- Armament and disarmament
- Conflict and peace
- Peace and development
The ongoing peace process in Mali led to a peace agreement in mid-2015. The conflict, which began in northern Mali in January 2012, displaced roughly a quarter of the population of the northern regions to other parts of Mali and neighbouring countries. A declaration of a cessation of hostilities and a consensual roadmap for peace negotiations were signed in July 2014, paving the way for peace talks in Algiers. The signing of a peace agreement was the result of a year-long negotiation process, led by Algeria and with the participation of a number of international organizations and neighbouring countries.
Four major implementation challenges can be identified: (a) the complexity of the conflict; (b) the fragmentation of the actors involved; (c) the increased presence of violent extremist groups in northern Mali; and (d) the growth in organized crime.
The primary conflict in Mali stems from the quest for self-determination by the Tuareg-led movement, which has manifested itself through regular uprisings or rebellions since Malian independence in 1960, but which has deeper roots in the history of Mali and the Sahel. Over time, linked to the core conflict and the mismanagement of its resolution, a number of other conflicts have developed in northern Mali between and within communities, resulting in a complex dynamic and a parallel proliferation of armed groups.
Furthermore, violent religious extremism and organized crime have complex interlinkages with the armed conflict. Violent extremist groups participated in the fighting and eventually transformed the political Tuareg-led armed rebellion into a religious insurgency. This had ominous consequences for Malian citizens as the victorious groups imposed distorted and violent forms of sharia in the areas of northern Mali they temporarily occupied.
External military interventions by French, African and United Nations forces have pushed the extremist groups into hiding, but they have not been defeated and the population is regularly reminded of their existence. The fact that Libya has become another base for militant extremist groups, and in particular the Islamic State, is another serious source of concern.
The 2015 peace agreement has a strong emphasis on governance, socio-economic and cultural issues. However, the peace process has a two-pronged focus: on internal political and human security challenges; and on transnational violent extremism and organized crime. The objectives are ambitious and implementation will require consistent and committed participation and support from a broad range of actors. This is the fifth peace agreement between the Malian state and the Tuareg-led armed movement, which testifies to the difficulty of resolving this persistent conflict even without the additional challenges generated by violent extremism and organized crime.