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International Interventions in the Malian Conflict: Combined Effects of Multilateral Peace Operations and Anti-terrorism

Info: 8505 words (34 pages) Dissertation
Published: 10th Dec 2019

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Tagged: International RelationsMilitaryPolitics


International security politics are increasingly characterized by the framing of conflicts as wars on terrorism, and by the use of force among peace operations. The two trends crossed during the international assistance to Mali following the conflict of 2012 in the North. The peace operations have been led by France, and the UN with a significant involvement of ECOWAS, and the EU. The common ground of all actors is the fight against terrorist. I am using a comparative analysis of all actors active in Mali to demonstrate the effects of anti-terrorist based multilateral peace operations on the provision of security for the host-society, and on the legitimacy of the host-State. Subsequently, the example shows that the war on terrorism is creating a long-term securitization process, incentivized the non-terrorist non-State actors to remain active, and prevent the host-State from recovering a monopoly on violence.








The United Nations (UN) are increasingly allowing the use of force while authorizing individual states, group of states, or UN missions to intervene in a conflict or post-conflict situation. The authorization of missions under the Chapter VII is being repeated without any consideration of the specific situation, and works as an undoubted consensus within the UN security council (Howard and Dayal 2017). Meanwhile, foreign intervention, in general, has been increasingly justified by the presence of terrorism after the 2001 attacks against the United States (US). In Mali, in 2013, the two tendencies met, and several missions became authorized to intervene by the UN security council in order to repress terrorist group and to solve the wider conflict.

The literature provides an understanding of the relative efficiency of actors in peacekeeping missions and of the comparative efficiency of the Cold-war period type of peacekeeping compare to the one emerging after 1991 (Mullenbach 2013). In the 1990-2012 period, States have been the most efficient in preventing the resurgence of the conflict (25 successful cases on 33), and the less efficient in resolving the dispute (13 successful cases on 33). Therefore, the UN and regional intergovernmental organizations, which have comparable success rates, have done better in dispute resolution, and worse in conflict management (Mullenbach 2013). In Mali, each type of actor is engaged alongside the others in the peace operations thus allowing a qualitative comparison of their impacts. Moreover, that complex multilateralism has been described as an “emerging division of labor” with the UN relying on both single states and regional organization to act in relation to its own missions (Fortna and Howard 2008). Therefore, the Malian conflict and its management by the international community presents a situation where different type of external actors are working at the same time with the common objective of ensuring the Malian state survival. That goal is concretely organized around the consensus of the fight against terrorist group. The case study of Mali permits a qualitative comparison of each type of actor’s way of realizing peace operation.

The peacekeeping literature is only partly relevant for the case of Mali. Indeed, while there are undoubtedly peacekeeping mechanisms at work in Mali, there is also a peace enforcement strategy toward terrorists. Hence, foreign intervenors have imposed peace on a warring party while protecting the state which is a relevant situation for the literature on armed intervention. Being the costliest form of assisting or rebuilding a State, armed intervention involves a dilemma. The deployment of such massive means implies the presence of significant interest for the intervening polity. For all that, the long-term settlement of the conflict requires the existence of a legitimate State, and a such State can potential act against the interests of the foreign actor. The tradeoff between loyalty and legitimacy has been identified as “the state-builder dilemma” (Lake 2016). I consider the idea of that tradeoff to be valid in the Malian situation especially for single states but potentially for every actor. I am interested in the underlying assumption that the realization of the tradeoff induces the reshaping of the host-society politics.

The overlapping of the war on terrorism, and peace operations is not from unique to the Malian case. In Lebanon, the UN mission had to operate while taking into account the presence of the Hezbollah, a group present in the list of terrorist organizations of the Western States (Daniel 2017). Furthermore, the first, and most known, instance of the war on terror, the war in Afghanistan saw an intervention with a UN mandate, but no UN mission were sent. Outside of the explicit anti-terrorist intervention, the UN missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the Central African Republic (CAR) operates under Chapter VII with the aim of targeting specific groups that pose a threat to populations and “the authority of the State” (Karlsrud 2015). Nonetheless, the combination of the UN security council’s willingness to task its mission with the use of force, and the rising globalization of the counterterrorist framework (Bigo 2005), makes the interactions of the two trends likely to occur in future. Hence, how the combination of several peace operations based on anti-terrorism is affecting the politics of the host-society? I am supposing that the mobilization of the terrorist rhetoric is ousting all groups labelled terrorist creating a long-term security issue while creating more opportunity than usually in peace operations for the non-terrorist insurgents. The long-term security issue of terrorism gives the external actors an incentive to not look for a quick withdrawal without the need to ensure loyalty of the local political group excepting their support in the war on terrorism. The coordination between the international actors will be facilitated in the anti-terrorist policy while they will have difficulties to create incentives for the settlement of the disputes between non-terrorist actors.

