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Mali’s Stabilisation Project: Political, Security and Humanitarian Assessments
Comprehensive Information on Complex Issues

June 2013 Foard Copeland Desk Officer foard.copeland@cimicweb.org

This report traces the political, security and humanitarian situation in Mali since the 2012 coup d’état that unseated the country’s democratic government and resulted in months of insurgent violence. It examines the fluid dynamic of major armed groups and the ongoing political process aimed at stabilising the country, achieving national reconciliation and re-establishing Mali’s territorial integrity. Finally, it summarises the humanitarian situation by outlining the work of civil society to address food insecurity, development priorities and population displacement. Related information is available at www.cimicweb.org. Hyperlinks to source material are highlighted in blue and underlined in the text.

Introduction In March 2012, disaffected soldiers overthrew Mali’s democratically elected government in a mutiny that upended the country’s military structure and disrupted civilian rule. Following the coup d’état, military leaders lost control of northern Mali’s expansive territory to an affiliation of armed Islamists groups and Tuareg separatists that staked claims on a new Azawad state. Within a matter of months, extremists introduced a campaign to occupy the country’s ungoverned spaces and impose strict interpretations of sharia law. A swarm of local and international groups, most of them armed, flooded into the power vacuum, introducing various political, religious and social objectives. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) opened a dialogue with stakeholders in March 2012 to initiate a political settlement. Dioncounda Traoré was installed as interim president in April 2012. By August 2012, an interim government was established in Bamako with support from ECOWAS and the United Nations. In December 2012, the UN Security Council (UNSC) authorised the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA). On 11 January 2013, France launched Operation Serval, an international intervention, with the goal of eliminating the growing insurgency in northern Mali. Tensions in the region escalated as troops deployed from nearly a dozen West African countries including Chad, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, among others. Between January and March 2013, militants abandoned strategic towns such as Timbuktu and retreated to key fortifications, according to Reuters. Intermittent battles in the north, especially in the rugged Adrar des Ifoghas region, continued as insurgent groups vied with French, Malian and other international security forces. By April 2013, the insurgency was largely Source: University of Texas contained. Foreign troops, including the large French and Chadian contingents, began to withdraw from the country. Simultaneously, an Africanled peacekeeping operation also started its transition to a United Nations peacekeeping operation. Additionally, a donor conference in May 2013 raised USD 4 billion and outlined development goals supporting political efforts designed to reintroduce democratic governance and strengthen Malian state institutions. Finally, the humanitarian situation remains critical for millions of residents. Thousands face food insecurity as farms and cattle are ravaged by on-going violence,
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Mali: Political, Security and Humanitarian Assessments

