Showing posts tagged as "mali"

Showing posts tagged mali

21 Jan
Desert Gives Al-Qaida Refuge After Mali Defeat | Paisely Dodds, Jamey Keaten, and Aomar Ouali
Swathed in a white turban and robes, Eissa Abdel Majid sits in his militia barracks on the edge of the desert describing a losing battle to stem the flow of armed militants with suspected links to al-Qaida - who use it as a freeway across northern Africa.
He says he’s fed up with trying to guard borders and oil installations in a power vacuum left by the fall of Moammar Gadhafi: “They are getting weapons and building their strength,” he says, “because the government is weak.”
In the rocky mountains and dune-covered wastes of southwestern Libya, al-Qaida’s North African branch has established a haven after French and West African forces drove them out of their fledgling Islamic state in northern Mali a year ago. Now, according to interviews with local soldiers, residents, officials and Western diplomats, it is restocking weapons and mining disaffected minorities for new recruits as it prepares to relaunch attacks. It’s an al-Qaida pattern seen around the world, in hot spots such as Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and increasingly here in North Africa: seemingly defeated, the terror network only retreats to remote areas, regroups and eventually bounces back — pointing to the extreme difficulties involved in stamping out the threat.
FULL ARTICLE (Associated Press)
Photo: Magharebia/flickr

Desert Gives Al-Qaida Refuge After Mali Defeat | Paisely Dodds, Jamey Keaten, and Aomar Ouali

Swathed in a white turban and robes, Eissa Abdel Majid sits in his militia barracks on the edge of the desert describing a losing battle to stem the flow of armed militants with suspected links to al-Qaida - who use it as a freeway across northern Africa.

He says he’s fed up with trying to guard borders and oil installations in a power vacuum left by the fall of Moammar Gadhafi: “They are getting weapons and building their strength,” he says, “because the government is weak.”

In the rocky mountains and dune-covered wastes of southwestern Libya, al-Qaida’s North African branch has established a haven after French and West African forces drove them out of their fledgling Islamic state in northern Mali a year ago. Now, according to interviews with local soldiers, residents, officials and Western diplomats, it is restocking weapons and mining disaffected minorities for new recruits as it prepares to relaunch attacks. It’s an al-Qaida pattern seen around the world, in hot spots such as Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and increasingly here in North Africa: seemingly defeated, the terror network only retreats to remote areas, regroups and eventually bounces back — pointing to the extreme difficulties involved in stamping out the threat.

FULL ARTICLE (Associated Press)

Photo: Magharebia/flickr

15 Jan
Restive North Languishes in Post-war Mali | Bryant Harris
A year after Mali’s civil war came to an end, experts here are increasingly concerned that the country risks an eventual return to violence, particularly as Malian authorities continue to marginalise the restive north while neglecting to pursue meaningful political and economic reforms. 
Indeed, a lack of equitable opportunity across Mali has caused northern Tuareg separatists to cite political and economic marginalisation as their reason for rebelling in the first place. The Tuaregs have contested Mali’s north since the 1990s, launching four separate rebellions, finally succeeding due to arms obtained from the Libyan Civil War against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
“There have been promises made for increased development and local autonomy, but the Malian government strategy is simply to buy off the leader of the rebellion.” — J. Peter Pham
In 2012, Al Qaeda-linked groups took advantage of the insurgency and a military coup to establish control over the area, though Malian authorities were eventually able to expel the Islamist militants with the aid of French intervention. This led to a June 2013 ceasefire accord known as the Ouagadougou agreement, which allowed the government to station soldiers in the north and paved the way for democratic elections last summer.
Yet today, analysts suggest the Tauregs feel that the Malian government has not lived up to its past promises.
FULL ARTICLE (Inter Press Service)
Photo: Mission de l’ONU au Mali - UN Mission in Mali/flickr

Restive North Languishes in Post-war Mali | Bryant Harris

A year after Mali’s civil war came to an end, experts here are increasingly concerned that the country risks an eventual return to violence, particularly as Malian authorities continue to marginalise the restive north while neglecting to pursue meaningful political and economic reforms. 

