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Mali - Foreign Relations

Mali's foreign relations have always been focused on regional issues. Mali's foreign relations interest are seen to be generally restricted to the West African sub-region. Malian internationalism has moved through ideologies such as decolonization, federation, pan-Africanism, liberation wars, recalcitrant imperialism, revolutionary Communism, and non-alignment. Since independence from France in 1960, Malian governments have shifted from an ideological commitment to socialism and a policy alignment with communist states to pragmatism that judges issues on their merits, welcomes assistance from all sources, and encourages private investment.

Before the advent of the Europeans, the Mali Empire's foreign relations refelcted the religious tension with the innumerable pagans to the south. Upon the imposition of Islam in the gold producing areas, output was maintained by placing the pagan miners under tribute, leaving them to their traditional heathen beliefs and practices, such as cannibalism. Magic was practised in ivory hunting. The was also a place of exile, Mansa Musa sent there a dishonest qadi from Morocco, who returned after four years, uneaten because "unripe".

Mali’s concerns in the sub-region extended to border security relations with its immediate neighbors which include Mauritania, Niger, Tunisia and Algeria as a result of lingering problems it faced with the Tuareg group in its northern part, which has led to instances of attacks within Mali by the group. Mali’s influence in the region is sometimes only explained in terms of its progress in democratic practice, but the country remained a “weak State”, with a relatively weak government and a smaller economy and inadequate resources. The country lacked any capacity to influence any country in the region and in fact tended instead to depend on Nigeria for economic and security assistance.

The government which assumed office in 2002, was committed to democracy, economic reform, free market policies, regional integration, and international cooperation on peacekeeping and counterterrorism activities. After 2002 the Mali's relations with the United States improved drastically. Mali has long lasting and very good relations with France. Mali also takes parts in regional organizations like African Union. The main policy of Mali is to resolve regional conflicts with these countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d'lvoire.

Over time, Mali’s foreign relations have become more pro-Western. Mali has an ambivalent relationship with France, but good relationships with the U.S. and the West in general. Controlling regional conflicts is a major goal of the government. It is part of the African Union. In the north, the insecure border is a concern and cross-border banditry and terrorism are concerns.

Surrounded by seven neighbors, Mali has developed a diplomacy promoting regional and continental integration (founding member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), the Economic Community of West African States ( ECOWAS) and the African Union).

The stabilization of the country and its security is a major stake in the relations between Mali and its neighbors, who must collaborate, especially in the fight against trafficking and terrorism. In February 2014, the Heads of State of Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger created the G5 Sahel, aimed at fostering coordination between these countries on security and development issues. A joint force project is being implemented with the support of the African Union.

Mali is a member of the UN and many of its specialized agencies, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank; the International Labor Organization (ILO); the International Telecommunications Union (ITU); and the Universal Postal Union (UPU). It also belongs to the African Union (AU); the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC); the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM); and the African Development Bank (ADB). Mali also is an associate member of the European Union (EU).

Mali is active in regional organizations. It participates in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic Monetary Union (UEMOA) for regional economic integration; Liptako-Gourma Authority, which seeks to develop the contiguous areas of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso; the Niger River Commission; the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS); and the Senegal River Valley Development Organization (OMVS).

The presence of international forces in the North ensures relative stability, but terrorist groups are adapting their mode of action. They target the Malian armed forces as well as MINUSMA (UN) and the Barkhane force (France). Terrorist groups seek to take advantage of the instability to settle permanently near the border with Niger and Burkina Faso. They are attacking symbols and representatives of the state.

Mali hosted the 27th Africa-France Summit in January 2017, in which 32 heads of state and government participated.

While France, the former colonial power in Mali, continues to exercise an outsized influence in the country it is far from being alone. Russia has had a significant relationship with Mali dating back to the 1960s when the country was gaining its independence from France. Russia might have had a hand in the 2020 coup in Mali, given that it has remained silent in its aftermath. When earlier in the year some protestors called for the departure of foreign forces, they wanted Russian forces who are not seen as having an imperialist legacy, to return. Germany, however, has attempted to position itself differently to other major powers vying for influence in the mineral-rich and strategic country. In Mali, unlike France, Great Britain and the US, Germany has strategically offered itself as offering “purely professional” assistance. Germany has not attempted to make political interventions with the partner government, unlike other foreign powers, and that local ownership is taken very seriously.

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Page last modified: 14-09-2021 15:43:30 ZULU