according to Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). Poverty rates, as high as 44 per cent in 2010, continued to climb as fighting disrupted business, trade, and even education for many youth, according to the World Bank. In the past year, displaced populations moved into neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger. To date, over 300,000 refugees fled the country and 175,000 are internally displaced. Country Background Mali, a landlocked country of 1.2 million square kilometres, is home to a heterogeneous population of 16 million. Notable for its arid Saharan and Sahel 1 climates, over ninety per cent of the population is Muslim, most of whom are Sunni and practice local Sufi traditions. Ethnic diversity is a trademark. Approximately eighty per cent of Malians identify as Mande (fifty per cent) Peul (seventeen per cent) or Voltaic (twelve per cent). Songhai, Tuareg and Moorish populations constitute another sixteen per cent, with a small percentage of Arab and other groups. Over two million people reside in the capital Bamako, defined largely by the Niger River, which is as wide as one kilometre and irrigates much of the city. Southern Mali benefits from a milder climate and higher agricultural output than the north. It also serves as the country’s de facto political centre due to its access to the capital. Key northern cities include Gao and Kidal, as well as the ancient city of Timbuktu. After Soudan Francais (French Sudan) gained independence from the French Republic in 1960, military rule persisted until 1992 when democratic elections ushered in President Alpha Oumar Konaré. Since that time, Mali was often touted as a democratic success story, regularly holding local, presidential and legislative elections for nearly two decades. However, the country was marred by widespread corruption, rampant trafficking, and low levels of economic development. General Amadou Toumani Touré (commonly referred to as ATT) was elected president in 2002. The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) notes that although Touré was initially popular, he was unable to stymy high-level corruption in the central government. He was re-elected in 2007 only to be overthrown by the military in early 2012. The conditions that left Mali ripe for a coup and which resulted in the collapse of central government in the north, further outlined below, include: a history of Tuareg nationalism (calls for an Azawad homeland); the rise of Islamism; a proliferation of weapons and fighters from Libya; endemic high-level government corruption; and chronic underdevelopment. Military Coup, Tuareg Rebellion The military coup took place on 22 March 2012 when soldiers, led by Captain Amadou Sanogo, swept into Bamako, forcing then-President Touré to flee the country, according to the Washington Post. Sanogo suspended the constitution and the international community quickly imposed sanctions or suspended aid packages. Northern Mali, always loosely governed, collapsed into a protracted battle between radical Islamists and ethno-political minorities. After the coup, ECOWAS brokered an emergency accord that saw the instalment of Traoré as interim president. Traoré welcomed the French intervention and promised to uphold the constitution. However, governing from Bamako, the influence of his administration has been limited to the country’s south, a recurring problem that weakens the authority of the central government.