Indeed, a lack of equitable opportunity across Mali has caused northern Tuareg separatists to cite political and economic marginalisation as their reason for rebelling in the first place. The Tuaregs have contested Mali’s north since the 1990s, launching four separate rebellions, finally succeeding due to arms obtained from the Libyan Civil War against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

“There have been promises made for increased development and local autonomy, but the Malian government strategy is simply to buy off the leader of the rebellion.” — J. Peter Pham

In 2012, Al Qaeda-linked groups took advantage of the insurgency and a military coup to establish control over the area, though Malian authorities were eventually able to expel the Islamist militants with the aid of French intervention. This led to a June 2013 ceasefire accord known as the Ouagadougou agreement, which allowed the government to station soldiers in the north and paved the way for democratic elections last summer.

Yet today, analysts suggest the Tauregs feel that the Malian government has not lived up to its past promises.

FULL ARTICLE (Inter Press Service)

Photo: Mission de l’ONU au Mali - UN Mission in Mali/flickr

10 Jan
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”.
READ THE FULL REPORT

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”.

READ THE FULL REPORT

30 Oct
Mali : fallait-il déjà crier victoire ? | Jonathan Prentice et Jean-Hervé Jezequel
Le 19 septembre dernier, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK) était investi président du Mali en présence de nombreux chefs d’État qui avaient fait le déplacement pour marquer l’évènement. Il soufflait comme un vent d’espoir et de renouveau lors de la cérémonie. Les autorités maliennes et leurs partenaires avaient de bonnes raisons de se montrer optimistes. En janvier, une intervention militaire française a, semble-t-il, délogé la majeure partie des jihadistes qui occupaient la moitié nord du pays depuis presque un an. Un accord de paix préliminaire a été signé le 18 juin à Ouagadougou, une vaste mission de paix de l’ONU a commencé à se déployer en  juillet et, en août, les élections présidentielles se sont déroulées dans le calme et ont consacré la victoire sans appel d’IBK. Ce redressement est en soi remarquable. Quelques mois auparavant, le pays semblait sur le point de s’écrouler. Il était confronté  à une insurrection touarègue sur laquelle se greffaient des groupes armés islamistes puis tombait victime d’un coup d’État venu facilement à bout d’un régime gangrené par la mauvaise gouvernance.
Lire tout l’article (Jeune Afrique)
Photo: Mission de l’ONU au Mali - UN Mission in Mali/Flickr

Mali : fallait-il déjà crier victoire ? | Jonathan Prentice et Jean-Hervé Jezequel

Le 19 septembre dernier, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK) était investi président du Mali en présence de nombreux chefs d’État qui avaient fait le déplacement pour marquer l’évènement. Il soufflait comme un vent d’espoir et de renouveau lors de la cérémonie. Les autorités maliennes et leurs partenaires avaient de bonnes raisons de se montrer optimistes. En janvier, une intervention militaire française a, semble-t-il, délogé la majeure partie des jihadistes qui occupaient la moitié nord du pays depuis presque un an. Un accord de paix préliminaire a été signé le 18 juin à Ouagadougou, une vaste mission de paix de l’ONU a commencé à se déployer en  juillet et, en août, les élections présidentielles se sont déroulées dans le calme et ont consacré la victoire sans appel d’IBK. Ce redressement est en soi remarquable. Quelques mois auparavant, le pays semblait sur le point de s’écrouler. Il était confronté  à une insurrection touarègue sur laquelle se greffaient des groupes armés islamistes puis tombait victime d’un coup d’État venu facilement à bout d’un régime gangrené par la mauvaise gouvernance.

Lire tout l’article (Jeune Afrique)

Photo: Mission de l’ONU au Mali - UN Mission in Mali/Flickr

11 Oct

Turkey’s Kurdish fears, Mali’s unwon war, Guinea’s elections…what we’ve been up to this week.

