You are on page 1of 15

Samme Sheikh Prof.

Lauren Farmer International Relations January 19, 2013 The Challenges Facing Modern Mali: Consequences of Imprecise Democratization, Implicit Neoliberalism, and Inflamed Islamism In a little more than a year, the oddly shaped and oft-forgotten North African country of Mali seems to have climbed high up on the list of international priorities and concerns for many of the world’s powers. Mali’s ethnic rebellion-cum-coup d’état in early 2012 and the ensuing flare-up of factionalism now ravaging the country’s north has been a process that seemed to slowly creep up onto the international stage, to the point where it has now become a dominating issue in world affairs. It was only last week that France saw fit to send its own troops to aid Mali’s beleaguered soldiers, and in that short period of time, an Algerian hostage crisis involving foreign nationals in one of the country’s oil refineries seems to have helped coalesce arguments—from within Mali, France, and the international community— against foreign intervention into a general sentiment of acceptance.1,2 As direct international involvement in Mali becomes a material reality, such actions become symbolic of the Malian crisis’ significance relative to other internationally relevant situations unfolding elsewhere in the world. Placing the crisis in Syria on this plane of relative comparison perhaps can’t be avoided, but problems such as the tensions between the M23 and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the
1 2

"Mali Conflict: France Aiming for 'total Reconquest'" BBC News. BBC, 20 Jan. 2013. Web. 22 Jan. 2013. "France: Hostage Crisis Justifies Mali Action." Al Jazeera English, 17 Jan. 2013. Web. 22 Jan. 2013.

" Al Jazeera English. 30 Dec. . Nor can future solutions be expected from an external bolstering of the status quo. Web. 2012. as the recent intervention and general state of international dialogue would suggest.heightening of ethnic violence in Kenya in the lead-up to elections are just a few issues which exhibit a similar capacity for regional or at least internal instability within Africa.3 However Mali’s current predicament carries roots that. could do little without a concurrent acknowledgement on the part of foreign powers whose self-interested activities in North Africa played an undeniable role in constructing the pressures now facing a vulnerable Mali. Instead. I will argue that the political and social upheaval in Mali cannot be assessed by the classic metrics of failed statehood. 2013. Nazanine. In this essay. which would be aimed at both the social and legal frameworks that perpetuate and strengthen Mali’s ethnic divisions. as Mali’s current condition is not reducible to its ethnic discord. Officially. Mali’s current problems began when the channels of power in Mali’s much touted democratic government altered to take on a decidedly 3 Moshiri. religious fundamentalism or any other internal condition. I will argue that a fruitful and sustainable end to the conflict in Mali can only take place with an acknowledgement and reversal of longstanding governmental negligence in regard to the enduring inequalities entrenched within Mali’s cultural milieu. reveal a complex trajectory through historical circumstance that today grant Mali its distinctive quality among world crises. "Reporter's Notebook: The Rise of M23. when traced backwards through time. Such domestic reforms. 22 Jan.

Those separatist sentiments managed to cohere a mainly secular and nationalistic movement for a perceived reclamation of ethnic territory. stormed the presidential palace in the country’s capital of Bamako and initiated a take-over of power. but after pushing the Malian government from the north. 2012. when the heavy artillery of Libyan rebel made their way into Azawad—the lands of north Mali that have long been home to separatist sentiments.undemocratic character. and has ceded power to the speaker of Mali’s national assembly. The Malian military has since relinquished control of the government in the face of greater territory losses and rebel gains. This confusion has been a facet of the rebellion since it’s beginnings in January. On March 22nd. the two groups formerly . but is more concerned with the imposition of religious rule. military soldiers. However. there has been no positive change in the elected government’s ability to engage with or counteract the gains of the rebel groups—who by the time of the coup’s reversal had claimed all of northern Mali under their confused and fragmented control. This coup served as an expression of the military’s increasing dissatisfaction with the acting administration’s inability lead and equip Malian soldiers in the effort to fend off a coalition comprising of a cohort of Mali’s Tuareg ethnic minority and Islamic militia groups. with a hyper-religious movement that incorporates an element of ethnic self-rule. in the absence of the Malian president. In the Malian crisis of 2012. throughout these different phases of governmental upheaval. The two had been working in tandem since the beginning of 2012 to wrest northern Mali from government control. these discordant elements exploited each other for their shared aims.

