Winning the Peace in Mali: Long-term Approaches Needed
It is important that the transatlantic community shift its attention away from short-term military intervention toward achieving long-term stability. This requires both sides of the Atlantic to view adversities in Mali not as a national but as a regional conflict. They must focus their attention on strengthening the Malian military, establishing socio-economic programs, supporting the electoral process, and encouraging dialogue with all ethnicities.
In early January 2013, the rebels in northern Mali took up fighting again. The situation escalated because of the threat of rebels passing the demarcation line and crossing into the South. France intervened quickly and first stopped the rebels moving toward the South. Shortly afterwards, French troops went on the offensive. The regional organization the Economic Community of West African States accelerated the deployment of its troops and other countries, including Germany, stepped in with logistical support. All major cities in the North were quickly retaken by French and Malian troops. This, however, was only a first step in the long-term stabilization of Northern Mali and indeed of all of Mali.
The current crisis in Mali is neither new nor are its causes and implications limited to Mali. While it is often referred to as the "Sahel conflict," the countries of the Maghreb, and especially the key player, Algeria, have to be taken into account. For a comprehensive analysis, the term "Central Sahara" is more geographically and politically precise. This is not merely a rhetorical problem, but impacts current policy: The European Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel neglects the important role of Algeria as well as the growing linkage between Northern and Western Africa.
Successful strategies for stabilizing Mali and the Central Sahara require the inclusion of southern Mali, with Malian actors in the driver's seat and the international community in the passenger's seat. Furthermore, the regional character of the conflict needs to be taken into account.
- Reinforcing the Capacities of the Malian Military
The European Union's military mission for the training of the Malian military (EUTM Mali) is necessary to restore its capacity. Furthermore, training and advice on international humanitarian law as well as on the protection of civilian and human rights is planned.
While this mission is well intended, it is falling short in terms of its time frame (15 months) as well as its objectives. Military support for the Malian army should ultimately include the creation of a specialized Malian anti-terrorist unit that is capable of intervening rapidly when needed. This will require long-term support, which could be provided by the European Union as well as the United States, notably through Africa Command (Africom).
- Creating Economic Perspectives — for All of Mali
The Coup d'Etat in 2012 and the public support it received at the beginning demonstrated the lack of appreciation for democratic institutions and processes as well as disappointment about the absence of economic and social progress. Democratic progress, however, requires a minimum of economic and social progress to be sustainable. The much-debated political, economic and social development of Northern Mali can only be successful in stabilizing all of Mali, if southern Mali is included. Development programs, which in the past focused solely on the North, have not generated the expected results, and rather contributed to a growing divide between the North and the South.
- Fostering an Inclusive Dialogue
None of the demands of the Tuareg rebels has the support of any section of the population — neither in the South nor in the North. As the rebels represent only a small radical minority, which cannot claim to speak for the Tuareg, a political dialogue has to include representatives from all ethnicities.
- Supporting the Electoral Process
The Malian parliament's adoption of the "Road Map" to return to the constitutional order by preparing elections in 2013 was welcomed by the European Union, which declared its support for the electoral process. For presidential and parliamentary elections to be successful, careful preparation is required. Otherwise, the electoral roll, which has not yet been presented, could be contested, thereby reducing acceptance of the result and possibly triggering yet another political crisis. Priority has to be given to a thorough preparatory process. The international community can support this process in many ways — financially, with consultations and with campaigns to increase turnout.
- Fostering Regional Cooperation between North and West Africa
For many years, regional cooperation between Northern and Western African states has been developed, however, much of it on paper only. The international community should foster real regional dialogue and cooperation because the problem in Northern Mali is a regional one and can only be successfully solved by regional approaches.
Success in Mali and the Sahel region will depend on the implementation of a strategy that overcomes the social, economic, and political hurdles that impede security and stability in the region. The transatlantic community must develop a foundation that allows the Malian military to ensure stability in the region and a democratic structure that maintains fair elections. In addition, socio-economic reform is needed to prevent the development of new conflicts. The accomplishment of these goals will not only require the transatlantic community, but also cooperation among northern and western African countries.
Annette Lohmann is the director of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Mali.
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