I will first introduce the patterns of the main concepts discussed in the demonstration as a theoretic framework. Then, I will contextualize the particularities of the situation drawing from the literature the main factors of the conflict in Mali. Subsequently, I will survey the patterns of the external interventions, the evolutions of the non-terrorist groups, and of the terrorist groups, to finally, assess the variations for the host State, and society. Consequently, I will use the findings of the comparative approach to conclude on the characteristics of multilateral peace operations based on anti-terrorist struggle.

Theoretic framework: approaching peace operations, terrorism and host-State legitimacy

The puzzle of the recent conflict in Mali requires an organized set of definitions. The nature of the foreign assistance refers to several categories, and for analytical purpose, I will argue for the qualification of peace operations. Moreover, the significant common sense behind the notion of terrorism requires to conceptualize it, in order to consider it as a product of the conflict configuration rather than an intrinsic pattern of some armed group engaged in the conflict (Crettiez 2000). Finally, I will outline the means of measuring the outcomes of the external interventions on the Malian State and non-State actors.

From the verge of the crisis in late 2011 to the current situation, the range of mechanisms used by external actors has expanded, and evolved following the sudden developments inside Mali. For instance, the Coup of 2012 when military officers took power was met by calls for the return of a civilian government. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) led the mediation with the military leaders while applying sanctions over the country which can be considered as a form of coercive negotiation. Besides, after the settlement of transitional civilian government, ECOWAS promised military personnel of its member to support the Malian State objective to take back control over the Northern regions. Such action is a military assistance of one warring party. The troops of ECOWAS were not ready to deploy when in early 2013, armed groups in the North launched an assault on Central Mali. France intervened based on a request from the transitional government. Therefore, the French army became a new warring party in the side of the Malian State, and successfully took quickly control on the Northern regions with logistical support of the United States (US) African Command (AFRICOM) and the help of ground troops from nearby States. That type of assistance was an armed intervention that belongs to peace enforcement as it aimed “to separate warring sides in order to impose peace on at least one combatant” (Shimizu and Sandler 2002, 653, quoted in Mullenbach 2013). Both the plan of ECOWAS and the French intervention received approval by the UN security council which, later in 2013, deployed its own mission called The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINSUMA). The MINUSMA operates under Chapter VII with the ability to use force. Concretely, the MINUSMA has a wide array of tasks including four dimensions on the six listed by Mullenbach as a definition of peacekeeping namely: “maintaining law and order; monitoring a ceasefire agreement; protecting the delivering of humanitarian assistance; providing security for specific groups, events, or locations, such as refugee camps, government officials, elections, or major airports” (2013, 107). However, the mission also includes “ensuring security” and assistance in the “re-establishment of a State authority” thus authorizing “pre-emptive strikes” (Daniel 2017, 242-243). Hence, the MINUSMA combines peace enforcement and peacekeeping mechanisms.

Consequently, in a situation where external actors have relied on so diverse means under the common of objective of ensuring peace in Mali, I will use the term of peace operations to not be constrained to some precise definition. Peace operations are only defined by the higher aim of ensuring peace. Here, peace is understood as the prevention of physical violence with an emphasis on the prevention of political violence made by organized armed group.

