Roundup of Some Recent Reports on the Sahel and Nigeria – 13 January 2023

Delina Goxho and Selina Daugalies, “European Aphasia in the Sahel: Stabilising How?” Konrad Adenaur Stiftung, 5 December 2022.

Jonathan Guiffard, “Security Collapse in Mali and Burkina Faso: What Implications? – Anticipating the Crisis Through the Eyes of Jihadists,” Institut Montaigne, 11 January 2023.

Maxime Audinet and Emmanuel Dreyfus, “A Foreign Policy by Proxies? The Two Sides of Russia’s Presence in Mali,” IRSEM, September 2022 (updated January 2023).

Kingsley Madueke, “Driving Destruction: Cattle Rustling and Instability in Nigeria,” Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, 11 January 2023. An excerpt:

This report focuses on Zamfara and Plateau states, where cattle rustling has fuelled large-scale violence and instability over the past decade. The report also explores the concerning southward diffusion of cattle rustling, with an emphasis on Kwara and Oyo states. While some underlying causes of cattle rustling cut across regions, this research highlights that local drivers of cattle rustling and instability are often distinct and therefore require context-specific responses.

Mali and the Ivoirian Soldiers: A Recap

On January 6, Mali’s transitional President Assimi Goita pardoned forty-nine soldiers from Cote d’Ivoire. The soldiers, part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission called MINUSMA, had been arrested in July, after seemingly paranoid (or perhaps opportunistic) Malian authorities dubbed them mercenaries. The pardon ends this particular episode, but lasting damage has been done to MINUSMA and to Mali’s relations with its civilian-led neighbors – all outcomes that Goita and his insular junta appear to welcome, given their domestic political posturing as defenders of Malian sovereignty.

The junta has either welcomed or acceded to the collapse of various international security architectures in Mali, including the withdrawal of France’s Operation Barkhane and the suspension of the European Union Training Mission in Mali. In keeping with this wider trend, the arrest of the Ivoirian soldiers became one accelerant of MINUSMA’s ongoing disintegration – in the months after the arrest, Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire, the United Kingdom, and Germany all announced suspensions or early withdrawals of their contingents. Mali’s detention of the Ivoirian soldiers, in other words, was one among various incidents that reinforced the image of the transitional authorities as capricious and difficult.

Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) negotiated over the soldiers’ fate during the latter half of 2022, but on December 30, a Malian court sentenced forty-six soldiers to twenty years in prison (three female soldiers had been freed in September). ECOWAS had threatened to sanction Mali once more if the other soldiers were not released, but a January 1 deadline passed without action. The visit of Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé to Bamako on January 4 finally broke the deadlock.

With the soldiers back home, there is no clear winner except perhaps for Gnassingbé, who remains one of the Malian junta’s few real friends in West Africa. Gnassingbé has been acting as a mediator between ECOWAS and the Malian authorities (whose conflicts go well beyond the issue of the soldiers), and has forged a closer relationship with the latter than has ECOWAS’ official mediator for Mali, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. Gnassingbé and his longtime foreign minister, Robert Dussey, have taken a very soft approach with the Malian junta. Gnassingbé and Dussey have even been accused of undermining ECOWAS’ sanctions against Mali by engaging the junta in early 2022, and Gnassingbé was a key advocate for the lifting of sanctions in July 2022. Gnassingbé is, for context, no stickler for democratic norms in West Africa, having taken power in a messy, disputed process following his father’s death in 2005. Gnassingbe’s soft approach to Mali has put him at odds with peers such as Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum, as well as with Cote d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara, although few West African leaders can claim a blemish-free record on democracy.

Ivoirian authorities are publicly conciliatory, seeming to want just to move on. Meanwhile, the Malian authorities appear not to have achieved one of their key goals – using the soldiers as “hostages” to trade in exchange for exiled Malian politicians such as former Prime Minister Boubou Cissé or Karim Keïta, son of overthrown (and now late) President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. At the rhetorical level, the Malian authorities took the release of the soldiers as an opportunity to once again lash out at ECOWAS, condemning the past sanctions as “illegal, illegitimate, and inhuman” and averring that Mali “no longer figures on the list of countries that can be intimidated.” The standoff thus ended in a stalemate; as with the struggle between ECOWAS and the junta over an electoral timetable, the junta did eventually give ground, but only after taking pains to show that it defied ECOWAS’ authority.

