One Small Step For Mali


BMI View: While the 'unity' government formed in Bamako has clear flaws, we believe it will help to ease the institutional paralysis that has stalled attempts to deal with Mali's on-going security crisis. The new government should allow aid flows to resume, and will be backed by regional states. Even so, we believe that a lasting solution to the Malian crisis remains far off.

Once considered a stable democracy, Mali is now under the authority of its second caretaker government since a March 22 coup overthrew its elected president. On August 20 transitional President Dioncounda Traoré announced the formation of a 'unity' government of 31 ministers, including 13 new appointments, which replaced a shaky transitional government formed in April. Despite the new government's obvious flaws, it is a much broader and more representative administration than the one it replaced. BMI believes this will help to end Mali's institutional paralysis, but we remain doubtful that a comprehensive solution to Mali's humanitarian and security crisis is likely in the short term.

A House Divided
Mali - Security Crisis

Mali's veneer of stability was destroyed on March 22 when a junior officers' coup deposed the elected government, replacing it with a military junta. The junta claimed that the civilian government had failed to protect the country from separatist northern rebels, but the power vacuum caused by their putsch allowed a loose alliance of separatists and Islamist extremists to conquer the north of the country on April 1. A weak transitional government was formed on April 25, but squabbling between civilian and military leaders continued while al-Qaeda-linked Islamic extremists tightened their grip on the north. A combination of violence and a worsening food shortage has caused 436,000 Northern Malians to flee their homes, threatening to destabilise neighbouring states.

Have The Cavalry Arrived?

Regional states who shunned Mali's military rulers will welcome the creation of a unity government, which they have described as the first step in reuniting the country. BMI expects that Western aid frozen after the coup will be restarted, and believes that interested foreign powers (notably France) will support the new regime.

A lasting solution to Mali's division, however, remains far off. BMI doubts that a negotiated solution will cause the rebels to relinquish their control over their territory, and a military re-conquest of the area is clearly beyond the capacity of Mali's demoralised and undersupplied armed forces.

We have previously argued that a foreign intervention to reunite the country is unlikely in the short term, partly due to the lack of a stable Malian government to support the operation (See July 16 ' Calls For Intervention Ring Hollow ' on our online service). Even now that such a government is in place, we believe that any intervention would only aim to stabilise the government-held south rather than retaking the Islamist-controlled north. Such an operation would consolidate government control, allow aid to flow into the country, and - perhaps - prepare the ground for a future invasion of the north.

Such a mission is, however, opposed by Mali's armed forces, which fear that foreign troops would reduce their influence and allow the civilian government to act more independently. While the new government is civilian-led, the army controls four key ministries (in bold below). BMI believes that a stabilisation force may be deployed in the coming months, but only if military elites can be persuaded that they will not be removed from power by an emboldened civilian government.

The Lingering Junta
Ministry Minister Ministry Minister
Source: Government of Mali (Military Officers in Bold)
Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra Justice Malick Coulibaly
Economy, Finance, & Budget Tienan Coulibaly Work, Employment, & Professional Training Dr Diallo Dédia Mahamane Kattra
Defence & Veterans' affairs Yamoussa Camara Commerce & Industry Abdel Karim Konaté
Foreign Affairs & Int. Cooperation Tiemam Coulibaly Hunting & Fishing Makan Tounkara
Territorial Administration & Decentralization Moussa Sinko Coulibaly Humanitarian Action, Solidarity, the Elderly Dr Mamadou Sidibé
Public Service, Administration, & Relations with Institutions Mamadou Namory Traoré Communication Bruno Maïga
Malians Abroad & African Integration Madame Traoré Rokiatou Guikiné Post & New Technologies Bréhima Tolo
Internal Security & Civil Protection Tiefing Konaté Energy & Water Resources Alfa Bocar Nafo
Agriculture Dr Yaranga Coulibaly Culture Boubacar Hamadoun Kebé
Higher Education & Scientific Research Pr Harouna Kanté Environment David Sagara
Education, Literacy, National Languages & Civic Instruction Adama Ouane Family, Women, & Children Mme Alwata Ichata Sahi
Health Soumana Makadji Tourism & Handicraft Ousmane Ag Rhissa
Housing & Urbanism Mme Diallo Fadima Touré Religious Affairs Dr Yacouba Traoré
Infrastructure & Planning Mamadou Coulibaly Budget Marimpa Samoura
Transport & Road Infrastructure Abdoulaye Koumaré Decentralization Demba Traoré
Mines Dr Amadou Baba Sy

Lacking resources and hamstrung by its military elements, we believe that the new unity government will improve ties with regional states and allow aid to return, but will not be able to reunite Mali or deal effectively with the country's on-going food crisis.

Risks To Outlook

A foreign intervention with sufficient power to actually retake the north is beyond the capacity of regional states, and would require Western support. Such a mission is only likely if Mali's Islamists (who recently 'declared war' on the West) begin to pose a threat to foreign targets.

This article is tagged to:
Sector: Country Risk
Geography: Mali, Mali