Source: BBC

Small numbers of Tuaregs, particularly in the Sahelian north, sought to establish an independent Tuareg homeland for decades. Dissident Tuareg activities preceded the mutiny led by Sanogo. The military coup then provided an opportunity for ethnic Tuaregs to capitalise on long-standing grievances with the Malian government in Bamako and assert autonomous demands for statehood. The disintegration of Moammar Gaddafi’s Libyan dictatorship also complicated the
The Sahara is the world’s largest desert measuring 9.1 million square kilometres. It covers ten per cent of the African continent and re ceives between 0 and 25 mm of rainfall per year. Nearly all of its two million inhabitants are nomads who make a living from herding and trade. The Sahel constitutes a narrow ecological band south of the Sahara desert marked by low average rainfall and an arid climate. It spans Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad (sometimes Ethiopia and Somalia are also characterised as having Sahel climates). The majority of the population subsists on livestock herding and small-scale agriculture.
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political and security climate, flooding the region with weapons and combatants. A coterie of Tuareg fighters and militant Islamists, many of them emerging from Libya’s civil war, converged on northern Mali. Certain Tuareg fighters held the goal of establishing an Azawad state while other rebels, many of them non-Tuaregs, maintained an Islamist agenda that sought to impose sharia law across the Sahel. Some fighters found resonance with both aims. The outcome left various militias asserting control over different regions of Mali’s ungoverned northern territory. Conflict dynamics were fluid and allegiances between rebel groups fluctuated with time. Nevertheless, several battles in key cities quickly eroded the Malian state as the military retreated, local government collapsed and Azawad flags were raised throughout the north. On 17 January 2012, Malian security forces in Kidal were attacked by militants fleeing Libya. By early February, militants overran the sparsely populated but strategic region of Kidal, instigating the first large-scale population displacements were underway. The toppling of Kidal was followed shortly by the fall of Gao. With a population of 90,000, Gao was one of the largest and most heavily fortified cities in the north. By 01 April 2012, rebels controlled Timbuktu, a historically rich centre of commerce and culture, and the last major stronghold before Bamako. Overview of Militant Groups Operating in Mali Ansar Dine Ansar Dine (“Defenders of the Faith”) is a home-grown Tuareg insurgency headed by Iyad Ag Ghaly (known by close peers as the “lion of the desert”). Described as a “godfather” figure who enjoys a cult following, Ghaly was radicalised by Pakistani Salafists that arrived in Mali during the mid-2000s. He also travelled to Pakistan and served as an envoy to Saudi Arabia before being expelled from Jeddah because of his jihadist links. He established his militia in late 2011, but had long antagonised the central government and its predominantly southern leadership. Many Ansar Dine members are seasoned veterans from the Libyan civil war, including Ghaly who served as a mercenary for Gaddafi. Ansar Dine goals incorporate streaks of Tuareg nationalism and a hardline imposition of sharia law. In the summer of 2012, its members destroyed UNESCO World Heritage sites and other cultural property in and around Timbuktu. Ansar Dine entered an official alliance with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in late 2011 which strengthened both groups. The AQIM connection provided Ansar Dine fighters with weapons and cash reserves, and Ansar Dine, with its deep-rooted network in the Sahel, legitimised the Arab fighters transplanted from al Qaeda’s global netwo rk. Djallil Lounnas, an expert on insurgencies in North Africa, said that Ansar Dine was central to grassroots support for AQIM in Mali and the Sahel. According to Lounnas, “AQIM had not managed over a period of ten years to recruit a lot of people from the local population…Getting the support from Ansar Dine was the key for them”. By 02 April 2012, Foreign Affairs notes that Ansar Dine established sharia law in the most prominent cities in northern Mali – Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal. MNLA The Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) is a Tuareg group led by Bilal al Chérif. It espouses the chief goal of establishing an independent state for Tuaregs. The group is secular and claims to support the West in its rejection of terrorist organisations. Despite its primary objective of achieving Tuareg independence, the MNLA represented heterogeneous groups whose secondary goals were not always in harmony with one another. After the March 2012 coup, the group quickly asserted control over the north, taking the towns of Gao and Kidal before proclaiming the establishment of the Azawad state. However, the group’s relative decentralisation, coupled with limited funds, hindered its ability to expel radical jihadists from the country’s north. After losing major territorial claims to Islamists, and short on funds, it declared an end to military operations and announced support of the French intervention. In May 