The external actors have justified their intervention as the more efficient solution to bring peace while at the same time emphasizing the need to fight against terrorists. The war on terror rhetoric was central to the French State’s rationale to send troops in Mali as much as presenting it as a genuine help to save the Malian State from a tangible threat of extinction. Henke, in her analysis of the decision-making process inside the French government, noted that the communication campaign of the Defense Ministry has insisted in calling certain armed groups not just jihadist group as the main media did but “jihadist terrorist group” with the explicit purpose of indicating the threat they posed to French society (2017, 316). The US justification for its, diplomatic and logistical, support to the French operation also referred to the war on terror, as US Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta said “we’re concerned any time al-Qaida establishes a base of operations that, while they might not have any immediate plans for attacks in the United States and in Europe, that ultimately … still remains their objective” (Parrish 2013). Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a group considered as terrorist by all external actors was the reason advanced by the US authorities for their support with the same reminder that a domestic threat exists. Therefore, AQIM was framed as the main threat and by extension, its two allies Ansar Dine and the MUJAO (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa) are labelled as terrorist.

In the literature, the definition of terrorism led to the creation of many approaches and definitions. Most of which have considered that the concept has an essence, notably, Raymond Aron who pointed out the discrepancy between the physical impact of a terrorist action, and its disproportional psychological impact (Sommier 2015). I will mostly draw upon the relational definition of terrorism in which the discursive struggle between one or multiple States and other group within a wider “configuration of confrontations” (Crettiez 2000). As in many instances of the war on terror, various actors have agreed without difficulties upon the classification of certain groups of terrorist and others as non-terrorist. For Didier Bigo, the unity of the terrorist label come from the “antiterrorist collaboration of Western States” rather some “forms of violence it would describe” (quoted in Crettiez 2000). Hence, in Mali, only the coordination of the interventions makes the selection process of the terrorist label understandable. Furthermore, according to Crettiez, the configuration of a conflict is terrorist when “is privileged the use of acts and means of indiscriminate violence, whom objective is always to delegitimate the State’s functions by showing its incapacity to protect and/or by provoking mimetism between warring parties” (2000). Therefore, there is a direct relationship between the presence of a terrorist war and a degraded legitimacy of the host-State.

Lake estimates that “the central task of all statebuilding is to create a state that is regarded as legitimate by the people over whom it exercises authority” (2016, 1). The existence of an armed conflict is evidence of a complete lack of recognition of the State from a part of the population, the armed groups, and eventually their supporters. Hence, a peace operation also aims at rebuilding the statist legitimacy, even it is done through more indirect means compared to explicit ones, as in the case of Iraq. Furthermore, the legitimacy is given by the host-State population which requires to have an approximation of their opinions.

The main idea behind measuring the outcomes of foreign intervention within the Malian crisis is to follow the evolution of each actor, the State and non-state actors, throughout the period. It allows to see the evolution of the distribution of power among groups knowing that the objective of the foreign actors is to strengthen the State. Indeed, it is why the French State got involved in the first place, it is part of the MINUSMA mandate, and the very reason of the existence of EU training missions. Drawing from Mullenbach’s methodology, the resurgence of violence between parties of the conflict and the state of the implementation of agreements are the two main ways of asserting the quality of the peace brought by foreign interventions (2013). The opinions among the Malian population are also a significant measure of the State legitimacy and of the conflict situation. I will use the data from Afrobarometer which, despite the shortcomings of surveys, can give trends notably toward the democratic character of the Malian state.

Contextualization of the Malian conflict

The existence of Mali as a polity can be traced back before the colonial period because the region of the current State was the core of several empires. Historically, the Northern part of Mali had some specificities notably the flexible political organizations of the Tuareg peoples based on clans, and confederations (Wing 2016). To a certain extent, the Tuareg were predisposed to resist statehood, in the same logic as the groups studied by James Scott did in South-East Asia (Krasner 2011). The Tuareg country entered a long-term crisis as any of its confederations were able to resist the French colonial conquests (Houérou 2016). Indeed, in the late 19th century, Mali was completely under the colonial rule of the French empire which gradually instituted a centralized bureaucratic based on distorted historical local authorities, and a division between ethnic groups (Houérou 2016). Thus, the current Malian State, which independence in 1960, was born upon the colonial State notably keeping a secular and unitary form. Besides, Tuareg insurgencies occurred regularly, the last one before the 2012 crisis being settled in 2009 (Houérou 2016). Hence, the use of violence appears to be a regular strategy to advance political agendas in Northern Mali. Several factors have been advanced to explain why a new armed conflict appeared in 2012. There is a consensus over the destabilizing effects of the Libyan civil war and the fall of Muammar Gaddafi which spread arms in the region and led to the displacement of Tuareg groups (Houérou 2016; Wing 2016). Others have pointed out the role of the donors’ community toward the internal crisis of the Malian State notably because it sustained an unpopular regime (Bergamaschi 2014). The main distinctive feature of the last Malian conflict is the presence of Islamist fighters both domestic and foreign, or at least, transnational. In fact, Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), is a group born out of the Algerian civil war of the 1990s, which intervened in the Northern insurrection as an opportunity to spread its political agenda (Laub and Masters 2015). Moreover, the alliance of Tuareg insurgents with Islamist fighters is more an “accident” than a political proximity because Tuaregs are valuing, and fighting for a flexible political organization at odds with the rigid rules of the Islamists (Houérou 2016).

