOWAS has made it clear that it needs and expects strong
backup from outside, particularly in airlifting troops to
the combat zones, promoting speculation that France and the
USA could play critical roles. Both, predictably, are
downplaying their importance.
France has serious concerns about French hostages still held
by Islamic radicals. The US formally suspended military
engagement with Bamako after the National Committee for the
Recovery of Democracy and the Restoration of the State
(CNRDRE), headed by US-trained Captain Amadou Sanogo, took
power on 22 March.
What about the new government in Bamako?
Military intervention is further complicated by the power
vacuum in Bamako, where the government has no electoral
mandate and where none of the three actors sharing power has
sufficient legitimacy, say observers. Critics warn that the
restoration of democracy has barely begun.
The government formed by President Dioncounda Traore in
August under outside pressure and headed by Prime Minister
Cheikh Modibo Diarra, remains a weak, compromise
administration, described by one diplomatic observer as, at
best, "an imperfect construct, but one that could move
Other concerns include continued support for Cpt Sanogo, the
military's retention of key ministerial portfolios,
including Defence, Home Security and Territorial
Administration; and a history of serious human rights
violations, with security forces targeting critical
journalists and the reported torture and disappearance of
soldiers hostile to the military junta.
"This is not a normal democracy; this is Mali post-coup,"
said a Bamako-based analyst.
Relations between ECOWAS and CNDRE have been volatile, with
Sanogo and his political allies wanting to keep foreign
troops outside Bamako and confining ECOWAS's role to
logistics and training. The current civilian administration
is more accepting, with Traore issuing an invitation for
But there is no evidence yet of a more robust approach from
the Malian military, with reports instead of dangerous
schisms, particularly after the "Red Berets" - Mali's elite
force - were accused of leading a counter-coup attempt in
Timbuktu parliamentary representative Sandy Haidara is
adamant Mali cannot go it alone. "We are from the north and
we know our army cannot do this," he told IRIN. "They will
Mali: Restore Democracy Then Liberate the North - U.S.
Official Johnnie Carson
1 October 2012
Cape Town - The top United States diplomat for Africa has
acknowledged that military action will be needed to break
the control of northern Mali by Islamic extremists and reunite
the country, but says this needs to follow the
restoration of democracy.
Johnnie Carson, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for
African Affairs, told journalists in a telephonic briefing
on Monday: "It is absolutely, critically important for there
to be democratic progress in Mali, that there be a
restoration of the civilian, democratic, constitutional
government, and that needs to be done as soon as possible."
Since a military coup in March, the central government in
the capital, Bamako, has lost control of the north of the
country, and West African states organised in the regional
grouping, Ecowas, have been pressing the international
community in recent weeks to back the formation of a
regional military force to intervene.
However, Carson said domestic forces need to lead military
action. Without a strong, credible government in Bamako, "it
will be difficult to have a military which is capable of
leading, as it should, the liberation in the northern part
of the country."
He also stressed that Algeria and Mauritania, which are not
members of Ecowas, but have long borders with Mali, as well
as Chad, need to be included in talks on action.
He said: "There will have to be at some point military
action to push AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and
MUJWA (a related group) out of the north and out of the
control that they are exercising over towns like Timbuktu,
and Kidal and Gao. But any military action up there must...
be well planned, well organized, well resourced and well
thought through. And it must in fact be agreed upon by those
who are going to be most affected by it. It is not something
that should be taken lightly."
Carson was briefing African and Western journalists on
discussions held on the sidelines of the United Nations
General Assembly's opening session last week.
He said the U.S. view was that the "enormously complicated
situation" in Mali had four components, all of which needed
to be dealt with simultaneously:
- The issue of governance: There had to be a return to "a
civilian, elected, creditable government" after the
overthrow of civilian rule in March.
- The "political marginalization" of the Tuareg people: This
problem, which pre-dated Mali's independence, needed to be
resolved, "and it must be resolved politically, not
militarily." This too needed strong government in Bamako.
- The "very serious" question of the pursuit of terrorism by
AQIM and the related MUJWA group: This would have to be
dealt with "through security and military means".
- The humanitarian crisis brought about by the failure of
rains and the displacement of people by military action.
Carson said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proposed to
appoint a special envoy for Mali and the Sahel to coordinate
international efforts to address the crisis. The
U.S. hoped he would move swiftly to announce an envoy, and
supported the establishment of a working group to integrate
the efforts of the UN, the European Union, the U.S., Ecowas
and Mali's other neighbours which were not part of Ecowas.
In an interview with AllAfrica last week in the midst of the
deliberations at the United Nations, Senegalese President
Macky Sall called for an urgent international response to
the "worrisome" crisis in Mali.
"For the first time, an international jihadist movement has
made a country bend to its will," he said. Drugs and arms
trafficking threaten the entire region, and "if the world
does nothing to reclaim Mali as a single united territory"
the lawlessness will provide a haven for what he called "the
international terrorist movement."
Sall said the west African community Ecowas cannot manage
the crisis alone. The United Nations must take decisive
action, he said, and must involve Mali's neighbors who are
not Ecowas members - Mauritania, Algeria, and Chad.
Mali: The Need for Determined and Coordinated International
International Crisis Group
Dakar/Brussels, 24 September 2012
http://www.crisisgroup.org / http://tinyurl.com/8of6apt
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 Traore, 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 Toure (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 (Ansar 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 decisionmaking
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:
- constitute immediately a small informal group including
Malian personalities, preferably retired from the political
scene, who have specific skills and significant experience
in the areas of internal security, governance and public
administration, organisation of elections, decentralisation,
inter-community mediation and international relations, in
particular regional diplomacy, in order to help the
government define a global strategy to resolve the crisis.
ECOWAS leaders should:
- recognise the limitations of the organisation in mediating
the crisis and planning a military mission in Mali, and work
closely with the African Union and above all with the UN,
which are better equipped to respond to challenges posed by
a crisis threatening international peace and security.
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:
*appoint a special representative of the Secretary-General
for the Sahel and provide him with the necessary means to
achieve his mission, which must focus on reconciling the
positions of ECOWAS member states, regional players
(Algeria, Mauritania, Niger and Mali) and Western countries;
- boost the UN presence in Mali to help the transitional
government withstand the economic and social crisis, produce
a credible roadmap for the restoration of territorial
integrity and the organisation of transparent elections as
soon as possible, and uphold the rule of law by gathering
detailed information on human rights violations committed in
the south (in particular in Bamako and Kati) as well as in
- begin, together with the AU and ECOWAS, a mission to
facilitate reconciliation within the Malian army to prevent
another military coup with unpredictable consequences.
Mali's foreign partners, in particular the European Union
and the U.S., should:
- support efforts to reestablish the Malian defence and
security forces by enhancing their unity, discipline and
efficacy in order to ensure security in the south,
constitute a credible threat of the use of force in the
north and be able to participate in operations against
- contribute to the resilience of the Malian economy, and
employment in particular, through a rapid resumption of
foreign aid so as to prevent social unrest that risks
deepening the political and humanitarian crisis;
- respond favourably to demands for urgent humanitarian
assistance to the civilian population seriously affected by
the crisis in Mali and the entire Sahel region, in
accordance with what the UN has been advocating for several
months without generating mobilisation adequate to the
seriousness of the situation.
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