Citizens of Mali on Friday 28th April gathered in Mali’s capital Bamako, waving Russian flags in a protest against the inability of UN’s peace keeping mission MINUSMA to resolve the lingering crisis in Mali since its intervention in 2013.
The protesters who decried the deplorable situation of the security of lives and property in Mali insisted that UN peacekeepers’ decade-long presence in Mali is no longer required.
It could be recalled that the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was established by Scarcity Council Resolution 2100 of 25 April, 2013 to support the political process through the creation of favourable conditions for the provision of humanitarian assistance to the citizens in an attempt to stabilize Mali while preparing the state for free all-inclusive peaceful elections.
However, the crisis in Mali has continued to grow since after the first coup in 2020. The nation ruled by military junta since then through the help of Russian paramilitary mercenaries has battled armed terrorist groups believed to be associated with the Al-Qaeda and Islamic state organization.
The crisis in Mali has its origin from long-existing structural conditions like weak state institutions; observable ineffective governance, poor social cohesion, a strong feeling of Marginalization and negligence of some communities in the Northern part of Mali by the central government, a growing effects of environmental degradation as well as most recent factors of power abase, deteriorating capacity as well as most recent factors of power abase, deteriorating capacity of the national army; increase of internal strife, social instability, high levels of corruption and nepotism.
This brought about active terrorist groups like ISIS and JNIM – an AQ-affiliated umbrella group that formed when the Sahara branch of AQIM, al-Murabitoun, Ansar al-Dine and the Macina liberation front merged.
The jihadists of the al-Qaeda affiliated group for the support for Islam and Muslims (GSIM, JNIM in Arabic) continued to claim responsibility for different terror attacks in Malian capital Bamako and many other parts since then. The growing insurgency spread to neighbouring countries like Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Chad. These countries formed the G5 Sahel – a joint military force which had Mali’s military as part of it until the stat withdrew its membership in May, 2022.
The G5 Sahel whose military aspect is coordinated by the respective countries’ Chiefs of Staff had its operations largely finance by the European Union with the purpose of strengthening the bond between economic development and security and jointly battling the threat of jihadist organizations operating in the area. From the beginning, with the growing concerns of insecurity among neighbouring states it is worthy of note that the international community did not turn blind eyes / deaf ears to the crisis in Mali.
While the crisis was heating up around 2012 and 2013, Reuters reported in January 12, 2013 that the prime Minsters of Libya, Algeria and Tunisia agreed to enhance security along their common borders in an attempt to fight the flow of arms and drugs and organised crime in the politically turbulent regions. Before then, the former leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi played a leading role in bringing an end to a Tuarey rebellion in Mali and Niger in October 2009, allegedly distributing millions of dollars to the insurgents. However, after the death of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, in October 2011, Thomas Fessy, BBC News West Africa Correspondent wrote in 2012 that the coup in Mali may have had its roots in the fall of Muammar Gaddafi as hundreds of Malian combatants who had fought to defend the late Libyan leader fled back to Mali with weapons and formed the most powerful Tuareg-led rebel group in the known as Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA).
The French military intervened in the Mali crisis following an official request by the Malian interim government for French military assistance using operation “Serval” between 11 January, 2013 – 15 July, 2014. The aim of the operation was to oust Islamic militants from the north of Mali. The operation was replaced by “Operation Barkhane”, launched on 1 August, 2014 to fight Islamic fighters in the Sahel.
However, these French troop faced a lot of challenges during the 9 years stay in Mali. Many of the soldiers were killed by terrorists. By 17th February, 2022, the BBC news reported that France refused to negotiate a peace deal with Islamist groups; got angered by the decision of the Mali Junta to invite mercenaries from the Russian company Wagner to help in the fight against the jihadist groups.
As a result, the French troops involved in the “Operation Barkhane” were withdrawn within six months.
The international communities and governments of neighbouring countries became worried that France’s withdrawal from Mali could further destabilize the region; the report says.
After the exit of the French troops, Wagner private military company – a Russian paramilitary organization who arrived in Mali in December 2021.
The center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in a commentary section, published in February 2, 2022, expressed that Mali’s international partners including United States and numerous European countries condemned the arrival of the Wagner Group in Mali. The commentary said the Malian Junta’s turn to Russia and the Wager Group is intended to shore up its domestic political position rather than to meaningfully address insecurity in the country.
With all these factors and events playing out, one would ask, what is the future of Mali? Are there hopes of any successful transition into Civilian rule come February, 2024?
The next very pertinent question should be: what is the implications of the protests against United Nations Peacekeepers in Mali? By raising Russian flag during the protest on Friday signifying acceptance of Russia and the Wagner group, what does the future hold for the Malians?