2012, MNLA and Ansar Dine declared the two groups had entered a pact. Previously, MNLA resisted Ansar Dine’s Islamism, instead adopting a secular agenda. It gave support to Ansar Dine only after the latter group abandoned some of its hardline Islamist, particularly Salafist, demands. Similarly, Ansar Dine rejected the MNLA goal of a secular Azawad state and insisted on establishing its version of sharia law. MNLA was discredited by some journalists in 2013 due in part to financial constraints and its decision to end military operations in April 2012. However, as Al Jazeera notes, the group’s primary goal of Tuareg autonomy remains unaddressed in a political process. MNLA still enjoys support for its autonomous goals domestically and abroad. It currently occupies the Kidal region with relative impunity. When French and Chadian forces began to withdraw forces in mid-2013, MNLA took over the tasks of administering Kidal. On 13 May 2013, the Malian army deployed troops to the area to take control of the region. Reuters reported the town is “under an awkward joint occupation” by MNLA and French troops on 19 May. MNLA appears to maintain its secular position, with the chief goal of establishing a Tuareg state in the north, or at least carving out space for Tuaregs to participate in Mali’s political sphere. Additionally, its support abroad is notable. Traoré’s twitter account denounce d the group, but French President François Hollande commended them for fighting alongside French and Malian troops. Since April 2013, MNLA has refused to disarm. The Traoré administration said it is open to negotiations with MNLA, but only if the group first disarms. Chief negotiator
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for MNLA, Mahamadou Djeri Maiga, rejected the precondition, saying, “Have you ever seen a group disarm before negotiations take place?”. AQIM Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is a Salafi-jihadist organisation led by Abdelmalek Droukdel (also known as Abu Mus’ab ‘Abd al-Wadud). Its roots can be traced to the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC2), armed militias that resisted the secular Algerian government in the 1990s. According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), both groups strengthened ties with al Qaeda operatives in the early 2000s as their campaigns became increasingly irrelevant in Algeria. A 2006 announcement by Ayman al-Zawihiri, a top leader for al Qaeda, made the offers of allegiance official. As the CFR explains, “The merger, and the new moniker underscoring the ‘Islamic Maghreb,’ symbolised the group’s efforts to move beyond the Algerian conflict and focus on jihadist aspirations in the broader region”. AQIM senior leadership comprised mostly of Arabs, many of whom trained in Afghanistan during the Soviet war. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) notes that most, if not all, of the senior leaders are Algerian-born. The mujahidin transplants, although not often popular with Tuaregs and other ethnic groups indigenous to the Sahara, proved formidable opponents for the under-equipped Malian army. Nevertheless, prior to 2011, the insurgency struggled to gain widespread support across Mali and the Sahel, a region whose inhabitants traditionally practice moderate forms of Islam. By early 2012, AQIM lent support to Ansar Dine, primarily in the form of fighters and finances. In return, Ansar Dine, the Tuareg militia whose leaders maintain roots with communities across Mali and the Sahel, lent AQIM legitimacy with local populations that it had previously been unable to win over. As the loose coalition of Tuareg fighters moved across northern Mali, AQIM coopted elements of the insurgency, providing funds, weapons and guidance to various factions before eventually emerging as one of the strongest armed cells in the region. By April 2012, AQIM or its proxies were believed to control Timbuktu. According to Source: PolGeonow the AP, senior leaders like Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who masterminded the attacks against the Algerian In Amenas gas plant in January 2013, carried out military and kidnapping operations throughout the Sahara “under the orders of al Qaeda central”. US Africa Command General Carter Ham and former UN envoy Robert Fowler, attest to the continental goals of the insurgency and its ability to operate across much of the Sahara and North Africa, providing funds and directives to groups like al Shabaab in Somalia and Boko Haram in Nigeria. To date, AQIM has suffered dramatic setbacks from Operation Serval but still poses dynamic, if latent, threats. Documents dubbed AQIM’s “Sahara Playbook”, uncovered by the AP in February 2013, revealed schisms in the group over how quickly to implement sharia law and how best to manipulate local populations. Droukdel, believed to be the primary author of the documents, rightly predicted that territorial gains by AQIM might incite a foreign intervention. The manifesto3 provides clear instructions for group members in the event of a foreign operation, and asserts that insurgents will flee into the desert with intentions to return. The document details “foreign policies” and encourages group members to attract local allies, “adopt moderate rhetoric”, and integrate qualified individuals into the broader insurgent network.

