Essay Example on Malian conflict. The Sahel region.

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Democracy , Civil War

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Politics , War

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The Sahel region spreads from west to eastern Africa and comprises ten countries. It extends from northern Senegal to the tip of the northern parts of Ethiopia. This vast swath of land which is hardly in the news for good has suffered a series of struggles over the years, including famine conflicts, ethno, religious crises etc. These challenges which are interconnected in some ways have led to the instability of the region for many years. Mali a major country in the belt of the Sahel is witnessing a conflict that has raged on for many years. After years of stable democracy, the military coup of 2012 happened and left a power vacuum. This plunged the country into a long term conflict that has evaded all forms of resolutions. In 2017 the conflict in Mali is still ongoing despite numerous attempts to strike a peace deal prompting the Malian conflict to be described as the deadliest of the 16 UN's global peacekeeping operations Aljazeera 2017; The focus of this paper is to examine the ongoing conflict in Mali how it affects the neighboring areas and other countries in the Sahel region and proffer solutions that will bring peace and stability to the region. This is especially imperative as the conflict in Mali has evaded all forms of peaceful accords and seems to be spreading across the entire region. The genesis of the contemporary Mali conflict can be traced back to 2012 when a military coup overthrew the democratically elected government of Mali which was headed by then-President Amadou Toumane Toure.

The armed conflict which is classified as a non-international armed conflict in which one or more non-State armed groups are involved is spreading to other countries in the region ICRC 2017. Before the coup in 2012, Mali had labored with years of political turmoil. There had been previous rebellions in 1963, 1990 and 2006 respectively. In July of 2009 a peace agreement was signed which seemed to restate the demands of the National Pact Badale Isvoranu 2013; The Malian government has always struggled with development and poverty. The aftermath of the 2012 coup saw armed rebellious groups take hold of the country's north, thereby throwing the country into further chaos. The north of Mali a desert area undeveloped and neglected for years had over time become a breeding ground for religious Islamist extremists.

 These radicals who have often fomented unrest in the country's checkered troubled history reignited hostilities immediately after the military coup. Major extremist groups were created from existing ones after the destabilization of the country's democracy and thus began the 2012 Malian conflict. In spite of obvious progress over the years like peace treaties, ceasefire agreements and even a democratic election supported by international organizations some of the militant groups still control parts of the country in the north and the conflict is far from over.


 The belligerent groups have gone into an alliance with each other broken the agreement and now fight for territory in northern Mali while other groups have expanded outside the Sahel region. Among the agitations of the fundamentalist groups like the others in neighboring states are aspirations to establish Islamic Sharia law, free the people of Mali from French or western colonial heritage and other revolutionary goals. Their actions include destroying age-old monuments and other things that are considered to be relics of Mali's colonial past. The audacious strengthening of the militant groups in Mali has created a safe haven for religious extremism and terrorism to spread to other parts of the Sahel region as well as becoming a central transit point for young migrants from all over western. Africa looking to travel to Algeria or Libya with the ultimate plan to reach Europe Council on Foreign Relations 2017; The conflict has assumed both humanitarian and security dimensions as the militant groups have found a way to make money from human trafficking to fund their vicious operations. Currently, the situation in Mali has not improved. Schools remain closed and the number of internally displaced people is increasing. Armed groups are still in control of parts of the country and gruesome armed attacks have not shown any signs of abating as peacekeepers and soldiers continue to be killed. More than 135 000 Malians remained as refugees in neighboring countries because of the conflict. Amnesty International 2017 Actors Analysis and Relationship Mapping 1 1 Malian Government Actors.

The genesis of the modern Malian conflict that began in 2012 has its origins in 2012 coupled by a US-trained soldier Captain Amadou Sanogo Stewart 2013. After Mali's erstwhile President Amadou Toure had been deposed in the coup the interim government formed saw Dioncounda Traore emerge as the temporary president. However, due to his past connections with the deposed president, he was widely regarded as a stooge and failed to win the trust of the people. He was forced out of the office a few months after the coup and fled to France where he appealed for military support Prior to the 2012 military interference in Mali's government. Toure who had ruled Mali since 2002 had been accused of marginalising the northern part of Mali a factor which greatly contributed to his ouster. Dioncounda Traore did not fare better. As a matter of fact, his struggle to unite the fighting forces during his short time in government before his flight to France was short-lived. The power void created in the aftermath of both leader's expulsion further emboldened the militant groups in their quests to fulfill their extremist agendas. 1 2 Non-State Armed Groups. The key players in the Malian conflict are numerous and diverse a factor which makes the conflict even more complex. Unlike neighboring states in the region where armed conflicts are limited to between the state and one-armed group, for instance, Nigeria v Boko Haram, the situation in Mali has proven to be much more problematic with the number of actors.