7 Oct
The War in Mali Is Not Yet Won | By Jonathan Prentice and Jean-Hervé Jezequel (@jhjezequel)
On 19 September, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (known to all as IBK) was sworn in as Mali’s new president in front of numerous heads of state and government. The ceremony took place in a spirit of renewed confidence. The new Malian authorities and their partners had reasons to be optimistic. In January, a quick, effective French military intervention seemingly routed the jihadists who had occupied the northern half of the country for almost a year. A preliminary peace deal – the Ouagadougou Agreement – is in place since June; so is, on paper, a major UN peace mission that started its deployment in July. IBK’s overwhelming victory in peaceful August polls was remarkable. Just a few months before, his country looked on the verge of imploding: wracked by a coup, by weak government, by Tuareg unrest in the vast north, and by a rising Islamist militancy.
Not so fast. French president François Hollande, who attended the inauguration of President Keita, stated “we have won this war”. But recent events have shaken this optimism: on 26 September, three prominent armed groups announced that they suspended their participation in the peace talks; a deadly suicide attack hit Timbuktu; repeated fighting between Tuareg armed groups and Malian army occurred in Kidal; and rounds of gunfire were exchanged in Kati, the stronghold of the former junta and just a few miles away from the presidential palace. President Keita reacted strongly by disarming disgruntled soldiers and retaking control of the barracks in Kati. He also condemned the groups that were not respecting the Ouagadougou Agreement. On 5 October, the Mouvement national de liberation de l’Azawad (MNLA) announced that it had resumed its participation to the peace talks. According to the Associated Press, MNLA vice president Mahamadou Djeri Maiga said the decision was made because “otherwise we were headed towards chaos”.
Indeed, this war is not won and Mali’s challenges remain legion. Failing to address them systematically risks undoing the good work done to date in addressing the immediate security crisis. This in turn will pose dangers not just for Mali’s stability but for the stability of the entire Sahel.
Mali faces four immediate hurdles: conducting inclusive peace and reconciliation talks; preparing for successful legislative elections scheduled for late November, preferably having learnt from the shortcomings of the presidential poll; reforming the security sector; and strengthening the government’s capacity to serve its people.
Addressing each of these challenges is hugely complex. Will Mali’s future be one with a strong central government or a more federal structure? Will Mali’s future be one in which all its many diverse people see themselves adequately represented? These questions require the government to organize an inclusive process of national consultations whose preliminary calendar was announced a month ago.
There is a need to bring armed groups back to the negotiating table — but not at any cost. Talks that are simply between these armed groups and the central government in Bamako, but which exclude civil society, will likely not achieve sustained peace.
In the coming months, some 170,000 Malian refugees in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger need to return home, preferably in time to participate in the legislative elections. Yet security remains fragile, banditry rife, and freedom of movement hugely constrained. The UN is there to help but faces huge challenges in standing up its mission. In a vast country with limited road networks, it has yet to be equipped with helicopters, and its authorised troop levels remain far from met. UN staff on the ground estimate they have until the end of the year to make an impact before the window of goodwill closes. With France intent on winding down its military presence, it’s imperative that the Security Council, having tasked the UN, ensure it is equipped properly.
Justice, too, is an issue. Mali’s history is one of elite self-preservation in which conflicts are ended through ‘national reconciliation’ that does little of the sort and nothing for the victims. The recent fighting has seen crimes committed by all sides. How these will be addressed will be hugely sensitive – Bamako cannot be seen simply to impose justice on the north – but vital if the legacy of impunity is to be ended.
At heart, the challenge for Mali is nothing less than to define what type of state it wants to be. Solutions should eschew a simple binary choice of decentralisation or a strong central government. Neither is likely to work absent a national dialogue in which all of Mali’s diverse population can see itself represented and its views heard. Neither is likely to work if basic services are not provided, security not assured or justice not impartially meted out.
To achieve this, Mali’s leaders need to encourage inclusion. Everyone, including the international community, needs to understand that this is a long-term process that will go well beyond the legislative elections or the eradication of immediate security concerns.
Jonathan Prentice is Crisis Group’s Chief Policy Officer. Jean-Hervé Jezequel is Senior Sahel Analyst.
The African Peacebuilding Agenda