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The group is known commonly cited by its French name and acronym: Groupe Salafiste pour la Predication et le Combat (GSPC). The manifesto was published by the AP and remains invaluable open source document researchers, analysts and policymakers.

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MUJAO The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) splintered from AQIM in 2011, led by militants disenfranchised by a perceived lack of recognition from the larger al Qaeda apparatus. Initially the group carried out its campaign in Algeria, where the majority of its attacks took place until April 2012. In general, MUJAO fighters lack the training and sophistication of AQIM jihadists. Its goals and objectives are incoherent, but its treatment of both Western forces and Malian residents has been marked by brutality. Similar to Ansar Dine, the group shares strong ties with AQIM. Its fighters hail from Morocco, Mauritania, and Western Sahara and comprise a range of ethnic groups. Songhais represent the majority of the militia and interact with locals in an effort to brand MUJAO members as black, southern Malians. After taking the city of Gao and surrounding territory, which emerged as their stronghold, the group implemented an intolerant form of sharia law to include flogging, amputating and enslaving many residents. Local citizens were quick to support Western efforts that routed the much-despised militia after the French intervention. The group was largely defeated by January 2013. However, Foreign Policy (FP) suggested in March 2013 that MUJAO might pose a greater security challenge than AQIM in the coming months and years. According to FP, “It is Mujao that may prove to be the most durable and destructive group going forward. Amply funded and guided by a subversive mix of ideology and illicit economic interests, Mujao has come to embody one of the most disquieting truths about militant Islam here”. Andrew Lebovich, a researcher and Sahel expert, supports the claim that MUJAO could entrench itself as a long-time counterinsurgency. With speculated ties to illicit cocaine, he suggests the group uses jihadism as a cover for its drug trade. Current Status of Governance and Security Political Roadmap and July 2013 Elections In January 2013, the Malian government released a roadmap for political stabilisation. The document was adopted unanimously by the National Assembly. On 14 February, it agreed to hold presidential and legislative elections and complete the transition process by 31 July 2013. The two major objectives of the roadmap are elections and the reestablishment of territorial integrity across the entire Malian state. Members of the interim government are ineligible to run for office. President Traoré has repeatedly stated the country will be prepared to host elections in July 2013. On 19 April, he reassured representatives from the African Union (AU), European Union (EU) and ECOWAS that a presidential vote is planned for 07 July with legislative elections to follow on 21 July. On 14 May, he amended the presidential election date to 28 July, days before the 31 July deadline for transition. UN special envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, warned that elections were “difficult, but possible”. Despite the cautious optimism, critics point to several factors likely to prevent credible elections from taking place in July: nearly half a million Malians remain displaced, security conditions are tenuous and state institutions lack the infrastructure to organise polls. Additionally, July is a crucial agricultural month for Mali, and voter turnout could be affected by flooding and impassable roads. In late 2012, a four-party working group, the Support and Follow-up Group (SFG), was established between the UN, AU, ECOWAS and EU to coordinate details associated with the roadmap. In addition to monitoring developments and coordinating interagency efforts aimed at achieving political goals, the SFG undertakes a range of activities to motivate government administrators to return to local offices, re-establish basic services such as health centres and schools, and build public confidence in the police, gendarmerie and judiciary. Additionally, the government established a Dialogue and Reconciliation Commission (DRC) in March 2013. Former ambassador Mohamed Salia Sokona chairs the thirtymember commission that “seek[s] reconciliation between all the Malian communities through dialogue”. The group will address long-held grievances between northern and southern Malians. It will also monitor human rights in the country, assess various social movements, attempt to include former combatants in social and political dialogue, and propose programmes that assist victims of war. The DRC was welcomed by the AU and praised by the UN for