There are both international and national actors involved in the crises. While the armed groups are mostly national a few of them have formed alliances with international armed groups or splintered over the years to form new groups. The nonstate armed actors consist of five main Islamist groups. The Ansar Dine Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa MUJAO al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb AQIM, the Signed in Blood Battalion and the Islamic Movement for Azawad IMA, and the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad MNLA BBC News 2013.

While the objectives of the armed groups vary, their modus operandi ideologies and qualities are strikingly similar. The Ansar Dine led by former Tuareg rebel leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, for example, is domestic and aims for the imposition of Sharia law in the country. Heavily complicit in the 2012 Malian coup the group controls areas around the west and south of Timbuktu and members of the group pride themselves as defenders of the faith. The Ansar Dine group is considered to be the strongest militant force operating in Mali today Badale Isvoranu 2013. On the contrary, the AQIM which is the north African wing of al Qaeda and has its origins from the 1990 Algerian civil war aims to put in place a worldwide Islamic indoctrination and free Mali from all forms of colonial legacies. Based in Algeria its main objective is to overthrow and replace the democratic Algerian government with an Islamic one while also extending its operations to neighboring Mali.

The Ansar Dine and AQIM have formed financial and strategic alliances in the past unleashing mayhem and kidnapping foreign citizens for ransom. The MNLA created in 2011 a little later than AQIM was formed as a result of a coalition between the National Movement of Azawad MNA and the Tuareg Movement in northern Mali MTNM. A composition of Tuareg youths defectors from the Malian army and Libyan trained soldiers the group is driven mostly by gains and its major goal is winning rights for the Tuareg minorities in Mali. Secular in nature members of the MNLA who mostly fought for Gadaffi during the Libyan crises also seeks to establish a country called Azawad MUJAO is a fragmented group of AQIM. Unlike AQIM which seeks to limit its agenda to the Maghreb and Sahel region Mujao's brazen objective is to propagate jihad in the whole of West Africa. The group held sway and caused a lot of terror until the interference of French military forces in 2013 forced the members out of their controlled area of northeast Mali. The IMA describes itself as championing the struggles of the people of northern Mali, who have allegedly been marginalized by different governments since Mali gained independence in 1960. The armed group also led by an Algerian is a strong ally of Ansar Dine and Mujao OECD 2013. Most of the armed groups involved in the Malian conflict are deeply rooted in Islamic fundamentalism.

A noteworthy similarity is that all the militant group members have at one time or the other been involved in conflicts in other countries and are led by former or current warlords. However many cases of infighting and insubordination within the groups have led to splinter groups thereby increasing the number of rebel groups. One might see this as a sign of the weakening of the groups. However, fighters who defect from a group join other groups bringing with them inside intelligence stolen from their previous groups. While some of these groups have limited their roles to regional areas others like the MUJAO have extended their deadly actions nationally and internationally by forming alliances with other radical Islamist groups. Of recent, some of the groups like the MNLA and Ansar Dine have agreed to broker peace and accept mediation endeavors Hostilities have resumed as all peace agreements have been broken. 1 3 Foreign Actors. There has been an overwhelming response to the activities of Islamic rebel groups in Mali Pertinent to this is the resolve to permanently stem the tide of Islamic fundamentalism in Africa before it snowballs into another Daesh. There are more international pro-government forces responding to the conflict.

This is as a result of the incapability of the Malian army the only national pro-government actor to bring a cessation to the actions of the rebels The national army apart from lacking in the much needed military intelligence has had to deal with series of mutiny which has left it weak and demotivated. The Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS an organization of fifteen West African countries together with France have deployed troops since the beginning of the conflict to quell the operations of the rebel groups. The EU has also played a part in the conflict ECOWAS which has Mali as a member had been at the forefront of resolving the crises through mediation Led by Nigeria, the fifteen-member body was deeply concerned about the spillover of the crises into other countries in the region. Nonetheless, the eventual deployment of troops from ECOWAS did not stop the impunity Human rights abuses continued and killings and suicide bombing increased. France became an actor after a series of kidnappings of French nationals became rampant especially in Mali's major cities. Backed by the EU France's approach to the Mali conflict was primarily to bring it to an international level mustering regional and international support for the government in Bamako while providing logistical financial and advisory support Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies 2013.