The War in Mali Is Not Yet Won | By Jonathan Prentice and Jean-Hervé Jezequel (@jhjezequel)

On 19 September, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (known to all as IBK) was sworn in as Mali’s new president in front of numerous heads of state and government. The ceremony took place in a spirit of renewed confidence. The new Malian authorities and their partners had reasons to be optimistic. In January, a quick, effective French military intervention seemingly routed the jihadists who had occupied the northern half of the country for almost a year. A preliminary peace deal – the Ouagadougou Agreement – is in place since June; so is, on paper, a major UN peace mission that started its deployment in July. IBK’s overwhelming victory in peaceful August polls was remarkable. Just a few months before, his country looked on the verge of imploding: wracked by a coup, by weak government, by Tuareg unrest in the vast north, and by a rising Islamist militancy.

Not so fast. French president François Hollande, who attended the inauguration of President Keita, stated “we have won this war”. But recent events have shaken this optimism: on 26 September, three prominent armed groups announced that they suspended their participation in the peace talks; a deadly suicide attack hit Timbuktu; repeated fighting between Tuareg armed groups and Malian army occurred in Kidal; and rounds of gunfire were exchanged in Kati, the stronghold of the former junta and just a few miles away from the presidential palace. President Keita reacted strongly by disarming disgruntled soldiers and retaking control of the barracks in Kati. He also condemned the groups that were not respecting the Ouagadougou Agreement. On 5 October, the Mouvement national de liberation de l’Azawad (MNLA) announced that it had resumed its participation to the peace talks. According to the Associated Press, MNLA vice president Mahamadou Djeri Maiga said the decision was made because “otherwise we were headed towards chaos”.

Indeed, this war is not won and Mali’s challenges remain legion. Failing to address them systematically risks undoing the good work done to date in addressing the immediate security crisis. This in turn will pose dangers not just for Mali’s stability but for the stability of the entire Sahel.

Mali faces four immediate hurdles: conducting inclusive peace and reconciliation talks; preparing for successful legislative elections scheduled for late November, preferably having learnt from the shortcomings of the presidential poll; reforming the security sector; and strengthening the government’s capacity to serve its people.

Addressing each of these challenges is hugely complex. Will Mali’s future be one with a strong central government or a more federal structure? Will Mali’s future be one in which all its many diverse people see themselves adequately represented? These questions require the government to organize an inclusive process of national consultations whose preliminary calendar was announced a month ago.

There is a need to bring armed groups back to the negotiating table — but not at any cost. Talks that are simply between these armed groups and the central government in Bamako, but which exclude civil society, will likely not achieve sustained peace.

In the coming months, some 170,000 Malian refugees in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger need to return home, preferably in time to participate in the legislative elections. Yet security remains fragile, banditry rife, and freedom of movement hugely constrained. The UN is there to help but faces huge challenges in standing up its mission. In a vast country with limited road networks, it has yet to be equipped with helicopters, and its authorised troop levels remain far from met. UN staff on the ground estimate they have until the end of the year to make an impact before the window of goodwill closes. With France intent on winding down its military presence, it’s imperative that the Security Council, having tasked the UN, ensure it is equipped properly.

Justice, too, is an issue. Mali’s history is one of elite self-preservation in which conflicts are ended through ‘national reconciliation’ that does little of the sort and nothing for the victims. The recent fighting has seen crimes committed by all sides. How these will be addressed will be hugely sensitive – Bamako cannot be seen simply to impose justice on the north – but vital if the legacy of impunity is to be ended.

At heart, the challenge for Mali is nothing less than to define what type of state it wants to be. Solutions should eschew a simple binary choice of decentralisation or a strong central government. Neither is likely to work absent a national dialogue in which all of Mali’s diverse population can see itself represented and its views heard. Neither is likely to work if basic services are not provided, security not assured or justice not impartially meted out.

To achieve this, Mali’s leaders need to encourage inclusion. Everyone, including the international community, needs to understand that this is a long-term process that will go well beyond the legislative elections or the eradication of immediate security concerns.