appointing a woman, Traoré Umou Touré and a Tuareg, Meti Ag Mohamed, as its two vice-presidents. The two individuals represent particularly vulnerable groups. In the wake of the coup, women have experienced sexual violence and Tuareg minorities have been victims of reprisal attacks by other ethnic groups who blame them for the March rebellion. MINUSMA The UN also established the UN Office in Mali (UNOM) to support the AFISMA operation and assist the long-term political transition outlined by UN Security Council Resolution 2085. On 01 July 2013, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) will subsume both AFISMA and UNOM. MINUSMA will be the third largest UN Peacekeeping Operation (PKO) currently deployed, comprising 11,200 military troops and 1,440 police. The robust MINUSMA mandate charges the mission with: i) stabilising the Malian state; ii) opening a national political dialogue; iii) holding elections; iv) protecting civilians; v) promoting human rights; vi) supporting humanitarian assistance; vii) protecting cultural heritage; and viii) upholding justice. Additionally, a French contingent of 1,000
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troops will remain in the country with the authority to rapidly deploy on counterinsurgency missions if MINUSMA personnel come under “imminent and serious threat”. The parallel unit is modelled after French troops that remained in Cote d’Ivoire after a UN PKO was deployed to the country in 2011. On 17 May, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Albert Gerard (Bert) Koenders of the Netherlands as head of MINUSMA. A West African expert, Koenders has led the UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire since 2011. Additional preparations for the deployment are underway, with many of the AFISMA troops expecting to transfer into the MINUSMA operation. However, US officials already expressed concerns about their capabilities. According to the New York Times, a high-ranking official from the Department of Defense told US lawmakers that 6,000 AFISMA troops expected to be the core of the new mission are “completely inc apable”. Soldiers from Niger, Senegal and Togo currently operate in Gao and troops from Burkina Faso are in Timbuktu. Meanwhile, risk consultant groups like Global Observatory warn against protracted military operations that undermine long-term counterinsurgency goals by inflicting civilian casualties and disenfranchising indigenous populations. Reprisal attacks and Ethnicity Despite breakaway movements in the north, the vast majority of Mali’s Tuaregs do not seek independence from the state. So-called “republican Tuaregs” are often torn between national and ethnic identities, and many who are loyal to the state now face retaliatory violence. Most Tuaregs are light-skinned, making them easily identifiable in contrast to the darker-skinned populations in the south and other dominant ethnic groups in the country. In the 1990s, ethnic Tuaregs who participated in separatist movements were targeted by the Malian army in reprisal attacks. Many Tuaregs fear they will be similarly blamed for the 2012 rebellion regardless of their involvement. Security concerns have led moderate Wahhabis4 to shave their beards and repress various religious practices. Arab, Peul and other minority ethnic groups are also potential targets, reports Al Jazeera. The Malian army has already been accused of carrying out retaliatory attacks against civilians in what appear to be wellSource: Internal Displacement Monitoring Group documented incidents of callous violence. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) announced a “serious escalation of retaliatory violence” by government soldiers against minority ethnic groups in March 2013. Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a scathing report in February 2013 that accused government soldiers of carrying out “torture, summary executions, and enforced disappearances”. The situation is complicated by well-intentioned government efforts, such as a telephone hotline where neighbours and citizen watch groups can report suspected insurgents, according to IRIN. Unfortunately, in many instances the hotline was used to implicate local citizens based solely on ethnicity. HRW called on the Malian government to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of the reported assaults. To date, President Traoré has said human rights abuses were committed only by foreigners, principally AQIM-affiliated terrorists, and suggested that claims of extrajudicial attacks were not carried out by Malian security forces, but were “imaginary”, informs RFI. The issue remains a major task for MINUSMA in order to prevent reprisal attacks and provide a public space for republican Tuaregs, and other ethnic minority groups, to participate in Malian political life, according to New Republic.