 Unlike France, the US was reluctant to get involved in the conflict. Nevertheless, as the conflict grew in intensity the US became concerned about the spread of Islamic extremism in the region and how it could become a base for international terrorism. Sequel to that growing concern a drone base was set up in the nearby Niger Republic to monitor the situation and contribute to the efforts of French and ECOWAS troops. Another major player in the conflict is Algeria Worried that the conflict might spill across borders into its territory the Algerian government has shown reluctance in providing military backing to the foreign mediation in Mali. It has, on the other hand, deployed soldiers to protect its borders. Another major source of worry for the Algerian government is the MNLA's agitation for a sovereign state. It fears that if MNLA's requests are considered it could act as a spur for its own nomadic inhabitants. Mapping of Issues Mali has always been an important country in Africa. Asides boasting of ancient cultural wealth its alliance with world powers and strategic location has made it a crucial partner in the war against international terrorism. The major concern of international actors is that the continuous destabilization of Mali could lead to major security and humanitarian challenges. The Sahel is a region already besought with conflicts consists of countries with very fragile democracies.

A legitimate concern is a region becoming the hotbed of international terrorism. There are fears that if the situation in Mali is not quickly and effectively handled, international terrorist groups like ISIS Islamic State of Iraq and Syria may take advantage of the instability to establish terror cells in Mali and indeed the region. Besides the activities of the extremist groups operating in Mali are causing humanitarian debacles of serious proportions. Human and drug trafficking have assumed dangerous dimensions due to the break down of law and order in Mali Migrants from the west and central Africa are being trafficked daily through porous borders on their way to Europe. Some of these migrants are kidnapped for ransom while the unlucky ones are killed and disposed of. This remains a point of interest for European states whose major concern include putting a stop to the migrant crises that hovers over European countries. Some of the extremist groups in Mali are fighting for independence from Mali's government in Bamako. Mali and other countries in the Sahel are concerned that granting independence to minority ethnic groups would open the floodgates of secession in the region. Positions and Interests Indeed France and other European states are concerned about maintaining access to much needed raw materials as well stemming the tide of terrorism and preventing a spillover into European states. However, France has exhibited partial role in the conflict insisting that it is merely assisting ECOWAS troops. European states hope to root the current exodus of migrants traveling through these regions toward Europe via its ancient desert trading routes. It has been suggested that France's early military intervention was largely related to unexploited natural resources as most of its current. Uranium comes from neighboring Niger Muiderman 2016. The Dutch government has also shown support to bringing lasting stability to Mali.

The Dutch foreign ministry said in a statement that the fragile international security situation means that the Netherlands will continue to take its responsibility AP News 2017. Options and Roadmap Planning Bringing peace back to Mali would involve various steps. The diverse mix of ethnicities in Mali remains one of the key factors in the conflict. The poverty that endures in this part of the world has been another major challenge in resolving the conflict. The political situation in Mali needs to be resolved. A democratic government-backed by transparent international bodies must be put in place to bring the country back on track on economic recovery. International bodies like the UN have to establish sustainable plans to rebuild all infrastructures in the conflict-ridden parts of the country. Access to food and potable water should be set up for citizens and displaced people. Most importantly education which has been the bane of development should be given utmost priority. Conclusion. The conflict in Mali has all the potentials to transform the country into another Somalia. The Sahel countries boast of a considerable population of which there would be critical humanitarian crises if the displacement of the population is allowed to continue. A long-lasting peace deal between the armed groups and government must be worked upon to put an end to the conflict in Mali Failure to achieve this might, portend grave dangers to countries in the Sahel region and West Africa. The spread of Islamic fundamentalism in Africa will eventually be an ill wind that blows no one no good. Ensuring transparent governance that will be accountable to the people is one of the criteria for peace in the troubled region. A balanced government that is able to solve Mali s security and humanitarian problems will bring relative stability to the region and thereby deter young African migrants from embarking on perilous journeys across the desert.

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