With a handful of Russian mercenaries, the Malian junta must now assume its responsibilities as peacekeepers are gradually sidelined and ECOWAS is in the process of easing its package of economic sanctions. The recent attack on the Kati camp, less than 20 km from the capital, is hardly reassuring in this regard.
Attached to their sovereignty, many Malians do not seem to take the measure of the inefficiency of their military apparatus. The discrepancy is all the more striking with the catastrophic vision of the situation circulating in European capitals, in this case on the basis of an Afghan-style collapse scenario.
Sahel: after Barkhane, who will be on the front line against the jihadists?
According to a survey by the German Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, more than half of the Malian population believes that the withdrawal of the Barkhane force will have a positive effect, the French soldiers being regularly accused of complicity with insurgent groups. Along the same lines, 84% of respondents think what the level of insecurity has decreased in their region and that the general situation in Mali has improved over the past year. In neighboring countries, many Burkinabè and Nigeriens do not hide their admiration for a junta which supposedly succeeded in asserting its independence by getting rid of the political and military tutelage of the former colonial power.
Civilians caught in the crossfire
In Mali, the satisfaction rate with regard to the defense and security forces is correspondingly high: up to 98% if we are to believe the results of the survey by the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation. On the ground, the reality is however less pleasant to hear. Plagued for several decades by corruption, indiscipline, nepotism and impunity, the Malian army is proving incapable of protecting civilians in the most remote rural areas. The latter must therefore negotiate agreements with the jihadists to ensure their survival. Worse still, the Bamako soldiery feeds the conflict by stigmatizing and massacring Fulani who, automatically suspected of terrorist sympathies, will join the ranks of the insurgents to try to escape extrajudicial executions or torture in prison.
Niger: Mohamed Bazoum’s plans after Barkhane’s withdrawal from Mali
Reports from the United Nations and human rights organizations are damning. According to testimonies collected in central Mali, the military and their militia auxiliaries continue to kill civilians and carry out arbitrary raids. They particularly target young people who are simply wrong to be bearded, “proof” of their Islamist inclination.
It is true that the Malian army is accustomed to the fact. During the 1990s, it already quite systematically arrested Tuaregs from the north who wore a turban and, above all, underpants. Indeed, the use of underwear, uncommon in the region, was supposed to testify to habits acquired abroad, in this case in exile in the revolutionary Libya of Gaddafi.
Today, it is the wearing of a beard which, combined with the status of itinerant shepherd, decides in a very large measure the fate of the suspects. To prevent young people from being killed by government forces, a Fulani and loyalist leader from the Mopti region has recommended that they shave close, even if it means attracting the wrath of the jihadists in return!
Sahel: what will succeed Operation Barkhane
Faced with civilians caught in the crossfire, the Malian army denies the accusations against it. According to its leaders, its multi-ethnic composition would protect it from any risk of community targeting. Between propaganda and state lies, the denial of reality is all the more obvious.
The army alone sums up all the evils of Mali. Dominated by the “southerners” and divided into different factions, it does not defend any inclusive and national vision of the country. In addition, it is no more honest, more professional and more able to manage public affairs than the civilian and corrupt governments that preceded the putschists of 2020. Its shortcomings only better highlight the limits of military cooperation. of the international community.
Aid operators face serious dilemmas in this respect. Indeed, to sanction Mali is to penalize civilians and risk precipitating a complete collapse of the state under the onslaught of jihadists. Conversely, resuming aid programs is tantamount to reinforcing and institutionalizing an illegitimate and incompetent regime.
End of Barkhane in Mali: “The void left by France will be difficult to fill”
The problem is known. The international community had already supported elected presidents, Amadou Toumani Touré then Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, without managing to improve the governance of corrupt and increasingly discredited regimes. On the contrary, the attempts at reforms imposed from outside have contributed to destabilizing the governments in place and to making the bed of the nationalist putschists who overthrew them. Faced with the impotence of the international community, the conclusion is therefore self-evident: the solution to the crisis is first and foremost in the hands of Malians, and not Europeans, Americans… or of the Russians.