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Mali - Politics

Throughout two decades of multi-party democracy, Mali has consistently encouraged private enterprise and investment. However, a political crisis that unfolded throughout 2012 pushed the country into unprecedented turmoil, deterioration of the economic situation, and uncertainty in the investment climate.

Northern Mali had long suffered from periodic episodes of violence related to inter-tribal politics, smuggling and other criminal activities, and friction between local tribes and the central government. A new wave of violence began in the first days of 2012, when several armed extremist and separatist armed groups took advantage of the influx of arms and mercenaries returning from Libya to launch a series of attacks on military installations in the North.

The insurrection launched in January 2012 was the fourth time Tuareg rebels fought for independence since 1960. Previous rebellions ended in peace accords and unkept promises. But the 2012 rebellion sent the country tumbling into a nationwide crisis marked by a military coup in the south followed by an Islamist takeover of the north. Mali, once called one of Africa's most stable democracies, was being compared to Afghanistan and Somalia.

In recent years, Mali has been confronted by a profound crisis with serious political, security, socio-economic, humanitarian and human rights consequences. The crisis stems from long-standing structural conditions such as weak State institutions; ineffective governance; fragile social cohesion; deep-seated feelings among communities in the north of being neglected, marginalized and unfairly treated by the central Government; a weak and externally dependent, albeit vibrant, civil society; and the effects of environmental degradation, climate change and economic shocks. These conditions were exacerbated by more recent factors of instability, including corruption, nepotism, abuse of power, internal strife and deteriorating capacity of the national army.

By April 2012, they had pushed the Malian armed forces out of the three northern regions of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, and part of Mopti, effectively denying the government control of half of the national territory. Political tensions related to the military reversals in the north led to a coup d’état, and the overthrow of Mali’s democratically-elected government on March 21, 2012.

Mali is a constitutional democracy. In 2013 President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita won the presidential election, deemed free and fair by international observers. The inauguration of President Keita and the subsequent establishment of a new National Assembly through free and fair elections ended a 16-month transitional period following the 2012 military coup that ousted the previous democratically elected president, Amadou Toumani Toure. The restoration of a democratic government and the arrest of coup leader Amadou Sanogo restored some civilian control over the military.

Civilian authorities did not always maintain effective control over the security forces.

Despite the peace accord signed in June 2015 between the government, the Platform of northern militias, and the Coordination of Movements of Azawad (CMA), violent conflict between CMA and Platform forces continued throughout the northern region. Terrorist groups not party to the peace process--including Ansar al-Dine, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al-Murabitoun, and the Macina Liberation Front (FLM)--carried out attacks against the military, armed groups, and civilian targets throughout the northern and central regions.

The conservative credentials of the popular cleric Mahmoud Dicko facilitated on-off talks with jihadi insurgents back home, as Keita’s government alternated between armed confrontation and attempts to sway the more moderate, homegrown factions. The decision by former prime minister Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga to relieve Dicko of that role precipitated the imam’s fallout with the government. Angered by the snub, the “people’s imam” rallied tens of thousands of supporters last year to call for the PM’s removal — which he duly obtained. Both Dicko and his mentor Mohamed Ould Bouyé Haïdara, also known as the chériif de Nioro, felt sidelined by the government they once supported. “They were both frustrated, and the regime they once helped became the regime they had to fight.” Mahmoud Dicko quit the High Islamic Council in 2019 to found his own Islamist movement, the Coordination des Mouvements, Associations et Sympathisants (CMAS). Since then, Mali’s fractured opposition has gravitated around his movement, hoping to tap on its broad appeal.

Abuses committed against civilians during violent clashes between Platform and CMA fighters in and around the region of Kidal constituted the most significant human rights problem. Abuses included arbitrary detention, destruction and seizure of property, and killing of civilians. Violent clashes in the city and region of Kidal targeted rival fighters and civilians, resulting in deaths, injuries, arbitrary detentions, disruption of humanitarian assistance, and property loss. The inability to resolve the violence delayed implementation of the peace accord in the north, which prolonged the lack of basic services. Violent clashes in February and March in the Menaka area between armed elements allied with CMA and Platform forces also targeted civilians and resulted in numerous deaths.

Other human rights problems included arbitrary killings by government forces; disappearances; abuse of detainees, including torture; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary detentions; judicial lack of independence and inefficiency; restrictions on speech, press, assembly, and association; official corruption; rape of and domestic violence against women and girls; female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); human trafficking; societal discrimination against black Tuaregs, who were subjected to slavery-related practices; discrimination based on sexual orientation; and discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS and albinism.

Mali's “Dozo” or traditional hunters were blamed for the deaths of 32 herders in the central region of the African nation in June 2018. "They surrounded the village, separated the Fula people from the others and killed at least 32 civilians in cold blood" on Saturday, Abel Aziz Diallo, president of the local Tabila Pullaku association, said. Diallo said children are among the dozens who died, adding that another 10 people remain unaccounted for.

"The men were dressed in Dozo clothing but we wonder if they were all Dozo hunters," said an elected official said on condition of anonymity. A new attack was also reported to have claimed the lives of 4 others but Mali's ministry of defence has not confirmed the incident. Over the past three years, relations between the nomadic Fulani herders and Mali's Bambara and Dogon farmers have been antagonistic following accusations of Fulani grazing cattle on Dogon land as well as land and water access issues.

Canada, which had deployed some 250 peacekeepers to Mali, said it was also "deeply concerned" by allegations that the military regularly carries out unlawful acts and called for the "perpetrators of these heinous crimes to be brought to justice."

The Fulani herdsmen, who clashed with Tuaregs in late April 2018, accused the Malian military of supporting such violent incidents perpetrated by traditional farmers. The United States asked Mali to investigate 25 bodies found in mass graves in the Mopti region. The Malian government, according to a BBC report, admitted elements of the army were involved. Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita urged for "the respect of human rights by all the military, which has an obligation to protect the population."

The 23 March 2019 killings of almost 160 Fulani herders by suspected hunters from the Dogon community on Ogossagou, a village in central Mali populated by rival Fulani herders, were bloody even by the recent standards of Mali's ever-worsening violence. The killings in Ogossagou, which left the charred bodies of women and children smouldering in their homes, shocked a population that has grown increasingly frustrated by the failure of government forces to protect them from both armed-group onslaughts and ethnic reprisals. They followed a deadly assault by armed fighters on an army post that killed at least 23 soldiers, also in Mali's central region, which was claimed by an al-Qaeda affiliate that counts many Fulani herders in its ranks.

Mali's prime minister and his government resigned 18 April 2019, four weeks after a massacre by then ethnic vigilante group shocked the nation. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita accepted the resignation without giving a reason for the departure of Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga. "A prime minister will be named very soon and a new government will be put in place after consultations with all political forces" from both the ruling and opposition sides, the statement from Keita's office said.

Days after orchestrating a protest movement that brought down Mali’s prime minister in April 2019, popular cleric Mahmoud Dicko was asked whether he intended to trade religion for politics. “I am not a politician, but I am a leader and I have opinions,” he told French-speaking magazine Jeune Afrique. “If that is political, then yes, I am political.”

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita appointed a new prime minister, days after the government resigned amid a spike in violence in the restive West African country. Former Finance Minister Boubou Cisse, 41, was tasked with forming a "broad government" to stem the bloodshed in the country. Cisse does not belong to any political party and served as the country's finance minister for three years under the previous government.

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Page last modified: 06-09-2021 11:50:59 ZULU