violent and authoritarian turning point in Mali | The nation

On March 27, as herders converged on the central Malian village of Moura (population: 10,000) for the weekly Sunday livestock market, helicopters carrying Malian soldiers accompanied by men suspected of belonging to the Wagner group linked to the Kremlin arrived and started shooting. They sealed off the exits from the village and fought their way through it in an anti-terrorist operation that lasted five days and left between 200 and 400 dead. Human Rights Watch called it “the worst atrocity reported in Mali’s decade-long armed conflict.” Armed actors have proliferated in Mali since separatist militants in the north rebelled in 2011, only to be sidelined by an al-Qaeda affiliate. The Malian army, in a statement describing the same event, claimed to have neutralized 203 terrorists in a manner consistent with international law. Eyewitnesses, however, described indiscriminate killings and targeting based on ethnic appearance or dress.

The massacre came two months after President Emmanuel Macron announced the withdrawal of French forces, which have played a crucial role in a convoluted Mali-focused Sahel stabilization mission for nearly a decade. Tensions between France and the ruling junta have risen steadily since 2020: amid a chorus of cries that French troops were no longer welcome, Malian army officers used years of European military training to seize the state (twice), expel the French ambassador and contract with Wagner. Since rising to prominence fighting on behalf of the Assad regime in Syria, the Kremlin-linked paramilitary force has expanded its footprint in African countries, supporting client regimes and ensuring access to extractive resources.

Western failure in Mali

Since France first deployed troops in 2013 to repel the southward advance of al-Qaeda-linked militants, Paris has led a multidimensional intervention in Mali that combines counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency and security-building. the state. In recent years, violence against civilians has skyrocketed at the hands of Al-Qaeda and Islamic State-backed groups, Malian security forces and self-defense groups, and the fiction of an eventual military victory over terrorists collapsed. Meanwhile, the burgeoning Western security and development architecture seemed bloated, aimless and helpless.

Despite the tactical victories of the French forces, the state continued to lose ground. The number and attacks of the jihadists have increased, as has their theater of operations, which has extended into central and southern Mali and infiltrated across the borders into Niger and Burkina Faso.

More worryingly, massive violence has emerged in the wake of counterterrorism efforts. Intercommunal clashes and ethnic violence erupted as vigilante groups – sometimes with French backing – took on the mantle of counter-terrorism to target rivals, often from the ethnic Fulani minority, in sites in the center from Mali such as Ogossagou and along the Mali-Niger border. As insecurity spread, influxes of cash deepened corruption and discredited political authority. Desperation drove many Malians to support the 2020 and 2021 coups and the ensuing security partnership with Russia.

Punish the junta

The contours of the recent Russian engagement are beginning to take shape. Where the French model of crisis management has fallen due to the arrogance of its own ambition, the Russian model adopted by the junta appears narrower and more focused on stifling dissent and targeted counterterrorism operations in the center of Mali. Encouraged by France, the West African regional bloc ECOWAS and the European Union imposed economic sanctions on the country and targeted sanctions against members of the junta more than a year ago. The punishment pushed the junta towards alternative partners like Russia as it took an authoritarian turn, harassing and arresting critics and opponents and massacring people in central Mali.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.