Jonathan Prentice is Crisis Group’s Chief Policy Officer. Jean-Hervé Jezequel is Senior Sahel Analyst.

The African Peacebuilding Agenda

13 Sep
“The risk is that [expenditure] on social assistance programmes could increasingly be adjusted depending on security concerns, and it is doubtful that this will be to the benefit of the Nigerien population as a whole.”
irinnews.org

“The risk is that [expenditure] on social assistance programmes could increasingly be adjusted depending on security concerns, and it is doubtful that this will be to the benefit of the Nigerien population as a whole.”

irinnews.org

11 Jul

Gilles Yabi on Mali’s elections in July

ORIGINAL (Youtube)

26 Jun
Managing Mali’s elections: a short delay would pay long-term dividends
Bamako/Dakar/Brussels  
The recent agreement between the government and two rebel Tuareg groups is a positive step, but Mali’s politicians should now consider delaying presidential elections, the first round of which is currently scheduled for 28 July. This would allow authorities adequate time to prepare and ensure that those citizens who wish to vote can do so. The delay should be short – no more than three months – with timelines for outstanding tasks clearly defined. Pressing ahead within the existing timeline could lead to a chaotic and contested vote and a new president without the legitimacy essential for the country’s recovery. International partners should make it clear that setting the democratic bar too low is not a sustainable strategy, but rather one that would risk future instability the country can ill-afford. 
In the last few days, interim President Dioncounda Traoré has received representatives from the main political parties to discuss the “Preliminary Agreement” his government signed last week in Ouagadougou with two principal armed groups in the north, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad and the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (known by their French acronyms MNLA and HCUA). The agreement should allow polls to be held across the country. It envisages the quick re-deployment of the Malian government and its security forces to Kidal, the northern-most region currently controlled by the Tuareg rebels but who have agreed to place their forces in a cantonment. 
Exactly what the party representatives and president agreed during their consultations in Bamako is unclear, but they should now consider a short delay in presidential elections. Setting an ambitious date helped move along the Ouagadougou talks and accelerated steps toward elections. But despite the remarkable efforts of staff in the Ministry of the Territorial Administration – the entity responsible for organising elections – preparations for the vote still lag behind schedule. 
New ID cards have arrived in Bamako, and their delivery across the vast country will start soon, but deadlines are simply too tight for their distribution in all regions ahead of the polls. Experts fear that the majority of the 6.9 million registered voters would not receive their cards in time. They cannot vote without them, which could lead to frustration and possibly violence. Some of those that obtain cards may have moved since they registered and may lack time to request that their names be transferred, before voter lists are finalised. Prefects, the ministry staff overseeing elections in the districts, have barely returned to their offices in much of the north, further complicating preparations. Mali already has a troubled electoral history: in 2002 nearly one ballot out of four was cancelled; in 2007 some 40 per cent of voters did not receive their cards. 
An election at the end of July, therefore, would likely be shambolic, with many eligible citizens protesting inability to cast ballots. The vote’s results would almost certainly be challenged. The leading candidates in the presidential election all believe today that they can win, even if the vote is disorderly – indeed some may feel they would benefit from a low turnout or one in which some regions have significantly higher participation than others. But in the aftermath of a flawed first round, losers would have plenty of ammunition to contest results. Little in Mali’s electoral history suggests the bodies responsible for resolving such disputes would be able to do so in a manner acceptable to all. 
Specifically, a delay of no more than three months would give the Malian authorities time to:
complete the distribution of new ID cards to all registered voters; 
re-deploy all district officers (prefects and sub-prefects) on a permanent basis and give them the necessary resources and time to restore security and prepare for the election;
extend the period for the internally displaced to provide their current location to the administrative committees in charge of establishing the final voter lists; and
complete special electoral lists for refugees in the camps in neighbouring countries and deter potential pressures and threats directed against them.
A short postponement would also give the national electoral commission (CENI), which has expressed reservations on the calendar, the necessary time to closely supervise the electoral process, its legally-mandated role. It would allow media and civil society organisations to better monitor the electoral campaign and preparations for the vote and play a key role in ensuring transparency – through accepted observation both at local voting stations and national tabulation centres – during the sensitive period of collation and publication of results, much as Senegalese civil society did during the 2012 presidential elections. Waiting until after the rainy season, which impedes movements and coincides with heavy farming activities, would also allow more voters in rural areas to cast their ballots. Finally, the Security Council confirmed only last Tuesday, 24 June, the deployment of the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) as of 1 July, and a short postponement would give the mission enough time to:
provide the Malian authorities appropriate logistical and technical assistance and effective security arrangements as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 2100; and 
support the Malian authorities in anticipating sensitive immediate post-electoral challenges, including securing and conveying the polling stations’ official minutes; and deterring, or at least managing, any post-electoral violence.
The roots of Mali’s recent crisis run much deeper than flawed elections. Fixing its democracy, rebuilding its politics and military and reconciling its society will require more than a credible vote. But the presidential election is a vital first step, and it must be a step in the right direction. Mali’s politicians and international partners must do everything possible to prevent the problems of the past from resurfacing. Pressing ahead with the 28 July date would risk an election so technically deficient, and with such a low turnout, that it would fail to bestow sufficient legitimacy on the new president and could feed a new cycle of instability. Better a short delay for technical reasons – no more than what is strictly necessary and certainly no more than three months – that allows authorities to prepare properly and gives more Malians the opportunity to vote.
Read the alert here
Photo: Reuters 

