What’s Next for Mali?

What’s Next for Mali?

Now that the military part of the intervention is almost done, what has to be done to put the country back on track and avoid a resumption of the conflict and a potential destabilisation of the whole sub-region?

It has been a few months since the ongoing military operation led by France in Mali began, which could be nearing its end, according to French president François Hollande and Chadian president Idriss Deby who started the withdrawal of French and Chadian troops several weeks ago. The international community has been pressing Mali to organise presidential elections, scheduled since before the coup d’état that removed President Amadou Toumani Touré last year, but they are unlikely to take place if Mali follows the out-of-crisis plan already scheduled.

One of the first and most important things to be done is to solve the Tuareg question. The Tuareg population living in northern Mali wanted independence, having felt the government was instead prioritising the development in the south. A spokesman for the MNLA, the Tuareg rebellion, stated they want to manage their own diplomacy, security and economy, only increasing the urgency of reaching a consensus. The presidential elections must also take place by the end of July, which will restore constitutional order. Although there is a transitional president at the moment, the MNLA still refuses to allow the Malian army to handle election-related security in the North.

In addition, even if the French intervention allowed Mali to recover most of its territorial integrity, Al-Qaeda terrorists are still present in the region. There have been fewer suicide attacks recently, but the looming threat of terrorism needs to be tackled as well if the country wants to move forward.

Many other challenges must be solved as well, including reform of the army, the return of the refugees, the corruption that became widespread over the least few years and talks necessary for the national reconciliation. The United Nations Mission to Mali still must take over for the French and African Union forces. Captain Sanogo, who led the coup d’état and still for right conduct of the out-of-the crisis process, needs to find a solution.

One major step was made however during the Brussels Donor Conference for Development in Mali, where Mali received promises of aid up to €3.2 billion when the country only needed €400 million per year for its 2013 and 2014 budgets, and €100 million to organise the elections.

Mali will be getting back on track, especially after the military intervention phase is completed, but there are remaining obstacles that must be overcome in order to avoid the same scenario from happening again in a few years. One key priority is to resolve the question of development of the North – the Malian government’s promise of allocating 30% of its budget was not enough. The regional dimension of the conflict should also not be ignored; Mali is located in the heart of West Africa and any resumption of the conflict can affect the whole region.

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