The Malian authorities have entered 2023 without achieving major leverage through their arrest of the soldiers, but without facing real punishment either. Supposedly, 2023 is a time for the junta and its civilian partners to prepare for the transition in 2024. But the junta’s obstinacy over the detained soldiers is just one indication that more struggles may loom between ECOWAS and Mali as the transition’s expiration date draws near.

Sahel News Roundup, 1/6/23

Burkina Faso

A reported massacre at Nouna (map) claimed at least twenty-eight victims and once again focuses critical attention on the country’s state-aligned vigilantes in the Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland, who have been accused of perpetrating the massacre.

A Catholic priest was assassinated on January 2 at Soroni (map):

Mali

The jihadist group JNIM strikes near Bamako once again:

Jeune Afrique (French) has a deep dive on the Wagner Group’s presence in Mali. the most interesting details to me concerned Wagner personnel and their relations with specific officers in the Malian military, notably Defense Minister Colonel Sadio Camara and Air Force Chief of Staff General Alou Boï Diarra, whom Jeune Afrique calls the “principal architects of the cooperation between the Russian group and the Malian General Staff.”

See also the “malaise” (French) in Mali following Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s critical remarks (French) about Wagner’s presence there.

Chad

A coup attempt? (French)

Meanwhile, there is controversy (French) over the appointment of General Idriss Youssouf Boy as President Mahamat Deby’s chief of staff. This summer, Boy was fired (as Deby’s personal secretary), jailed, acquitted, and freed, all in connection with an embezzlement scandal at the Chad Hydrocarbons Company. More here and here (both French).

Senegal

The case of detained journalist Pape Alé Niang calls attention to issues of press freedom in the country.

Mauritania

Ex-President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, facing a corruption investigation since 2020, was prevented from leaving the country (after having been allowed to travel to France in September 2022 for medical reasons) and is summoned to appear before an anti-corruption court on January 12 (Arabic).

Niger

There are concerns over bird flu in Niger, but the authorities say it is under control (French).

Op-Ed on Dialoguing with Jihadists – at The New Humanitarian

The New Humanitarian asked me to distill some of my findings from my recent article on jihadist dialogues, the “local turn” in peacebuilding, and the possible ill fit between what local voices want and what international peacebuilders want. The op-ed is here. An excerpt:

This could be the kind of bargain that might ultimately attract jihadists: Amnesty, and Islamisation that goes beyond dropping formal references to French-style secularism (laïcité) from the Malian constitution.

However, what would this then mean for the status of Malian women, for access to education, for the country’s Christians and other non-Muslims, for Muslims who did not accept a “jihadist-lite” kind of rule, for Mali’s traditions of free assembly, music, art, and literature?

Though some Malian elites and citizens appear open to settlements with jihadists, it is difficult to tell what would be acceptable to the wider public, where questions of secularism, law, justice, and Islam are far from settled.

Piece for Responsible Statecraft on Changing Post-Coup Norms

The Quincy Institute’s Responsible Statecraft asked me to expand a bit on my post here the other day about the lengthening tenures of ostensibly transitional West African military regimes. My piece for Responsible Statecraft is here. An excerpt:

American policymakers should not get comfortable with military regimes. If harsh sanctions and threats do not work (ECOWAS tried a sweeping sanctions package for Mali and then backed down when it did not sway the junta), neither should American policymakers fool themselves into thinking that a given autocrat is some vital ally on another priority. The African autocrats who survived the “third wave of democracy” did so because they partnered closely with Washington, Paris, or some other major power.

At the moment, American-Russian (and American-Chinese) competition and the African versions of the “War on Terror” have both led American policymakers to accept certain African leaders’ abuses — sometimes for decades, as in the case of Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986. The tradeoffs are not worth it, including reputationally, when American backing becomes closely linked with a ruler’s anti-democratic behavior and human rights abuses.

Mali Roundup – 3 August 2022

Find last week’s roundup here.

Yesterday I wrote a post sketching some grim scenarios for Bamako – either harassed by or even under the control of jihadists. The post sparked some good conversations on Twitter, including Nat Powell and Michael Shurkin disagreeing with me that France would mount a major intervention if jihadists took Bamako, and Michael Kevane making an interesting comparison between Mali and Darfur.

The U.S. evacuates non-emergency staff and families – not a good sign.

Killings of civilians continue in Ménaka (French).

Apply the Algiers Accord and organize elections, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune tells (French) the Malian junta. Meanwhile, a “decisional” meeting (French) on implementation.

A fresh war of words between the junta and French President Emmanuel Macron.

More pressure (French) for transitional Prime Minister Choguel Maïga to resign, a topic we’ve covered here before.