Managing Mali’s elections: a short delay would pay long-term dividends

Bamako/Dakar/Brussels  

The recent agreement between the government and two rebel Tuareg groups is a positive step, but Mali’s politicians should now consider delaying presidential elections, the first round of which is currently scheduled for 28 July. This would allow authorities adequate time to prepare and ensure that those citizens who wish to vote can do so. The delay should be short – no more than three months – with timelines for outstanding tasks clearly defined. Pressing ahead within the existing timeline could lead to a chaotic and contested vote and a new president without the legitimacy essential for the country’s recovery. International partners should make it clear that setting the democratic bar too low is not a sustainable strategy, but rather one that would risk future instability the country can ill-afford. 

In the last few days, interim President Dioncounda Traoré has received representatives from the main political parties to discuss the “Preliminary Agreement” his government signed last week in Ouagadougou with two principal armed groups in the north, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad and the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (known by their French acronyms MNLA and HCUA). The agreement should allow polls to be held across the country. It envisages the quick re-deployment of the Malian government and its security forces to Kidal, the northern-most region currently controlled by the Tuareg rebels but who have agreed to place their forces in a cantonment. 

Exactly what the party representatives and president agreed during their consultations in Bamako is unclear, but they should now consider a short delay in presidential elections. Setting an ambitious date helped move along the Ouagadougou talks and accelerated steps toward elections. But despite the remarkable efforts of staff in the Ministry of the Territorial Administration – the entity responsible for organising elections – preparations for the vote still lag behind schedule. 

New ID cards have arrived in Bamako, and their delivery across the vast country will start soon, but deadlines are simply too tight for their distribution in all regions ahead of the polls. Experts fear that the majority of the 6.9 million registered voters would not receive their cards in time. They cannot vote without them, which could lead to frustration and possibly violence. Some of those that obtain cards may have moved since they registered and may lack time to request that their names be transferred, before voter lists are finalised. Prefects, the ministry staff overseeing elections in the districts, have barely returned to their offices in much of the north, further complicating preparations. Mali already has a troubled electoral history: in 2002 nearly one ballot out of four was cancelled; in 2007 some 40 per cent of voters did not receive their cards. 

An election at the end of July, therefore, would likely be shambolic, with many eligible citizens protesting inability to cast ballots. The vote’s results would almost certainly be challenged. The leading candidates in the presidential election all believe today that they can win, even if the vote is disorderly – indeed some may feel they would benefit from a low turnout or one in which some regions have significantly higher participation than others. But in the aftermath of a flawed first round, losers would have plenty of ammunition to contest results. Little in Mali’s electoral history suggests the bodies responsible for resolving such disputes would be able to do so in a manner acceptable to all. 