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In Mali, Wahhabism is distinct from the more widely understood practice of Saudi-style Wahhabism. Therefore, what most Malians understand as “Wahhabism” is a practice that is more socially and politically liberal than Saudi counterpart. Traditional Islam in Mali, so metimes referred to as “conservative Islam”, does not advocate narrow interpretations of sharia law. It is often confused in Western media for Saudi-style Wahhabism, a practice that has grown in popularity in the previous two decades, but by no means represents a sect practiced by the majority of the Malian population today. In February 2013, Foreign Affairs summarised the relative temperance of Mali’s religious majority stating, “[Saudi-style] Wahhabism has been on the rise, but the population has long practiced a more moderate form of Islam”. Indeed, the radical influence of “ reformist” Islam has concerned moderate Muslims in Mali since at least 2001. These reformist efforts are often funded by Saudis or conservative Pakistani Salafists, as was the case with Ansar Dine in the north and the radicalisation of its leader Ansar al Ghaly. However, fundamentalist Wahhabism remains unpopular with most Muslims in Mali.

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International Support International donors pledged USD 4.2 billion for peacebuilding and stabilisation programmes in Mali on 15 May at a much-anticipated diplomatic conference in Brussels. The dollar amount far exceeds the USD 2.5 billion the Malian government hoped it would raise. The donor conference was hosted jointly by the EU and France and attended by Malian officials and dignitaries from more than a dozen countries. President Traoré told the AP, “This conference was a total success”. The biggest donors included the EU, France and the United Kingdom, which pledged USD 675 million, USD 363 million and USD 195 million, respectively. Additionally, Germany and the United States are expected to commit USD 128 million and USD 180 million in 2014. At the conference, Malian officials talked extensively about the need for roads, schools and long-term investment. Although funding details were not immediately released, projects will likely focus on infrastructure, agriculture and reconciliation efforts, as well as those that target the country’s ethnic minorities. Humanitarian Situation The emergency response to the humanitarian crisis that unfolded in 2012 was largely under-funded, based on figures compiled by the UN Financial Tracking Service. According to the UN, the conflict affected several million people; 747,000 required immediate food assistance and over 1.3 million were at risk of food insecurity. The situation has improved, but remains volatile, particularly in the Gao and Kidal regions, according to a March 2103 report from the Secretary-General. In May 2013, just sixty per cent of Gao’s population had access to a clean water supply, raising concerns about the possibility of a cholera outbreak. Oxfam, an international humanitarian and development organisation, announced in May 2013 that the humanitarian response remained under-financed and that food security would escalate from a “crisis” to an “emergency” by July 2013 if food and nutrition levels were not improved. Currently, one in five households lacks adequate food and the UN has received less than thirty per cent of its requested USD 410 million for the 2013 fiscal year. The EU estimates 4.2 million Malians are at risk of hunger and 585,000 require immediate assistance. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported key sectors that were overlooked included public health and water and sanitation (WASH), where only 51 per cent and 57 per cent of pledges were met, respectively. Only six per cent of education appeals were funded in 2012, but this was likely due to the inability of students to attend school. A shortage of teachers in the north, many of whom fled, shut down schools for 700,000 students. Additionally, armed groups actively recruited children, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “From the north, we have heard horrifying reports of human rights violations, recruitment of children and rising sexual violence”, said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for OCHA. Although millions remain at risk, especially in Mali’s north, the humanitarian situation has stabilised in recent months. In February 2013, World Food Programme (WFP) opened a new land route from Niamey, Niger, increasing the volume of its food assistance delivery. Prior to February, it had operated land and river operations to deliver humanitarian supplies, but its reach was largely limited to Timbuktu and the surrounding areas. Many groups pulled out of northern Mali, but several international organisations operated in insurgent-controlled zones during 2012 and 2013.5 Each NGO negotiated with all parties, in some cases at a village-by-village level, to ensure it had humanitarian access to populations when such access was denied to UN and government officials. According to some non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the French-led intervention hampered emergency humanitarian efforts because local authority structures were disrupted. NGOs in Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal are still endangered when cooperating with government entities because of threats from armed militants and are instead attempting to coordinate with traditional authorities. Outside of these three regions, gaining access is less of a challenge. In 2012, WFP provided over one million people with assistance during a devastating drought. In 2013, it plans to coordinate with 15 partners6 to deliver aid to at least 500,000 Malians. As Operation Serval drew to a close, international organisations announced that banditry and criminality were on the rise just as avenues for aid delivery were expanding. According to IRIN, “Banditry includes attacks on vehicles up and down the Niger river valley and along certain routes, such as the main road from Gao to Kidal. Threats also include improvised explosive devices and mines in parts of Gao. Illicit trafficking in cigarettes, drugs and other contraband are likely to pick up again”. Difficulties to deliver assistance could place populations at risk and destabilise the political process.
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According to IRIN, these included: Médecins sans Frontières/Doctors Without Border (MSF), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Médecins du Monde (MDM), Action Against Hunger (ACF), and Solidarité International. 6 CARE, Africare, Handicap International, Islamic Relief, Solidarités International, Action Contre la Faim, OXFAM, Norwegian Church Aid, Médecins du Monde, ACTED, CSPEEDA, ADR, REACH, World Vision and AMRAD.

