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Warn Policy Brief - Mali: Managing the Damage of a Complex Context
West Africa Network for Peacebuilding
3 July 2012
 
The complex nature of the Malian political impasse exacerbated by the intricacy of insurgency in the north has received global attention with divergent explanations and dimensions to the conflict. It is however generally agreed that it has become a cause of grave human insecurity all over the country and beyond as a threat to stability in West Africa (…).
 
The indicators to the instability through the early warning signs were very evident. Amongst these signs were allegations of widespread corruption in public offices especially around the government circle and nepotism, mismanagement of resources within and among few elites. There was also gross dissatisfaction of the population over deterioration in the socio- economic sphere, obscure and vague information concerning the situation of the conflicts in the north and discrediting of the ousted president, Amadou Toumani Touré, and his government by high ranking military officials.          
 
Another source of discontent was disagreement among political parties over the organization of the presidential elections (scheduled for April 2012), growing insecurity in the north trickling down to other regions and the capital city, proliferation of arms which worsened following the “end” of the Libyan crisis, the student union's protests over the state of affairs, the seeming government laxity/lack of proactive measures in addressing the heightened insecurity especially delayed reaction in addressing the rebels issues in the north and letting the ex-combatants from Libya enter Mali without appropriate disarmament/demobilization. All these pointed to a country sitting on a timed bomb and waiting to explode.
 
In an effort to respond to the early warning information, ECOWAS and the AU convened a joint extra-ordinary meeting of heads of state between the 20th and 21st of March 2012 in the Malian capital to discuss and develop a way forward towards addressing the growing crisis in Northern Mali.
 
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To ECOWAS and the Wider International Community the West African Regional Body under the Chairmanship of President Alassane Ouattara and President Blaise Campaoré in his capacity as the mediator of the Malian crisis should lead the International Community to explore the possibility of negotiating with the Tuareg rebels in the north to cease fire and abandon their claim of usurping the northern part of the country. The Mediation process should take into consideration the root causes of the conflict, the formation of an inclusive government representing all the regions of the country, and the development of a sustainable roadmap of the northern regions so as to bridge the lingering ethnic, political, and socio- economic divide and development gap in the country.
 
The International Community under the leadership of ECOWAS while pursuing dialogue should immediately put in place the standby force that will prevent a total takeover of Mali by insurgent groups while ensuring that there is no reemergence of insurgencies or the regrouping of AQMI or other extremist groups spilling over from Libya and neighboring Algeria. Initiatives including an efficient Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration of ex-combatants and child soldiers into civilian life should be put in place; mechanisms to deter the military from engaging in future coup d'état and thus undermining the country's democratic process should form part of the way forward for recovery and reforms while ensuring a comprehensive security sector reform The International Community, with the leadership of the regional grouping, ECOWAS should continue its stance on the organization of credible, fair and transparent elections within a realistic timeframe (irrespective of the one year time frame already given) and deploy election observers to serve as deterrence against any attempt at systematic electoral fraud and as reassurance to the Malian populace that the election would be credible.
 
To the Political Parties- Political parties should play a pivotal role in appeasing the population. They should put their differences aside and join hands to unite Malians beyond the current political divide and negative affiliations. Well-off and popular political parties should use some of their resources to conduct national reconciliation efforts and show a united front in restoring peace and security in Mali.
 
To the Military- The military should commit to their traditional roles of guarding the country against external aggression and internal insurrection and resist any urge to continue meddling in politics. They should maintain impartiality and refrain from taking hostage the democratic process every time there is divergence within the government. The military should not resort to the use of excessive force in the name of maintaining peace and instill fear in the population. Deployment of security agents at public places should not be overbearing so as not to intimidate the population and create distrust. Security sector reform should be initiated.
 
To the Civil Society- Malian Civil Society, especially traditional and religious leaders, women's groups, the youth and the media with the support of NGOs, should play their roles as an oversight body, representing the interest of the Malian people. With the capacity of mobilizing a critical mass, the Malian Civil Society should intensify their campaigns of non-violence, unity, democracy, peace and security above any political, parochial, and ethnic interests. Malian women's groups have a key role as mothers, wives, sisters, pressure groups, to urge the actors and their supporters who are mainly men to preserve the peace and stability of the country. The women and youth should mobilize a critical mass to ensure that their voices and positions are heard and considered in the establishment of law and order, returning to democratic values, national reconciliation, and attaining sustainable peace, security and development. The women of Mali should particularly consider engaging in community dialogue and mediation through the engagement of women from all sides of the divide.
 
The media, whether electronic or print, private or public, local, national or international is the opinion-molding institution and wields so much influence in society; thus as a stakeholder in conflict prevention, the role of the media is central to the success or failure of any peacebuilding effort in Mali. The media should disseminate conflict de- escalating messages and avoid sensationalism while ensuring accurate and timely information is given as measures to mitigate conflicts in the communities.
 
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The Malian crisis, though predictable and longtime coming, has brought serious implications for the unity, economic development, and sustainable peace and security for the country. The transitional government will be the test for the Malians' tenacity to preserve and protect its values as a united and peaceful nation. The social, political, and ethnic divide is increasing, challenging the return to democratic process and long-term national reconciliation.
 
The roles of the neighboring countries such as Algeria, Mauritania, and Niger in this conflict should be carefully examined. This is a complex dilemma and can have 'tache d'huile' effect on other fragile and post-conflict countries sharing border with Mali including fragile Cote d'Ivoire in the south, which then could negatively affect the rest of the Mano River Union as Guinea Conakry, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, which are post-conflict countries. It is imperative for all the stakeholders, including primary and secondary actors to ensure that the country stays peaceful and stable against all the odds.
 
 

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