In this article, our local expert Boubacar Thera examines the current security context in Mali and calls for increased support for civil society organizations.
The socio-political and security context remains unstable, marked by a rise in uncertainties and discord since a second coup d’état on May 24, 2021 brought Colonel Assimi Goïta to power.
Despite the establishment of a new transitional government led by Mr. Choguel Kokala Maiga, President of the Strategic Committee of the June 5 Movement – Rassemblement des Forces Patriotiques (M5-RFP) which contributed to the fall of Ibrahim’s regime Boubacar Keita, the current socio-political crisis continues to dominate the national scene despite a deterioration in the security situation, which has been exacerbated by the ongoing health crisis. At the heart of these concerns are uncertainties about the progress of political reforms that are supposed to lead to the peaceful elections promised by the government.
Although peacemakers are not directly involved in political affairs, they are negatively impacted by the political crisis. Indeed, the suspension of many development programs has affected most civil society organizations (CSOs), and local peace actors have not been spared. For example, the World Bank suspended funding for projects worth $ 1.5 billion in the aftermath of the coup. “We have a project for the socio-economic reintegration of ex-combatants (PREC) for those who cannot join the army and participate in the process of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR). The World Bank-funded project has been on hold since the August 2020 coup, “said an official from the NGO Greffa, a women’s civil society organization operating in the Gao region.
In addition, the high-level political problems that led to the second coup, as well as a standoff between the government and the main workers’ union, UNTM (Union Nationale des Travailleurs du Mali), significantly reduced the capacity of State services to ensure the security of people and their property.
A difficult security context that is not improving
Likewise, the unfavorable security context hampered local peace actors in the northern and central regions of the country. Crime is on the increase, especially in the regions of Gao and Mopti. This trend is visible through a proliferation of small arms and the presence of non-state armed groups near cities. “All the localities in the Gao region have become dangerous. Localities like Boura, Ouatagouna and Tessit in the region of Gao are the most affected, ”said an agent of an NGO in the region. He added that “moving around the area is a major gamble. You can be attacked anywhere in these areas, sometimes even within 2 km of the checkpoints of the Malian armed forces (FAMa) without the armed forces. do not respond “.
Many local peace initiatives supported by international organizations, such as Norwegian Church Aid (NEA), UN Women and GIZ (German Society for International Cooperation), are often put on hold whenever an attack occurs in the region. They only resume when and if calm has returned. “We, CSO staff, are sometimes accused of being spies for the West,” said a member of the Observatory of Women Mediators from the Gao region.
In the Mopti region, particularly in the areas of Koro, Bandiagara, Bankass and Douentza, peace awareness activities have suffered from massive displacement of people following deadly attacks. “The majority of activities have been suspended in Mondoro, Ogossagou, Boulkessi following deadly attacks,” said Ms. Tata Touré, executive director of ODI-Sahel (Organization for Integrated Development in the Sahel).
Increasingly, civil society actors in the north and center of the country receive death threats via text messages or phone calls, or are kidnapped by non-state armed groups. “Some threats even emanate from the Malian Defense and Security Forces following denunciations of CSOs in the media or to their commanders,” says a program manager in Gao.
Note that more than a year ago, Abdou Sékou Oulogueme, member of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, was kidnapped by armed groups in the Mopti region, and disappeared without a trace.
How can CSOs adapt to the national context despite these challenges?
The capacity of CSOs to mobilize differs according to their areas of work. CSOs operating in conflict zones sometimes find it difficult to reach the communities they work with due to their lack of access to certain localities for security reasons. Despite these difficulties, many of them know how to adapt or even reconcile their peacebuilding actions with established social customs, despite the volatility of the security context. The Association of Women Victims and Witnesses of Mali (AFEVITEM) has reached a level of 85% of implementation of its strategic planning, as has Delta Survival which reached 65% of its programming in 2020. Gender issues are more important. taken into account by all. CSO. Civil society actors such as Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF), the Association for the Progress and Defense of Women’s Rights (APDF), Association of Malian Jurists (AJM), and the Women-Action Research, Study and Training Group (GREFA) focus more than 70 to 80% of their activities on women and girls.
Several CSOs in central regions of Mali were able to reach their target groups – women and young people in particular – and mobilize, despite travel restrictions. “Due to the motorcycle ban, our field agents use donkeys and plows. This approach has enabled us to mobilize our target groups, ”said Ms. Diallo Tata Touré, director of the NGO ODI-Sahel. It is one of the strengths of local civil society actors.
Engage security and legal actors
Although most CSOs are involved in various dialogue processes, distinct dialogue approaches are often used when it comes to involving people in the areas of security and justice.
On the one hand, CSOs often denounce human rights violations, sometimes committed by the Defense and Security Forces (SDF) and self-defense groups, which makes them much more likely to be the target of intimidation. and threats. is in danger, but we cannot leave people to their fate, “said a field official in Gao region. This approach is mainly supported by Tabital Pulaku (an ethnically-based Fulani community association), the Association Malian human rights organization, Delta Survival, GREFFA and WILDAF. This approach had led to mistrust of human rights organizations on the part of security and justice actors. The second approach, more common, is to have a ‘constructive dialogue’ with the SDF on their relations with the communities and on the weaknesses that need to be improved.However, it should be noted that the peace dialogues at the local level in the Central Niger Delta have become increasingly difficult due to the risk of reprisals faced by peace actors.
What can be done to improve the situation?
In view of the socio-political, institutional and security changes underway, it is becoming increasingly important for the international community to provide the necessary support to CSOs in order to increase their skills and operational capacity, which will enable them to provide the necessary support to CSOs. peace in the absence of effective state structures. A favorable security and political environment is a prerequisite for achieving this goal.