This is a basic account of Mali’s recent troubles and in the interest of easily digestible narrative. addresses only the manifest content of the problems facing the country. . The conception of Mali as a disintegrating bastion of North African democracy and or lawless “Afghanistan of Africa” should ideally be dismissed as reckless simplifications of a complex situation. there was little in the way of explaining how the Malian military could rationally hold their government responsible for their own failures in combatting rebels in the north. Bringing these distinctions into sharp relief requires a momentary abandonment of the present and a shifting of attention towards the tangled and divergent histories of all the groups implicated in Mali’s current crisis. 2013. 13 June 2012. Mark. it seems to be the dominant narrative in not only media accounts of the crisis. which resulted in the dominance of Islamist groups. As insufficient as this glimpse of Mali may be. Despite the part in the account implying that the rebels perhaps were not a monolithic entity and that their brief unity ignored an internal conflict between an ethnic nationalism and an opportunistic brand of religious expansion— the narrative’s emphasis on the governmental breakdown makes it easy to gloss over these subtle distinctions. There was also little background on the rebels themselves and their reasons for rebellion. but the international consensus on action in Mali appear to be deriving their decisions from this representation of the conflict. 22 Jan. "Mali: Dangers of Dealing with 'Afghanistan of West Africa'" BBC News. but also serves as the basic framework for the decisions of the international community. Web. 4 Doyle.aligned groups came into conflict.4 In the preceding account. BBC.

22 Dec. 2013. African Governance Institute.This means assessing the history of the modern Malian state. whose rebellion initiated the chain of events that brought Mali to its current state. Web.Africa Governance Institute. Structural Adjustment and Conservation in Western Mali.Africa Governance Institute. Only after independence was won in this region did Mali become a separate entity from this landmass. . Keita’s leftist leanings led the country towards an interventionism that aligned with post-independence sentiments of national solidarity and cohesion. and Tiéman Diarra.6 5 "Mali. Keita’s tenure as president of Mali saw these policies of centralization pushed with the goals of both attaining food sufficiency on a national level and funding national investments with centralized agricultural products. a Nation Still in Search of a State . socializing policies in the administrative. carving out its own leadership and government structures from the remnants of the RDA and the vestiges of former French rule. Building off of the centralism that characterized the French approach to colonial governance. Dolores. JSTOR. 6 Koenig. Web. and—perhaps most importantly—that of the Tuareg people. served as the architect of this process. 2010. and economic realms offered a self-actualizing image of national unity in the wake of colonial rule." Mali. as the first president of the newly independent Malian state. 22 Jan. Mali’s exit from French colonial rule in 1960 came in the form of an orderly petitioning of France’s national assembly by the colony’s democratic movement. political. along with that of the Islamist groups. The most prominent of these movements was known as the African Democratic Rally (RDA) and it incorporated the separatist sentiments of all French West Africa. "The Environmental Effects of Policy Change in the West African Savanna: Resettlement. 2012. Mobido Keita." Journal of Political Ecology 5 (1998): 30-31.5 Like elsewhere in Africa. a Nation Still in Search of a State .

Well-intentioned or not. . Mali’s affairs were now conducted under a pronouncedly authoritarian military. At the time of Keita’s fall from power. "Legitimising State Capitalism: Malian Militarism in Third-World Perspective.7 With Keita deposed and replaced by a lieutenant named Moussa Traoré.However. Miles D. 2012. brought Mali under the control of a military-police state. 20 Dec. state ownership of the nation’s economy was its height. and brought an end to all political activity in the country. In reality." The Journal of Modern African Studies 18. Although Traoré’s coup exploited a cultural moment within Mali characterized by dissatisfaction with the general stagnancy of Keita’s socialist policies. as his government maintained a one-party system that was perhaps seen as maintaining equilibrium in Mali’s pluralistic society. with over 90% of the country’s economic firms and business projects belonging to the state. the relatively benign character of Keita’s one-party government was exploited in 1968 by a military coup that positioned itself against the government’s socialist constraints. President Keita’s socialism came with an authoritarian bent. The pressure for increased efficiency and profit margins were insulated by state ownership and foreign aid from “competitive interventionists” in the east and west were often 7 Wolpin. Upon assuming power Traoré suspended the constitution. the military’s true motivation was self-preservation. as Keita had committed to reject foreign aid directed toward boosting its military and even went to so far as to slash domestic military spending. Web. Traoré accomplished relatively little in the way of directing Mali away from its established centralist doctrine.JSTOR. but ultimately weakened the government and damaged the condition of civic life in Mali.02 (1980): 286-87.