The organization of the assistance to the Malian State over time

Following the Coup in March 2012, ECOWAS intervened, as Mali is one of its member-States, leading a mediation for the return of a civilian government. ECOWAS quickly leveraged sanctions against Mali, with success, as a transitional government replaced the junta. Moreover, ECOWAS also intervened in the conflict of the Northern regions by promising a military support. In December 2012, the UN security council officially endorsed a military mission under ECOWAS named African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) (Sabrow 2017). However, the mission took time to be settled, and was not ready to intervene when an offensive was launched against Southern Mali (Wing 2016). AFISMA ended up being merged inside the MINUSMA, despite the tradition of the UN to not rely on neighboring States, and provided half of the personnel, without counting Chad which is not part of ECOWAS (Sabrow 2017).

The early 2013 offensive of the armed groups made the transitional government ask for the military intervention of France whom authorities were closely surveying the conflict, but were still divided between a multilateral and a unilateral intervention (Henke 2017). Thus, operation Serval was launched quickly, and received an authorization of the UN security council only afterward (Sabrow 2017). The French military had deployed up to more than 5000 soldiers, and was successful in its main objective of giving back to the Malian State the formal authority over the Northern regions (Shurkin 2014). While formally unilateral, operation Serval received the logistic support of the US AFRICOM. Moreover, Nigeria and Chad were able to send ground troops during the deployment of Serval (Wing 2016). In 2014, the French military replaced Serval by the operation Barkhane which is spread throughout the Sahel region with its headquarters in N’Djamena, Chad. The new operation is exclusively concerned with anti-terrorism, and not by providing security more broadly which allowed France to escape some criticisms (Wing 2016).

The MINUSMA was established by the UN security council in June 2013 with an authorization of more than 10 000 uniformed personnel. It has been mainly composed of African troops, European troops at strategic and command roles, and of traditional troop-contributing countries (Cold-Ravnkilde, Albrecht and Haugegaard 2017). Furthermore, the MINUSMA is characterized by several innovations as the presence of an intelligence unit, special forces, and modern equipment as drones (Daniel 2017). Accordingly, such means reflect the participation of the UN mission in the counterinsurgency campaign against terrorist groups. The mission is notably allowed to back the French military, and to receive its support. Such cooperation is not surprising as France possesses a permanent seat in the UN security council, thus being able to shape the UN involvement in Mali. However, the cooperation with the Malian military remains limited (Daniel 2017) showing that the State is still unable to ensure directly the security role of the MINUSMA. After the French created Barkhane, reduced their involvement, and divided it in the whole Sahel region, the MINUSMA became the main provider of security in Mali. The MINUSMA suffered 109 deaths among their personnel by August 2016 with an overwhelming majority of the deceased soldiers being African (Cold-Ravnkilde, Albrecht and Haugegaard 2017). In fact, the MINISMA is characterized by structural, and material inequalities among its members that explains the differences in casualties. The European contributing countries are filling the posts either removed from the dangerous areas, or adapted to counterinsurgency warfare (Cold-Ravnkilde, Albrecht and Haugegaard 2017). Meanwhile, African soldiers compose the majority of the rank-and-file realizing dangerous operations like managing the supply lines in Northern Mali; a situation which is combined with a lack of equipment’s replacement (Cold-Ravnkilde, Albrecht and Haugegaard 2017). Therefore, these patterns of the MINUSMA are not without effect as it provides the terrorist groups with attainable targets.

