Mali: Reform or Relapse
Dakar/Brussels | 10 Jan. 2014
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta’s current legitimacy and a strong international presence gives Mali a unique opportunity to engage in serious reforms and inclusive dialogue. However, the window for change is narrow and dangerous political habits are resurfacing.
In its latest report, Mali: Reform or Relapse, the International Crisis Group examines the situation in Mali a year after the beginning of the French intervention. Following France’s “Opération Serval” and the election of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, territorial integrity and constitutional order are now restored.
However, the north remains a hotbed of persistent intercommunal tensions and localised violence that could jeopardise efforts made so far to stabilise the country. It is time for the government to act beyond wishful thinking, avoid repeating past, unfulfilled promises of change, implement meaningful governance reforms and launch a truly inclusive dialogue on the future of Mali.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
- The focus on the north should not overshadow the need to lay better foundations for the state as a whole. It is important not to miss the unique opportunity of implementing an ambitious reform on governance and economic development, supported by a well-coordinated international response.
- While the June 2013 preliminary Ouagadougou agreement process is stalled, the government is rekindling clientelist links with Tuareg and Arab leaders. This policy is likely to bring short-term stability at the expense of long-term cohesion and inclusiveness, vital for peace and development in the troubled north.
- All parties must respect the provisions of the Ouagadougou agreement. The government must show more flexibility and understand that the process of national conferences is not an alternative to truly inclusive talks with all communities, including the armed groups. The latter must accept disarmament and the full return of the Malian administration in Kidal, as well as clarify their political claims.
- The UN Security Council and troop-contributing countries should increase without delay the human and logistic resources, especially airborne capacity, of the UN Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The mission should strengthen its presence and activities to support restoration of state authority in the north fully to fulfil its responsibility to protect civilians, while preserving the neutrality necessary to facilitate negotiations .
“Expectations for President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta run very high”, says Jean-Hervé Jezequel, West Africa Senior Analyst. “It is time for his government to act rather than simply engage in wishful thinking. An easy mistake would be to maintain, in the short term, the current clientelist system that brought former regimes to a standstill”.
“The country’s new leadership and international partners agree that meaningful reforms are required to break with the past”, says Rinaldo Depagne, West Africa Project Director. “Many believe, however, that these reforms are too early, too soon for a state still reeling from the crisis. But it is important not to miss the opportunity of implementing an ambitious reform on governance; at the very least, bad habits of the past should not resurface”.