The practices of this class in Malian society subverted the socialist implementation of Mali’s productive forces under Keita. 284 Ibid. p. often in expenditures and investments in foreign markets. This was class that benefitted from Keita’s institutional constraints on private enterprise by appropriating surplus for personal use. and pressured Traoré to maintain the status quo. Structural inefficiencies were not solely to blame for this period of economic distress. Thus Traoré denationalized Mali’s government to a very limited extent.needed to pay for the losses of state owned companies. the siphoning of national funds for personal use by Mali’s bureaucratic elite became so widespread that not 8 9 Ibid. p. the devastating Sahelian drought and bloody civil insurgencies exacerbated the already worsening economic condition in Mali. Traoré’s remained president of Mali for 25 years. and inefficient privatization of the economy. 8 In contrast the economic condition of Mali under Keita. 284-285 . Mali’s national debt began to rapidly increase. These pressures coupled with general lack of interest in the country on the part of foreign investors due to poorly managed Malian enterprises in financially unappealing industries.9 Only in Mali’s recently discovered mineral reserves was there a substantial interest in private investments from abroad. Caught between the destructive forces of a bloated but politically important public sector. Traoré’s initial inclination toward free market economic reform faced opposition from a bureaucratic elite who were at the controlling end Mali’s state apparatus. As Mali grew increasingly reliant on foreign funds in the 70’s and 80’s. and in that time. with the bulk of the process represented in the opening up of the country’s mineral wealth to foreign investment.

10 Wolpin. a lieutenant in Mali’s military. 20 Dec. Miles D. 2012.JSTOR. were accompanied by sweeping governmental reforms. The calls for an end to the one-party system found throughout Africa during this time were realized in Mali during this transition. but also contributed significantly to Mali’s economic malaise. President Konare. . Web.only did the practice now pose an ideological and moral contradiction to the government." The Journal of Modern African Studies 18. By 1991.10 While Mali’s first president pursued a continuation of the centralist policies already institutionalized by Mali’s former colonizers. "Legitimising State Capitalism: Malian Militarism in Third-World Perspective.02 (1980): 282 . the range of issues facing Mali’s citizens came to a saturation point within the society and provoked a cyclical exchange of increasing public demonstrations and government reprisals that finally resulted in Traoré’s ouster. with the formation of an opposition party that produced the country’s next president. and the Traoré presidency sought liberalization only insofar as it did not alter the basic parameters of Mali’s corrupt state bourgeois—the Konare administration represented a substantive break with established modes of governance and finance in the country. the greatest of which being a the re-instating of constitutional governance based on a newly drafted constitution. The election of president Alpha Oumar Konare. to free-speech suppression and arbitrary imprisonment. It was then no surprise that these conditions severely weakened the legitimacy of Traoré’s authority in the eyes of individual Malians suffering from problems ranging from hunger and joblessness. along with many in Mali who had hardened to the contradictions and inefficiencies of the country’s bloated civil service and centralized governance.

In order to become a viable reality.11 Decentralization In Mali was to be instrumental in this flattening of the traditionally vertical structures of government power in order to bring Mali’s citizenry closer to direct representation. African regimes with similar roots in averted socialisms followed different paths to this moment. as Mali’s rising calls for multi-party government and widespread reforms ascended with the tide of democratization and economic liberalization occurring elsewhere in Africa. but the shared characteristic was a decaying in the norms of legitimate authority. the International Monetary Fund had then maintained a strong association between decentralization and good governance. This process of decentralization came about as response to a variety of pressures. One pressure was that of conformity. Thus. the reconstruction and even the new addition of political institutions—both in the central government and in local areas of governance in Mali’s disparate region—required the confidence of the international community for continued and increased aid. Specifically. the process of ceding the inefficient control Mali’s government exerted over 11 Ibid p. From roots long since established in the socialist and populist founding of these states. 284 . There were however.envisioned a future Mali that would gain prosperity from a less centralized government and a deeper integration with the world market. other pressures which led to Mali’s decentralization process that had less to do with comprehensive political change. public conceptions of democracy grew from an accountability of a bureaucratic leadership through the procedure of an established legal framework and gave way to ideas of self-governance and self-determination.

