Africa

Malian independence celebrated amid instability

Corruption, terrorism and imperialist interference are undermining landlocked Mali's quest for stability, say experts

Aurore Bonny   | 22.09.2021
Malian independence celebrated amid instability

DOUALA, Cameroon

With Mali celebrating the 61st anniversary of its independence on Wednesday, experts highlighted the historical and more current challenges that are contributing to the destabilization of the former French colony.

Since 2020, Mali has been undergoing a political transition after yet another military coup. It is also occupied by foreign military forces as part of the fight against terrorism, which has been raging for several years. According to the UN, insecurity is having a devastating impact on people's daily lives and continues to take its toll.

"Mali is at a critical juncture," El-Ghassim Wane, head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), said in June this year, warning of "instability with dramatic consequences for the sub-region and beyond.”

For Mamadou Doumbouya, a Malian strategic affairs specialist, historical causes and more recent political governance have led to instability in the West African country.

"Historically because after the Second World War, the division of Africa by the colonists did not benefit Mali, which lost its link with Senegal and therefore its access to the sea. As a result, the country is partly deserted and landlocked. Yet it is difficult to build in a desert. This situation had an impact on development, and the rebellions have destabilized the country," he said.

Doumbouya recalled that the defenders of independence had dreamed of the ideal for Malians in a state that could consider the population's needs.

"Unfortunately, the winds of democracy have not been in favor of this ideal. With the Cold War, democratic powers succumbed. This was the case in 1968, when the regime of former President Modibo Keita was overthrown by Moussa Traore, who was in power for 23 years. This was done by using repression, imprisonment of the elite, assassinations on the sly to maintain military power without democratic openness," he said.

The expert also deplored the centralization of the executive, legislative and judicial organs around the same authority.

This fact, according to him, has led to impunity, boosted corruption and caused revolts.

"Those who took power by force in Mali have not been able to avoid the mistakes of their predecessors. They did not put an end to the mismanagement and growing impunity that has blighted the lives of Malians. The consequence has been the breakdown of the social pact and multiple crises," he added.

He also noted the disparity between the country's regions. These are, according to his observation, "diametrically opposed in terms of development and basic infrastructure and are sources of rebellions.”


Social exclusion, 'prolongation of imperialism and the Cold War'

Citing the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali signed in 2015 by Malian stakeholders to bring peace, the Malian expert noted "a mistake" that excludes part of the population.

"The agreement was signed with the Azawad movements of the former rebels, whereas the so-called Azawad zone in northern Mali borders the center, which is mainly populated by the Dogon and Peulh tribes. Yet these populations, who also fought in the ranks of the jihadists, have not been included. This is a factor of inter-community conflict," he said.

He recommended that this peace agreement be revisited and that it integrates all Malians without exception.

The presence of foreign forces, notably France, in the context of the fight against terrorism "does not help" the stability of Mali, he said, stressing that a country should not "subcontract its security.”

"One cannot wage war by proxy in one's own country. Mali would benefit more from moving towards a Rwandan model where the country can receive support funds, use them for the fight and be accountable to the donors rather than receiving foreign troops," the specialist said.

According to him, this presence is a kind of "prolongation of imperialism and the Cold War."

"We have France, which has been deploying for several years under various forces and refuses the Russian presence now. The ideal situation for Mali would be material or training support. But the country should be left to manage its own security," he added.

He believes that Malians know their country better than foreign forces, who "often do not take into account certain local realities and sometimes deploy with undeclared missions.”

"Moreover, despite this French presence for several years, Mali remains the weak link in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel.” he said.

Speaking about the announcement of the withdrawal of French troops, he said: “If there are partners who disagree with Malian decisions, let them simply withdraw."

This view was shared by Regis Hounkpe, a pan-African geo-strategist from Benin. Speaking to Anadolu Agency, he said the withdrawal would be "for the best."

"Collaboration between France and Mali is not fruitful," he said, recalling the "heavy price" that France has paid by losing its soldiers and also on the Malian side where civilians are killed as much as local troops.

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