Specifically, a delay of no more than three months would give the Malian authorities time to:

  • complete the distribution of new ID cards to all registered voters; 
  • re-deploy all district officers (prefects and sub-prefects) on a permanent basis and give them the necessary resources and time to restore security and prepare for the election;
  • extend the period for the internally displaced to provide their current location to the administrative committees in charge of establishing the final voter lists; and
  • complete special electoral lists for refugees in the camps in neighbouring countries and deter potential pressures and threats directed against them.

A short postponement would also give the national electoral commission (CENI), which has expressed reservations on the calendar, the necessary time to closely supervise the electoral process, its legally-mandated role. It would allow media and civil society organisations to better monitor the electoral campaign and preparations for the vote and play a key role in ensuring transparency – through accepted observation both at local voting stations and national tabulation centres – during the sensitive period of collation and publication of results, much as Senegalese civil society did during the 2012 presidential elections. Waiting until after the rainy season, which impedes movements and coincides with heavy farming activities, would also allow more voters in rural areas to cast their ballots. Finally, the Security Council confirmed only last Tuesday, 24 June, the deployment of the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) as of 1 July, and a short postponement would give the mission enough time to:

  • provide the Malian authorities appropriate logistical and technical assistance and effective security arrangements as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 2100; and 
  • support the Malian authorities in anticipating sensitive immediate post-electoral challenges, including securing and conveying the polling stations’ official minutes; and deterring, or at least managing, any post-electoral violence.

The roots of Mali’s recent crisis run much deeper than flawed elections. Fixing its democracy, rebuilding its politics and military and reconciling its society will require more than a credible vote. But the presidential election is a vital first step, and it must be a step in the right direction. Mali’s politicians and international partners must do everything possible to prevent the problems of the past from resurfacing. Pressing ahead with the 28 July date would risk an election so technically deficient, and with such a low turnout, that it would fail to bestow sufficient legitimacy on the new president and could feed a new cycle of instability. Better a short delay for technical reasons – no more than what is strictly necessary and certainly no more than three months – that allows authorities to prepare properly and gives more Malians the opportunity to vote.

Read the alert here

Photo: Reuters 

1 May
Libya faces growing Islamist threat | The Guardian
By Chris Stephen and Afua Hirsch 
France sent troops to Mali in January after an uprising in the north started by the ethnic Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA), named for the independent state it hopes to create.
The impetus for this uprising came from ethnic Tuareg soldiers who had fought alongside Muammar Gaddafi and fled south when his regime fell. They were later augmented by jihadists from Libya and across north Africa, who triggered international condemnation for their destruction of ancient Sufi Muslim shrines in Timbuktu. The fear across the Maghreb is that the French operation that has pushed them out of the northern cities has inadvertently compounded problems elsewhere in north Africa as jihadist units disperse.
"If you squeeze a balloon in one part, it bulges out in another," said Bill Lawrence, of International Crisis Group, a political consultancy. "There’s no question that the French actions in Mali had the effect of squeezing that balloon towards Algeria and Libya."
FULL ARTICLE
Photo: Ammar Abd Rabbo/Flickr

Libya faces growing Islamist threat | The Guardian

By Chris Stephen and Afua Hirsch 

France sent troops to Mali in January after an uprising in the north started by the ethnic Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA), named for the independent state it hopes to create.

The impetus for this uprising came from ethnic Tuareg soldiers who had fought alongside Muammar Gaddafi and fled south when his regime fell. They were later augmented by jihadists from Libya and across north Africa, who triggered international condemnation for their destruction of ancient Sufi Muslim shrines in Timbuktu. The fear across the Maghreb is that the French operation that has pushed them out of the northern cities has inadvertently compounded problems elsewhere in north Africa as jihadist units disperse.

"If you squeeze a balloon in one part, it bulges out in another," said Bill Lawrence, of International Crisis Group, a political consultancy. "There’s no question that the French actions in Mali had the effect of squeezing that balloon towards Algeria and Libya."

FULL ARTICLE

Photo: Ammar Abd Rabbo/Flickr