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Food Security Food prices have spiked in pastoral regions of northern Mali, according to BBC. The search for food has caused as much as eighty per cent of the adult population in places like Gao to reduce food intake in order to feed children. In the Bourem region of Gao, basic foodstuffs are sold at seventy per cent above their typical cost; sorghum, millet and corn were completely unavailable in March 2013. Southern portions of Mali remain relatively stable according to USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), a service that monitors food security indicators and publishes warnings when populations are at risk of famine. However, pastoral popSource: Oxfam ulations in the north will face increasing risk of a protracted food crisis between May and September 2013. According to an April FEWS NET report, “The limited livelihoods of poor households in northern rice-growing and agropastoral areas, compounded by food prices, rules out any improvement in the food security situation, particularly with these households becoming increasingly dependent on local markets”. Timbuktu will likely be spared from a crisis, although it remains “stressed”. Kidal and Gao are likely to experience a lean season and face a crisis in the coming months, according to the April forecast. Displacement Displacement, alongside food insecurity, remains one of the gravest components of the humanitarian crisis. The UN estimates 475,000 people have been displaced since January 2012, of whom 300,000 are internally displaced persons (IDPs). Another 175,000 Malians fled to Burkina Faso, Mauritania or Niger.7 The northern regions are the most severely affected. OCHA points out that populations have not returned due to factors such as the destruction of infrastructure, an absence of government officials (many of whom fled during the violence), and an inability to access services such as markets and health clinics. Many pastoralist refugees fled with their herds, complicating their return. The displacement of pastoralists endangers populations throughout Sahel countries by contributing to resource disputes and disrupting transhumance corridors.8 The fragility in Mali threatens regional neighbours as distressed populations compete for limited resources. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted that in 2013, 10.3 million people in the Sahel could face food shortages and 1.4 million children might suffer malnutrition. On 12 May, the UN announced that 800,000 people will require food assistance in Niger where prices are spiking due to an influx of 50,000 refugees from Mali. In March 2013, Mauritanian refugee camps were relocated further from the border to improve security. Additionally, health practitioners in camps throughout the region are planning for potential cholera outbreaks as the rainy season approaches. Neighbours have been supportive to date, but as resources become more strained, the ability to address displaced populations could escalate political tensions or result in skirmishes between roving militant groups. The Way Forward Security issues remain a primary obstacle. Analysts from the CRS voiced concerns over the capability of the Malian military to maintain the territorial integrity of the state after the withdrawal of French forces. An often overlooked, but crucial issue, is reform of both law enforcement and the gendarmerie. MINUSMA will provide security assistance, but its mandate does not allow for counterinsurgency operations and its force size of 12,600 will face difficulties in both training local police officers and patrolling the country’s vast northern regions. The EU Training Mission (EUTM) took over training responsibilities in January 2013, but the EU says the process is rushed. Troops receive instruction for 10 weeks, rather than the typical 27 weeks, in order to return a military presence to the north. BBC reports that social cohesion among military ranks is weak, a dilemma US advisors struggled to overcome before the March 2012 coup. EU trainers note the army includes a diverse range of ages and ethnic groups that have not always aligned in the past. Additionally, current funds will only graduate 2,800 soldiers and do not cover the cost to equip the army, which lost much of its kit to rebels. The New York Times indicates that Islamist militant groups reconnoitred in lawless southern Libya, and it is not clear how the Malian army will patrol the expansive north – or repel attacks should militants continue an insur7 8

As of May 2013, Mauritania hosts 75,000; Burkina Faso and Niger each host 50,000. Transhumance refers to the seasonal migration of people and their herds. Throughout much of the Sahel it often transpires without regards to international borders.

June 2013

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Mali: Political, Security and Humanitarian Assessments

gency along the countries’ shared border. Security assistance will be necessary in the coming years; however, it should constitute one element of a robust, multi-sector response. Stabilising the humanitarian situation and achieving political benchmarks is crucial to returning the country to normalcy. Although security gains were made in February that improved access to the country, a lean season threatens to slide into a food crisis between May and September 2013. The situation is more acute in the north due to poor livestock demand, limited market access, and reduced purchasing power. Food insecurity could deter refugees and IDPs from repatriating. Infrastructure, especially roads and transportation corridors, are insufficient throughout the country and especially poor in the north. Additionally, national unification will take time but is necessary to prevent militant groups from regaining territory in the future. Ethnicity has been politicised in the past. To this end, political and civil society leaders at federal and grassroots levels can benefit from capitalising on Mali’s heterogeneity and history of religious tolerance. National elections in July can initiate this process, but international assistance and Malian-led reforms should provide long-term stability in the form of transparent and accountable government institutions. As outlined in the country’s transitional roadmap, goals for national development should include effective anti-corruption mechanisms, broad political inclusion strategies, and plans for sustainable economic growth. Incorporating newly repatriated residents into a stable social and economic fabric will pose a challenge for long-term development but an opportunity for millions. As Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament summarised, “The success of Mali will also be a success for the whole Sahel, Africa and Europe”.

June 2013

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