In Mali, the European Union (EU) has been involved in mediation for peace agreements, security sector reforms, and training missions. The training missions are directly strengthening the State through the improvement of its military capacities with positive effect on counterinsurgency in the short-term (Skeppström, Hull Wiklund and Jonsson 2015). Moreover, the EU trainers are engaged in monitoring of the Malian army regarding abuses, and are reporting abusive officers to the judiciary (Davis 2015). Furthermore, the EU encouraged the involvement of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and insisted on the judicialization of abuses to human rights (Davis 2015). Hence, such actions are likely to have a positive outcome for the legitimacy of the Malian State toward the more marginalized population. Besides, in the role of mediator, “the EU was seen as a legitimate party to the talks by both the government and MNLA” via its special representative (Davis 2015). In general, the role of the EU is described as an “indirect engagement” which mainly consists in supporting others (Davis 2015). The EU could have done more through its common security and defense policy, but remained a secondary actor. Therefore, its impacts on the Malian politics can be summarized as an increasing focus on security sector in order to strengthen the Malian State because it was marginal or inexistent toward non-State actors.

The positions of the non-terrorist armed groups throughout the crisis

The first actor of the crisis, the separatist and Tuareg-based National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), was formed in November 2011. It started its armed insurgency in 2012 resulting in the killing of between 70 to 150 Malian soldiers (Wing 2016). The loss of the North triggered the internal crisis of the Malian State. In April 2012, the Azawad was proclaimed as a state and effectively controlled by the MNLA. The MNLA advocated for a secular independent State, yet, such claims were at odds with the other groups which took the North alongside the MNLA. Ansar Dine, the MUJAO and AQIM’s political agendas were larger which explains why they ousted the MNLA, and launched an attack on Southern Mali in early 2013.

The offensive triggered the French intervention in the form of the operation Serval which took back Northern Mali. Shurkin surveyed the operation efficiency and argue for the significance of the expeditionary forces (2014). Composed of the marine troops and the foreign legion, expeditionary forces are the direct heirs of the colonial troops, thus having a long-term knowledge of a former colony like Mali. Moreover, France notably drew upon its former colonial rule’s practice based on the use of few troops compensated by a thorough knowledge of local politics. During Serval, the France had estimated the capacity of each actors to help in the conquest of Northern Mali, and that led to a de facto alliance with the MNLA, and some militias from the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA). Therefore, the MNLA, which was the responsible of starting the insurgency, became a significant ally in the war against terrorist groups. The MNLA was still in fierce conflict with the Malian State and opposed by some parts of the Northern Malians. Notwithstanding, the MNLA saw its place in the Malian politics reinforced as even the Malian army had to coordinate with them to invest back some locations in the North like Kidal. Indeed, in Kidal, the MNLA continued to occupy the town doing regular patrols, with the agreement of the French army (Wing 2016). Lastly, France strongly refused to act against any armed group not qualified as terrorist because it would constitute an intrusion into Malian “domestic affairs” (Shurkin 2014).

Meanwhile, Ansar Dine was being defeated by the French troops and their allies. In reaction, a fraction made secession creating the Movement of Islamic Azawad (MIA) led by the former deputy of Kidal, Alghabass Ag Intalla. In May 2013, the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA) is created leading the MIA to merge with it. Furthermore, the MNLA, and a fraction of the MAA signed an agreement with the HCUA to form one side in prevision of the peace agreements with the Malian State. The alliance is officially against armed struggle, but remained armed nonetheless. An actor as Alghabass Ag Intalla has thus started as a member of a group that ousted the MNLA to a leading figure of the Azawad’s camp of the peace negotiations. Formerly opposed actors became allied because they all wanted to avoid opposing the French army, thus having seats in the negotiations (Wing 2016). The Ouagadougou agreements of 2013 signed between the transitional government, the HCUA and the MNLA was the first attempt to settle the dispute after the foreign armed interventions. The first provision of the agreements was the organization of the 2013 elections which showed mixed results (see below), at least, allowed the installation of an elected government. Besides, the second provision showed the strength of the non-terrorist armed group, while being in accordance with UN method, as they were given a suspension of any inquiries of their crimes during the war (Davis 2015). Then, it appears that the post-conflict situation created significant opportunities both for individuals, and groups who were initially the instigators of the North-Mali conflict.