Former Prime Minister Moussa Mara considers (French) – and rejects – the idea of arming civilians, instead favoring a greater effort to professionalize the conventional forces and enhance their capabilities.

The Fall of Bamako? Some Scenarios

The jihadist coalition Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wa-l-Muslimin (the Group for Supporting Islam and Muslims, JNIM), a subsidiary of al-Qaida, is now openly menacing (French) Mali’s capital Bamako. The threats are more than rhetorical – the July 22 attack on the country’s core military base at Kati, just outside Bamako, showed JNIM’s reach and daring. Jihadist incursions into southern Mali and even into Bamako are not at all new; Bamako suffered a major terrorist attack as far back as 2015. Yet the overall trend line in Mali is more and more violence, and the south (French) is under greater threat than ever before, meaning that jihadist threats to encircle and blockade Bamako are at least partly credible.

What scenarios, then, are possible? Olivier Walther of the University of Florida, a leading expert on patterns of violence in the region (I have contributed to some of his multi-authored reports for the OECD), outlined one grim scenario in a short, provocative thread the other day:

Here are a few other scenarios:

  • Hard jihadist blockade: This would put Bamako in the position of Djibo, a major town in northern Burkina Faso. On and off for the past few years, jihadists have cut off Djibo from surrounding areas, accelerating displacement, further ruining the local economy, and compelling desperate negotiations that often advantage the jihadists. This would be much harder for jihadists to achieve with Bamako, however – it would entail controlling or at least terrorizing six major routes (versus just three in Djibo), and targeting a national capital instead of a provincial town.
  • Soft jihadist encirclement: This would put Bamako in the position of Niger’s capital Niamey, which is surrounded by regions and departments under a state of emergency. Niamey is not cut off from surrounding areas per se, and a degree of normalcy continues there, but traveling even nearby the city can bring unexpected risks, as occurred with the August 2020 killing of some French humanitarians and their Nigerien driver not far from the capital.
  • Increased terrorism in the city: This would make Bamako into an analogue of Maiduguri, Nigeria in the years after Boko Haram’s resurgence starting in 2010 – something far short of jihadist control, but still suffering a frequent clip of terrorist attacks (and I don’t mean just attacks by jihadists, but more specifically terrorism in the sense of attacks meant to instill fear among the civilian population). What that ultimately gains jihadists is unclear; in Maiduguri, Boko Haram’s terrorism set off a cycle of violence between the group and the security forces that initially seemed to benefit Boko Haram, but then state-backed vigilantes (reflecting, in part, popular fatigue with the violence) helped partly push Boko Haram out of the city.
  • The fall of Bamako followed by a rapid French intervention: The outright fall of Bamako to JNIM, whether violently or through surrender, would in my view almost immediately provoke a kind of Operation Serval Part 2. The fall of Bamako would very likely entail the fall of the ruling junta there as well, unless some very low-probability and bizarre scenario emerged whether the junta and JNIM shared power (I can’t see it). The fall of the junta and the jihadist takeover of Bamako, then, would almost certainly have the French screaming “I told you so!” and organizing an intervention. I do not think the French government’s appetite for counterterrorism has diminished, overall; I think they’re just frustrated specifically with the Malian transitional authorities, and that they would go back into Mali without hesitation if the political situation there change. If France came charging in, they would send JNIM scurrying, and after the dust settled Mali would be back to something like where it was in 2013, except worse, with JNIM rebuilding in the countryside and a flimsy, pro-French civilian government in Bamako. Then the cycle of the last decade would likely repeat, perhaps with a beefed-up G5 Sahel Joint Force as a replica of the African Union Mission in Somalia.
  • The fall of Bamako followed by a rapid African intervention: What if Bamako fell and France somehow passed on an intervention? Perhaps in this scenario French authorities would calculate that the French public could not stomach Operation Serval Part 2, or perhaps a vestigial junta (could Bamako somehow fall, and the junta try to rule from elsewhere in the south?). That might leave France (and the US) in support roles as the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), or some subset of Mali’s neighbors and peers (Niger + Chad, as in their intervention in Nigeria in 2015?) organized a military intervention. The question then would be whether African forces would organize rapidly or not; in 2012, when jihadists controlled northern Mali, there seemed to be some hesitation on ECOWAS’ part, or at least a preference for attempting negotiations. Would that allow JNIM to look something like Somalia’s al-Shabab in 2009-2010, carving out a substantial territory that it openly governed? Of course, even in al-Shabab’s case their control over the capital was eventually broken.
  • The fall of Bamako followed by stalemate: Would both France and ECOWAS (and Niger, Chad, Senegal, etc.) hesitate to intervene? What then – would there be a kind of Talibanization of JNIM, where they agree to implement their vision within the borders of a single state? Where would that leave JNIM’s ventures in Burkina Faso and further afield? Would JNIM use Mali as a launching pad for some kind of more ambitious attacks elsewhere (potentially returning Mali to the scenario of a rapid French intervention)? Or would the scenario settle into a long-term stalemate, even longer-lasting than al-Shabab achieved in Mogadishu circa 2009-2011? I find this one unlikely but not impossible.
  • The fall of Bamako followed by chaos: What if Bamako falls but no one really “wins”? That is, what if Bamako proves ungovernable for JNIM, amid what would likely be a very unenthusiastic population, massive civilian flight, an immediate suspension of most international assistance and programming, crippling diplomatic and economic isolation of an already desperately poor and landlocked country, etc.? How would other Malian actors react – would there be a bizarre scenario of JNIM controlling Bamako but not Kidal, Timbuktu, Gao, etc? Would JNIM march into Bamako and then march into Mopti, Segou, etc? Or would there be some kind of war of all against all?
  • A failed jihadist attempt to take or hold Bamako, followed by blowback for JNIM: Blockading a city or terrorizing it is not the same as attempting to take it and hold it. What if JNIM seriously tried to take control and then lost to the Malian armed forces – or even to a popular uprising? JNIM leaders must know that even in the best-case scenarios for them, taking Bamako would entail considerable exposure. If JNIM captured Bamako, would Iyad ag Ghali, Amadou Kouffa, Yusuf al-Annabi, and other senior leaders show their faces, as the jihadist leadership did in northern Malian cities in 2012? Or would they rule through proxies? If they show their faces, they’re essentially putting targets on their back, but if they don’t show face, why bother taking the city in the first place – and could they trust mid-level commanders to run a whole capital for them? There is a significant possibility of jihadist overreach here – no matter how much their capabilities have grown, it seems to me that overt state-building efforts still carry more risks than rewards for jihadists. I suppose that’s why ultimately, I still think the first few scenarios I described are much more likely than these scenarios further down the list.

