Region of Concern: Mali
Written By Daniel Somart; Edited by Iris Hautaniemi Forsberg, Elena Alice Rossetti
Date: September 12, 2023
Map of Mali
Event: On September 12, intense fighting occurred between armed factions of the Permanent Strategic Framework (CSP) coalition and the Malian Armed Forces (FAMA), in northern Mali. The factions claimed to have captured “the camp and various advanced posts” in Bourem. This event marks the return of hostilities and the end of the 2015 peace agreement signed between the CSP and the State. The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), a CSP faction, declared war against the junta and its supporter, the Wagner Group. The UN peacekeeping operation in Mali (MINUSMA) is withdrawing.
Significance: As violence escalates, civilians will very likely be displaced and attempt irregular migration via unmonitored routes toward neighboring countries including Algeria, increasing pressure on countries already affected by large-scale migration. Disruptions will likely hinder citizens' access to essential services, including healthcare and education. The return of hostilities will very likely create opportunities for Islamist extremist groups, including Jama'a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM) and the Islamic State Sahel Province (ISSP), to recruit fighters and expand their control over Malian territory. UN peacekeeping troop withdrawal will likely weaken the Malian government’s ability to effectively counter jihadist groups who exploit security vacuums as Mali’s territorial control and relationship with the Global North diminishes. The Wagner Group will likely continue operations in Mali, very likely clashing with the CSP in areas of UN and French troop withdrawal. The Wagner Group will very likely exploit local grievances to promote anti-Western sentiments that will very likely hinder diplomatic efforts to promote stability. CSP groups will almost certainly use Bourem as a base for launching their offensives. Mali’s addition to the series of coups in West Africa will very likely strain intra-regional relationships and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ability to mediate regional conflicts.
Recommendations: The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) recommends that the CSP and FAMA immediately engage in brokering a ceasefire agreement to end hostilities. Regional actors, such as ECOWAS and the African Union (AU), should increase diplomatic efforts and implement mediation tools to resolve the Mali crisis. CTG recommends that the international community impose sanctions on individuals obstructing the peace process and committing human rights violations. The Malian government should establish humanitarian corridors to ensure safe aid delivery to conflict-affected areas. Donor countries should close funding gaps in the humanitarian response plan of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to prevent widespread loss of lives and livelihoods. The international community should engage with ECOWAS and the AU to create safe migration pathways to contain regional spillover effects.
 ‘Intense fighting’ reported between rebel groups, army over key north Mali town, France 24, September 2023, http://france24.com/en/africa/20230912-intense-fighting-reported-between-rebel-groups-army-over-key-north-mali-town