Conflict and Conflict Resolution in the Sahel: The Tuareg Insurgency in Mali.S. One specifically important group to whom these policies of shrinking the potency of central government appeared especially attractive were the Tuareg people of Northern Mali. U. Web. 1998: 8-9.]: Strategic Studies Institute. N.14 Over the years this has led to numerous Tuareg rebellions. Kalifa. U. Army War College. [Carlisle Barracks. Print. 2001. but permeated through the modern borders of North African states.. Thus there existed a definite tendency towards separatism. This continued into Malian independence.S. 1998. Print. and due to the resiliency of Tuareg groups 12 Ceely. Army War College. 2013. the Tuareg’s relationship to centralized power was extremely unstable. even during the time of French rule.]: Strategic Studies Institute. Jennifer." AfricaBib | Search Results.12 The Tuareg comprised an intensely cohesive group with a shared a pre-colonial history and culture that was found not only in Mali. Pa.p. as their societies did not integrate with the sedentary urban Africans in the south of Mali. Historic practices of Tuareg owning black slaves and their lack of sedentary culture solidified the view. "AfricaBib | Search Results. 13 Keita. [Carlisle Barracks. both in the largely black African populace and government.the levels of the public sector was politically attractive on both the domestic and international levels. . Conflict and Conflict Resolution in the Sahel: The Tuareg Insurgency in Mali. 24 Jan. that the Tuareg were both socially and economically and posed an obstacle to national development. as the roving pastoralist culture of the Tuareg’s many tribes rejected efforts towards their incorporation into a solid structure of authority. as African self-rule brought into sharp contrast the animosities underlying the cultural relationship between the Tuareg and their black African neighbors. Kalifa. Sept. 14 Keita.13 During the days of French colonialism. Pa.

the benefits of decentralization were found not only in the increased productivity of the economic sector. or those that are definitively termed “failing”. but it appeared as a nonconfrontational method for peacefully incorporating Tuareg population under the purview of governmental control. The precipitous decline in the stability of Mali’s government and society began in 2012 as the newest iteration of Tuareg discontent with the Malian government’s attempts at reform. There was once a sense of novel fascination in the United States. The role of the United States in Mali’s current crisis is an interesting one and is analogous to its history of noncommittal intervention in Africa. An especially destructive insurrection against against Mali’s government under President Traoré’s regime coincided with Mali’s deepening economic woes and helped contribute to the creation of Mali’s multi-party government under Konaré. or the greater enfranchisement for both the country’s rural and urban population. regarding the mystical swirlings of ideology that characterizes much of the internal crises in the states we know as troublesome. specifically in the United States. and the formation of Islamist elements through international neglect. ranging from instances of . external fomentation. and foreign funding. there exists a less evident complex of international actors. in the space in the relationship between a Malian establishment and Tuareg dissenters. These can be divided into two categories: the long-held policies of western powers. These states tend to exist together on a universal plane of shared iniquities. often came at great cost to the Malian government. However.afforded them by their disparate organization and despite their cohesive culture. For the government of President Konaré.