Four Papers/Reports On or Relevant to the Sahel (Shurkin, Wilén, Berlingozzi, Courtright)

Michael Shurkin, “Strengthening Sahelian Counterinsurgency Strategy,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Two excerpts:

Two basic types of mobile units offer strong potential: a mobile strike force, comprised of technicals, and an airborne or airmobile rapid reaction force. The former would, at least, also have some artillery capabilities. Sahelian militaries today have mortars and other low-cost, lightweight direct and indirect fire platforms, but they do not have them in sufficient quantities. Furthermore, truly integrating these platforms in combined-arms fashion is a challenge for all armies, requiring hours of training and preparation and thus resources. Sahelian armies also have towed artillery, but their utility considering the logistical requirements is questionable.

[…]

Sahelian governments need a clear strategy and doctrine for their force structures to effectively address their security threats. A useful first step would be to embrace the paradigm of counterinsurgency. This translates into a strategy that pairs combat operations with a population-centric approach that is intended to strengthen relations with local populations and recast the social contract. It requires a force that has built-in elements to work with local communities, to provide justice and law enforcement for them, and to police the military. Absent this, an approach focused purely on combat operations is destined to fail. Sahelian forces simply cannot kill enough insurgents to prevail, and their attempts to do so have been counterproductive. A COIN force should offer, at the very least, the advantage of not preying upon civilians and, at most, sustained pressure on insurgent groups coupled with protection for communities.

Shurkin does a very thorough job here. I think COIN is fundamentally a contradiction in terms, though, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, or the Sahel. Militaries are for killing, no matter how “population-centric” the approach.

Nina Wilén, “The impact of security force assistance in Niger: meddling with borders,” International Affairs (open access). Two key paragraphs:

Lightly equipped units which are traditionally deployed in urban areas are at an increased risk of attack in more rural zones and lack the capabilities to respond to armed groups. This in turn drives the request for more robust equipment. These trends are reinforced by the Nigerien authorities’ desire for more equipment and assistance, especially combat-related support or equipment, which can be used to fight insurgents and extremist groups. In addition, jealousy between and within units regarding new, donor-supplied equipment is promoting a certain militarization of internal security forces. The mobile hybrid companies, for example, have become ‘elite’ units within their own corps, provoking jealousy from other units who covet their more robust (and modern) equipment and training, similar to that provided to the units discussed above.