Meanwhile, all non-terrorist armed groups remained armed, a situation that escalated in fighting despite the ceasefire. For instance, in 2014, in Kidal, fighting between the Malian armed forces, and the rebel groups (MNLA, HCUA, and MAA) broke (Wing 2016). That situation showed the Malian State, and the non-terrorist groups could still settle their conflict using violence at a significant scale. Hence, the Malian State had no form of monopoly on violence as its direct opponents remained armed, and unlikely to comply to the State authority. Furthermore, the MINUSMA was supposed to prevent such resurgence of violence, but it could only impose a ceasefire afterward. France, despite its reluctance toward implication in Mali “internal politics”, backed the efforts of the MINUSMA to stop the fights.

In 2014, a former member of the MNLA created the coalition for the people of Azawad (CPA). As mentioned above, the Tuaregs are historically organized fluidly with a significant part of politics being the competition between clans. In the context of increasing international involvement in the North-Mali crisis, they used external opportunities as the legitimacy of fighting the terrorist alongside French soldiers, to gain bargaining power (Wing 2016). The non-terrorist armed groups also sought to play on the competition of regional power. Indeed, before the Algiers peace agreements of 2015, the CPA leader went to Algeria while the leader of the MNLA held meetings in Morocco (Wing 2016). Therefore, the rebel groups kept opportunities to gain leverage in negotiations outside of the implication in the anti-terrorist campaigns.

The political armed groups are not restrained to the rebellion side. The government was close to two non-State actors namely the Coordination of patriotic movements and forces of resistance(CM-FPR), and self-defense Tuareg Imghad and allies group (GATIA). Indeed, during the negotiations in Algiers, there were three sides: a dissident one organized around the MNLA, a fraction of the MAA and HCUA regrouped inside the Azawad’s movements coordination (CMA), a loyalist faction separated of the government including GATIA and the CPA, and the government itself. Even two years after the intervention of foreign troops, the majority of the groups represented included armed factions. Hence, the reliance on violence as a way of advancing a political agenda remained meaning that the government had no monopoly on violence. However, the government was close to some armed groups which indicates its willingness to accept the use of force outside of the State authority. The peace agreements were finally signed by all parties in June 2015 despite suspicion over the role of former members of Ansar Dine and over the unwillingness of the CMA to respect the terms of the accords (Wing 2016). Indeed, few months after the signature, several fights occurred between GATIA, and the CMA; the MINUSMA being unable to prevent the resurgence of violence (Diallo 2015).

The evolutions among the terrorist groups throughout the crisis

The coalition of Ansar Dine, the MUJAO, and AQIM was controlling most of the North before the arrival of French troops. They were able to implement, at least partly, their political agendas like the implementation of Islamic laws over the populations of controlled territories (Wing 2016). The groups are not identical because only AQIM is mostly a foreign entity, Ansar Dine is Tuareg-based, and the MUJAO focused on Malian politics (Shurkin 2014). The immediate impact of the external interventions was the strict separation of those groups which were excluded of all talks (Wing 2016). Furthermore, as demonstrated above, some individuals left to integrate or to create groups able to negotiate the terms of the peace with the government. Therefore, the terrorist factions lost the formal control of territories, however, the presence of foreign troops was an advantage according to their political ideologies. They attacked continuously French, UN and Malian troops because they considered them as all part of a “hegemonic agenda” (Cold-Ravnkilde, Albrecht and Haugegaard 2017).

In January 2015, a new group appeared, the Macina Liberation Front (MLF) led by a preacher, and mostly active in Central Mal; it called for indiscriminate attacks against “whites” thus trying to mobilize among a racial line (Wing 2016). Its creation shows that the terrorists have been able to target regions that were before free of that kind of violent actions. Furthermore, the terrorist groups attacked a hotel directly in Bamako, the capital, an action that received considerable media coverage (Hanna, Payne, and Almasy 2015). Moreover, the high casualties of MINUSMA, and the 17 deaths suffered by the French Army (AFP and Reuters 2016) demonstrates the ability of the terrorist to successfully attain military personnel, thus fueling their narratives. Furthermore, the patterns of actions by the groups labelled terrorist demonstrates their resilience to the peace operations, thus rendering plausible their long-term existence in Mali. The global terrorism index shows that the impact of terrorism in Mali significantly increase after 2012, started to decrease only in 2016, and nonetheless remains high (Global terrorism index, 2013-2017). Moreover, Mali suffered the most from terrorism in 2015 while all the foreign interventions were deployed. It means that the terrorist groups, according to their rationale, were particularly efficient after the arrival of foreign troops, and despite a decrease of the index in 2016, their activities remained above the level of 2012.

