Assessing the Algiers Accord at the 5-Year Mark: Background Resources and a Quick Comment

Mali is now five years into the implementation of the Algiers Accord of 2015, the latest in a series of peace agreements between central Malian governments and rebel factions in the north. The text of the Accord can be found, in French, here.

For readings on the long-term historical background of those agreements, I recommend this 2017 paper from the International Peace Institute and this 2015 paper from RAND. Another major report (French), released in June 2019, comes from a Malian civil society coalition (thanks to Anna Schmauder). And for the most recent (April 2020) report of the Independent Observer, the Carter Center, see here. And, last but not least, the Center for Strategic and International Studies called in April of this year for a new accord – an idea with both merits and flaws, given that the present accord clearly fails to address some of the conflict’s worst aspects (above all, the situation in central Mali) but also given the likely overwhelming difficulties that would confront any effort to renegotiate the Accord or to scrap it and start over.

Most recently, this Q+A with Mathieu Pellerin of International Crisis Group gives a great overview of where things stand. One excerpt:

The parties have not carried out the substantive political and institutional reforms defined in Section II of the agreement (the first section lays out the agreement’s general principles), starting with regionalisation. So far, the measures have been temporary or too limited to make any real impact on the ground. It took months of negotiation between the signatories and international partners of the Peace Agreement Monitoring Committee (Comité de suivi de l’accord, CSA) to appoint interim authorities in the northern regions, and with few tangible results. Three years on, these authorities have insufficient financial and human resources, and lack the training, to manage the regions effectively. The two new regions (Ménaka and Taoudenit) created in northern Mali, based on commitments made by President Amadou Toumani Touré in 2011, also lack resources. Voters in these regions could not choose deputies in the April 2020 legislative elections because the electoral districts had not yet been delineated.

The only part of Pellerin’s comments that raised an eyebrow for me was where he blamed the slow implementation on “lack of will” among the signatories – I’ve become a bit allergic to that phrase because I think it functions as a placeholder for real analysis rather than constituting an analysis in and of itself. To his credit, Pellerin did not stop there, but went on to say

Apart from the lack of will, the Malian state and the CMA are also keen to preserve the status quo: the CMA enjoys considerable de facto autonomy in its areas of influence in northern Mali, while many of its members have paid employment in the bodies set up by the agreements, such as the CSA and the interim authorities. In parallel, this state of affairs allows the Malian state to delay implementation of the 2015 agreement’s more sensitive provisions, particularly those implying constitutional reform. In August 2017, pressure from the public – mobilised in part against the agreement’s implementation – forced the government to postpone a draft constitutional referendum. By maintaining the status quo, the government prevents social unrest while still honouring its commitment to the international community to continue implementing the agreement.

I agree with this line of argument more – although the idea of “prevent[ing] social unrest” has perhaps already been overtaken by events a bit, given the mass protests against the president in Bamako. I have also viewed the government’s decision to hold the legislative elections in March/April of this year as part of the government’s plan to make another attempt at that constitutional referendum, although I think the June 5 protest movement gives the president a preview of the pushback he would face if he attempted the referendum again in the short or medium term (the provisions creating a Senate and giving the president power to appoint a substantial share of its members would, I think, play poorly in the current environment). In any case, the idea that key players in Mali have an interest in maintaining the status quo is something I wrote about here.

Other write-ups on the 5-year mark of the Algiers Accord can be found at DW (French), and in a provocative commentary at Le Carréfour (French) arguing that Mali has already de facto been partitioned into two states:

If certain people pose the question of whether Mali will lose Kidal, they are mistaken. Mali has already lost Kidal, for it has become a state in its own right.

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