Yet, as Frowd and Sandor point out, external actors in the Sahel seek to avoid the very appearance of militarization, often attempting to constrain it by accompanying assistance leaning towards martial training with managerial practices which emphasize the legitimacy of civilian and bureaucratic control. In Niger, as in other states in the region, the training of these new mobile border units has, for example, been accompanied by a heavy focus on courses of judiciarisation, understood as training the security forces in the law of conflict, in battlefield evidence, and in how to correctly conduct arrests and fill out documents so that the legal system can take over the process. This is considered crucial to improve the rule of law in the country: interviewees explained that, before these courses were introduced, security forces did not document what happened in the field, they just caught the perpetrators—or at worst killed them—without collecting any evidence for the justice system to take over. Different roles and relations, in combination with human rights abuses, also contribute to inter-agency tensions: ‘the gendarmerie should normally control the army when they are deployed together, but since the army commit human rights abuses, they [the gendarmerie] are not welcome’.

Adam Sandor (cited in the paragraph above) weighs in with a brief thread here.

These first two papers (Shurkin and Wilén) make for an interesting pairing, obviously.

Laura Berlingozzi, “O sister, where art thou? Assessing the limits of gender mainstreaming in preventing and countering violent extremism in Mali,” Critical Studies on Terrorism. The abstract:

Where and how are women present in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) in Mali? The article contributes to the scholarship on gender in P/CVE policies by shedding light on the misalignments between societal dynamics and the discursive framework adopted in the security strategies implemented. It investigates how the European Union as a security-oriented actor, (re)produces practices of exclusion rather than inclusion. Relying on a large set of semi-structured interviews gathered during extensive fieldwork, it aims at understanding the conceptualisation – and the gaps therein – of gender mainstreaming by asking: how does the EU translate gender mainstreaming and WPS into practice in the context of P/CVE practice? And, in turn, how do local actors perceive these efforts? The article finds that the implementation of gender mainstreaming has two main sets of limitations which overall reinforce inequalities: first, it homogenises women’s identities and fails at meaningfully reaching rural areas; second, while including some gender considerations about restrictions of women’s agency, it falls short of achieving its overarching aim, which should be truly empowering women by subverting patriarchal structures and systems of inequal power-sharing. In doing so, this study intends to contribute to feminist security studies literature by exploring centre-periphery gaps and differences in the framing of women’s empowerment within P/CVE.

James Courtright, “In Ghana, local problems threaten regional security,” Institute of Current World Affairs. The piece focuses on Ghana, obviously, but it’s also highly relevant to the Sahel. It deals in particular with the stigmatization of the Peul/Fulani group in Ghana and region-wide:

Across the country, Fulani have increasingly become stereotyped as poor, violent and foreign. I saw that firsthand in casual conversations in the national capital, Accra. When I told a taxi driver I was in Ghana to spend time in Fulani communities, he replied that there is no such thing as a “Ghanaian Fulani” and that they are all actually Burkinabe (from Burkina Faso). Another person with whom I struck up a conversation in a bar warned me in hushed tones to be careful because all Fulani were bandits and kidnappers.

[…]

The stereotyping has deadly consequences. This year alone, there have been three documented cases of civilians attacking and killing Fulani in the aftermath of armed robberies. In late May, a mob killed a Fulani man following the armed robbery of a fuel station in Kabori near the border with Burkina Faso. A few weeks later, Seydu Jallo, mentioned at the beginning of this piece, was murdered in Tamale. However, the deadliest of these incidents occurred in early April, when around a dozen people attacked the small village of Zakoli around 60 miles east of Tamale and killed eight people and burned the houses to the ground.

There is nothing inevitable about the spread of insurgency into Ghana, Togo, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, etc. The key independent variable to my mind is not how cunning the jihadists are but rather how the authorities react, and how they treat civilians, in the early stages of a potential insurgency.

Changing Post-Coup/Transition Norms in West Africa?

I think I’ve made this point elsewhere (can’t remember where), but yesterday’s roundup on Burkina Faso reminded me of it, in the context of discussing the visit by an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) delegation to Ouagadougou. The point is this: ECOWAS seems now to be comfortable with (or reluctantly acquiescing to) two-year transitions, which differ from the previous expectation in two ways – the length (eighteen months) and the precision (“two years” can date from a more or less arbitrary point that is not necessarily when a given junta took power).

