Mali Conflict at Heart of Sahel’s Instability: Furthering EU’s Peace-Making and Development Strategy

Written by | Monday, March 19th, 2018

Despite significant international efforts, the Central African region of the Sahel remains to be on a trajectory towards more violence and instability. As a commentary entitled ‘The Sahel: Mali’s Crumbling Peace Process and the Spreading Jihadist Threat’ published by International Crisis Group (ICG), a leading think-tank, argues, jihadists, armed groups and entrenched criminal networks keep on expanding and threatening the stability of the already fragile states.

Across the whole Central African region, citizens are increasingly disenchanted with their governments. Therefore, the international players active in the region need to review their strategies to address the underlying problem: the Sahel’s governments’ long-term neglect of their states. Importantly, the international community should act to prevent the collapse of the peace process of Mali’s ongoing conflict.

Mali’s long-running crisis is at heart of the region’s instability. It is spilling over into Burkina Faso and spreading to Niger and Senegal. Despite the Bamako peace agreement of June 2015, its implementation is lagging behind and the deal’s collapse is very likely. Malian authorities are not confident about the peace agreement that was signed under international pressure. The deal does not do much to tackle the violent war economy in which prominent businessmen depend on small private armies to protect trafficking routes.

To address the crisis, the EU should support better coordination between the military and civilian parts of the conflict. Re-establishing markets and securing cross-border trade routes should be a priority of the EU’s Lake Chad Inclusive Economic and Social Recovery Program (RESILAC). The EU should also engage civil societies and raise awareness about women’s role including in post-conflict reconstruction and peace-building. They should develop and support programs to support women’s recruitment in local police forces and deploy them in the camps for internally displaced people.

On top of these efforts, the EU should urge for a shift in international development strategies with the focus on helping the states provide services to the population including justice and security as well as on economic infrastructure. The EU and its member states should pay more attention to public services and ensure that the EU’s capacity-building mission cooperates with authorities at both central and regional level.

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