The situation of the State, and the evolving perceptions among the Malian population

The evolutions of all non-State actors show their increasing strength following the international involvements that means the State has not reincorporated the political competition inside its authority. Furthermore, the monopoly on violence is inexistent as both foreign troops, and domestic armed groups remains active outside of the State authority. For instance, the MINUSMA mandate remains limited in the possibilities of cooperation with the Malian armed forces while it also orders the mission to support the State authority (Daniel 2017). Hence, both for reasons of legitimacy and capacity, the MINUSMA remains more significant in the provision of security than the host-State. In addition, the anti-terrorist struggle led by the French relies on the cooperation with rebel armed groups giving them the legitimacy of participating in the provision of security.

However, the perceptions of the Malians tend to show a significant trust of the State, at least for its overall democratic character. In the 2015 round of the Afrobarometer, on 35 countries, Mali ranked the fourth in population’s trust toward national electoral commissions (Penar et al. 2016). Between 2011 and 2015, the trust toward national electoral commission has increased by 28 points of percentage which is the most significant improvement within the group of countries. Moreover, 84% of the Malian interviewees consider the last elections to be free and fair in 2015 ranking Mali fourth inside the 35 countries. Compared to 2011, that opinion has increased by 26 points of percentage among the Malian interviewees. Furthermore, 84% of Malian interviewees considered they had a real choice in the last Malian elections (Penar et al. 2016).

Nonetheless, Mali has only a score of 1 on 12 on elections according to Freedom House, hence, perceptions are sharply more positive than the experts’ evaluation. Indeed, 40% of Malian interviewees considered that candidates have never or only sometimes been treated fairly in the media coverage. Moreover, 74% of Malian interviewees has estimated that electors had been corrupted often or always. Such affirmation raised doubts on the meaning of corruption which might be considered as a “free and fair” practice in national politics. Moreover, the definition of corruption, usually the personal exchange of material goods against a political support, is probably not consensual. In fact, the aggregation of opinions on an abstract concept, as corruption, blurs the variety of meaning held by the interviewed population (Bourdieu 1973). Notwithstanding, for the elections of 2013, among the Malian interviewees, 24% feared little to be victim of political intimidation or violence, and 11% feared very much. Furthermore, 24% of them also declared they considered that threats against electors in the polling station happened often or systematically (Penar et al. 2016). Therefore, a significant part of the population stated that political intimidation toward voting choices, a concrete fact, have mattered for the elections. Consequently, the State regained considerable democratic legitimacy following the foreign interventions despite the presence of “corruption”, and unfairness in media coverage which are undemocratic according to the formal view of representative democracy. However, it seems to be acceptable for the Malian population who is the essential source of legitimacy for the State. Finally, the use of violence as a political tool to affect the voting behavior of Malian is asserted, thus reinforcing the role of violence in Malian politics.

According to Bleck and Michelitch who realized a qualitative study of the opinion of Malians, mainly in rural areas, the most pressing challenge for the population is the provision of basic public goods, and services other than security (2015). Accordingly, the failure of the Malian State to impose a monopoly on violence is relativized as a source of legitimacy because improvements in the fulfillment of basic needs among the population can be a better source of legitimacy. However, such improvements can be done without an increase in State capacity because the link between statehood, and a better provision of basic goods and services is weak or inexistent (Lee, Walter-Drop and Wiesel 2014). In a situation where the increase in the fulfillment of basic needs is not the fact of the State, the later will lose the more significant source of legitimacy when the provision of security is impossible.  Finally, the perceptions of the international intervention are mixed among the population. Indeed, Sabrow, by surveying the Malian press and civil society, demonstrated that the UN and French involvements are widely seen as an imposition of the agenda of the major powers (2017). The lack of influence of Africa in global politics is regretted as the deficient performance of the AFISMA which, nonetheless, received a strong ideological support as a fraternal help (Sabrow 2017). The fact that a majority of the MINUSMA personnel is from Western Africa is not appreciated as a positive fact because the MINUSMA remains associated with the political agendas of Western powers (Sabrow 2017). Consequently, the organized part of the Malian public opinion has a perception of their State (and their continent) as being subjugated by Western power which is a significant lack of legitimacy.