The coups in Mali (August 2020, May 2021), Guinea (September 2021), and Burkina Faso (January 2022) all upended business as usual in West Africa and confronted France, ECOWAS, the United States and other external actors with a major dilemma – how much pressure to apply to coup-makers, and to what end? The “gold standard” for an orderly post-coup transition, in the West African regional context, appears to be the fourteen-month transition in Niger in 2010-2011, and ECOWAS (with French backing) sought to enforce a standard of eighteen months. But intransigence from Mali in particular forced ECOWAS into negotiating. Sometimes ECOWAS negotiated in a tough way, as when ECOWAS imposed sweeping sanctions on Mali from January-July 2022 in response to the junta’s proposal for a transition that could have lasted through 2026. Yet even at its toughest-minded, ECOWAS was always negotiating at a disadvantage – ECOWAS is not, I think, going to physically force any junta from power, and I think the juntas all know that. So the end result – and here the juntas watch each other, clearly – is an adjusting of the norms in the ways I described above. Mali’s junta ended up getting sanctions lifted by offering a “two-year” transition plan (but dating from March 2022, meaning that March 2024 will in fact mark three and a half years since the junta took power) and Burkina Faso’s junta now appears to be on the same page as ECOWAS about a “two-year” transition plan (dating from July 2022, giving that junta as much as thirty months in power – not a far cry from what it demanded originally).

(ECOWAS’ mediation/negotiation efforts with Guinea – the new mediator [French] is former Beninese President Boni Yayi – are still ongoing.)

If one thinks that Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso are part of an “epidemic” of West African (or African) coups and if one expects that “epidemic” to claim further victims – I’m ambivalent on both questions – then the next question is what expectations the Malian and Burkinabè experiences set up for potential coup-makers elsewhere in the region. Again, I’m not necessarily expecting any more coups in the short term, but any aspiring West African coup-makers now know that they can likely expect at least thirty months in power. Depending on how one reads their motivations – and especially if one is ultra-cynical and sees coup-makers as primarily there for their own enrichment and empowerment – then the incentives are clear. That ultra-cynical view is a bit too strong for me; I think it’s hard to get in the mind of Assimi Goïta (Mali) or Paul-Henri Damiba (Burkina Faso) and separate what may be, on the one hand, their legitimate frustrations over insecurity, civilian corruption and fecklessness, and pressures from below from their own soldiers versus, on the other hand, more self-serving motivations. But even if one sees these officers as heroes (I don’t), the coup/transition combo itself becomes something different depending on the length of time it lasts. Fourteen months, eighteen months…that’s hitting a reset button on the country’s politics, for better or worse. Thirty months, forty-two months…that’s a full-blown military regime. The pendulum has not, I think, swung back to where it was in the 1980s (Mauritania 1984, Burkina Faso 1987, Chad 1990) or earlier, when a coup-maker could expect to come into power and stay there practically indefinitely, perhaps with the occasional rigged election or cabinet reshuffle to placate various foreign and domestic stakeholders. But the pendulum has certainly swung a bit in that direction versus where it was a decade ago, when coup-makers had a lot more trouble making their rule stick – including in Mali (2012) and Guinea (2008).

Mali Roundup – 26 July 2022

Find last week’s roundup here, and yesterday I had a post about the political difficulties (and, for the junta, the political utility) of Prime Minister Choguel Maïga – who appears, nevertheless, to be planning for the future (French).

One grim development late last week was the July 22 attack – claimed by the jihadist coalition Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wa-l-Muslimin (the Group for Supporting Islam and Muslims, JNIM) – on a major military base at Kati, just outside the capital Bamako. See a bit on the attackers, from JNIM’s Katibat Macina, here (French). You can find a good thread on the attacks here. And here’s the Armed Forces’ official statement:

Given the Armed Forces’ difficulties in fighting JNIM, is it (once again) time to consider negotiating (French)?

The regional governors (French) are meeting military head of state Col. Assimi Goïta July 25-26.

On July 20, the Malian authorities essentially expelled (French) Olivier Salgado, spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA – MINUSMA was, obviously, outraged (French). The expulsion comes in the midst of serious tensions between the Malian government and MINUSMA. The UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, scheduled a five-day visit (French) to Mali in response.

On July 3, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) lifted the sanctions it had imposed on Mali’s economy – although targeted sanctions on key individuals remain in place. On July 18, the World Bank restarted (French) projects it had suspended during the sanctions period.

Here is the UN’s latest situation report on Ménaka, one of Mali’s most violent regions, covering the period July 11-17. And here’s a thread with some jihadist propaganda from Ménaka.