The United States especially exhibited a marked divergence in its foreign policy during this time. The 90’s saw the United State’s stand with its strategic allies against aggressors in its military support for Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. resource mismanagement. It seemed that the ardor for a stable world order resulting from the aftermath of World War II and enshrined in the supranational bodies created at its wake.blatant power grabs. were—after 50 years of complete reticence or even negligence to these ideals—finally were seeing meaningful expression in the international conduct of world powers. together seemed to signal a long-awaited a triumph of liberal ideals in the modern world. Thus the realist securing of national interests that dominated the foreign policy of the United States and other western powers. turning away from the instigating of self-serving coups in Latin America and the protection of oil interests in the Middle East toward ostensibly more humanitarian endeavors. dishearteningly entrenched ethnic tensions. The fall of the Soviet Union that preceded the decade along with the widespread democratic movements-turned governments in the post-colonial world. central to the ideal positivism of liberal doctrine. and Yugoslavia. especially in the United States. Haiti. gave way to policy and interventions which incorporated a kind magnanimous national character. The notion of a direct linking between national interest and military intervention was greatly countered in this era with the involvement of the US in Somalia. . The 1990’s were a time when these failed states appeared as aberrations amidst an era anointed by a moment of liberal ascendency. and a host of other clear evils that can be found academically itemized in the writings of any international watchdog or humanitarian group.

Whether or not practiced liberal doctrine in this era adhered to the more lofty of its guiding principles and other doubts regarding this space between theory and practice were existent in the 90’s. but were dragged into a critical form of spotlight in the new millennium. led international interventions that shared a liberal impetus and rationale. Though the aforementioned international conflicts are exemplary of liberalism’s hold on international policy decisions and general governance during the 1990’s. during this time of ideological and practical dominance. The inherent humanist tendencies in the core of liberal doctrine. especially in the realm of foreign affairs. Liberal blocs in American government succeeded in presenting policies that were widely accepted as the sensible course for governance. bringing about significant policy changes with economic and social ramifications that palpably reverberated through American society. Both President Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. The intervention in Somalia. initiated by Bush Sr. it was undoubtedly attaining ideological dominance in spite of widening holes in its internal logic. first titled . Nineties liberalism’s encounter with the American public had a constitutive impact on domestic culture. The motives for both involvement in the Gulf War and Bosnia-Serbia crisis were explained in the language of universal gain as opposed to direct national interest along with the general weight of humanist morality. Democrat and Republican administrations in the 90’s alike worked from a shared liberal logic. extended itself through all spheres of life. and then vigorously pursued by Clinton. The humanitarian element of the mission. was perhaps the most inarguably liberal military intervention of the time. both domestically and internationally.

“Operation Restore Hope” was at the core of the whole endeavor. in conjunction with the UN helped assuage the immediate concerns in the region. began from ideologically damaged position. the preamble to the kind millennial liberalism that operates in our world today. Bill Clinton’s presidency. the mission’s outcome dealt a critical blow to liberalism’s ideological dominance in the political and social sphere. and with the absence of serious material implications for the international status quo. Despite an apparent commitment on Clinton’s part to stay the course in Somalia. the strongly held liberal ideals which seemed so inseparable from the market reforms that together underlined much of the United States’ foreign policy agenda. there has instead been a return to the indiscriminating securing of national interests at the expense of stability in many of the worlds regions where . the snags and the complexities of the mission that were encountered on the ground were incommensurable with the established logic of liberalism in America’s political and private spheres. However. which were civilian famine and aid distribution. it served as the first pure test of humanitarian intervention and its place within liberalism. it failed to follow through on aims for reconciliation amongst the nation’s warlords and the restoration of a functioning government. Though the mission. were becoming less and less important. Instead of promoting foreign policy that ultimately assures stability in developing countries as allies. The same absence of direct national interest in the United State’s involvement in Somalia also worked to rapidly bring down to popularity of the mission among citizens when the American death toll reached unexpectedly high numbers. Moving into the new millennium.

US foreign policy has focused it’s attention. but also even later.5 (2009): 977-95. Chad. America’s relationships with Mauritania. correspond to the US interest in maintaining and cultivating a supportive relationship to these regimes that are key players in the world oil trade. it is in Mali’s very character as a minor player squeezed between major international interests that it was able to reach its current level of instability. 15 Zoubir. Yahia H. The crisis of modern Mali occurred in relation to US foreign policy enacted in North Africa since this realist turn early in the decade.15 Though Mali seems tangential in this larger discussion of US policy in North Africa. The significance of North Africa to United States foreign policy comes from two inter-related categories of US strategy concerns: energy security and military security. after the initial US military successes in Afghanistan. Print. Libya. "The United States and Maghreb-Sahel Security. . The emphasis on military security comes from the redirection of America’s military focus and resources in the wake of 9/11." International Affairs85. and Algeria.