Conclusion: multilateralism, anti-terrorism and their impacts on the post-conflict situation

In Mali, the focus of international actors on fighting terrorism created incentives for the non-terrorist and non-State actors to remain armed, and active. Accordingly, the situation favorited the resurgence of violence between parties of the peace agreements, thus showing the inability of the MINUSMA to enforce ceasefires. The French intervention has turned into a transnational anti-terrorist operation based on various alliances, and marginally concerned with the global provision of security to the Malian population. Moreover, France involvement in Mali, and the Sahel region, combined with the militarized character of the MINUSMA is framing the crisis of Mali under a militarization process. Indeed, the anti-terrorist struggle will probably be implemented on the long-term as the threats caused by terrorist groups have increased, and remained significant. Moreover, the various armed groups have used the war on terrorism as a resource, using their engagement as the main justification for their continuous active use of armed forces. For the Malian politics, it means that the struggle for the Azawad (a theoretic independent State in Northern Mali) as its opponents can rely on the use, or the threat to use force (Poupart 2017). The case of Mali demonstrated the total partiality of the UN mission. It is not an isolate case as the use of force in the UN mission in CAR and DRC are bearing the same characteristics (Karlsrud 2015), even without the mobilization of anti-terrorist rhetoric. However, in the case of Lebanon, the UN mission was able to remain fairly neutral (Daniel 2017). The situation might be explained by the difference between a group like the Hezbollah, and the terrorist groups in Mali who have different political agendas, and by the fact that the UN mission in Lebanon is maintaining a peace in an interstate dispute with Israel. Subsequently, the demonstrated overall efficiency of UN peacekeeping missions is mainly caused by the reliance on various incentives to the warring parties rather than the use of military coercion (Matanock and Lichtenheld 2016). In a reversed fashion, the peace operations in Mali have created incentives, in the form of the participation in the anti-terrorist policy, for warring parties to remain armed and active. While it was mostly caused by the French operation, the MINUSMA is bearing most of the consequence because it is responsible of the monitoring of ceasefires. Besides, as shown by the willingness of international actors to work with the Malian army, the host-State is recovering some capacities probably favorited by the EU training missions, and the capacity-building part of the MINUSMA. However, the State remains a secondary actor in the provision of security, and is unable to recover its monopoly on violence. In the realm of political competition, the Malian population trusts the democratic character of the State even if it remains far from the standards of representative democracy. Finally, there is a plausible hope that the Malian State can recover a high legitimacy by improving directly the material condition of its citizens, especially in rural areas. Therefore, the deleterious effects of the war on terrorism have not created an illegitimate State without feasible prospects of improving its situation. For analytic purposes, I treated the Malian State as a monolithic actor while it is, as every State, traversed by internal struggles. However, a thorough analysis of these internal struggles can demonstrate the effects of the anti-terrorist policy of international actors in the position of various statist groups.

In short, the combination of multilateral peace operations, and anti-terrorist policy induces some specific features. The intervening power will be likely to solve the tradeoff between the interests of the host-State, and their interests by giving a priority to anti-terrorism policies, thus following the immediate goal of their intervention. The presence of non-terrorist armed group will be a resource for the international actors who are primarily not responsible for the maintenance of peace (in the example, France) which complicates the enforcement of ceasefire (in the example, the mission of the MINUSMA). Therefore, it is impossible for the host-State to have a monopoly on violence; it can even accommodate to the situation by making alliance with non-State armed groups. Nevertheless, the host-State can keep other means to improve its legitimacy. Finally, the use of multiple operations has mixed effects on the terrorist groups, despite the central goal of opposing them. Terrorist groups cannot sustain themselves in control of a territory, but they redirect their efforts against the foreign troops. The mechanisms of UN missions are likely to bring attainable targets because of the structural weakness of the military of some troop-contributing countries. Therefore, the terrorist groups are fighting a foreign presence which can improve their recruitment in the case of illegitimate international actors. Hence, the terrorist threat is likely to remain in the long-term which seems contradictory to the justification of the foreign interventions in the first place.

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