Sahel could Bamako fall to the terrorists? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Boubacar Salif Traoré Directeur du cabinet Afriglob Conseil, Paris   
Monday, 28 November 2016 17:58


Who would have thought that, almost four years - in January 2017 - after Operation Serval, Mali would still be in such an uncertain security situation?






What a visible and disturbing failure.


 In the aftermath of the 2013 presidential election, many observers believed in the revival of Mali's defense and security forces.


Several projects had been announced, such as the creation of two Training Centers in the northern part of the country (a Special Forces Training School and a Preparatory Training School for Officers). In the wake of the signing of the Cooperation Agreement between Mali and France, several measures had been announced, notably a law on military Orientation and Programming. Between 2013 and 2015, almost 2.500 billion FCFA (nearly 4.7 billion Euros) were announced by the Malian authorities, all aiming at reforming the Army.


In spite of these various declarations and commitments by the Malian Authorities, there is a marked deterioration in the situation of the Malian army, which is constantly losing men. Why?


Act 1: The suspicion of funds misappropriation, following the purchase of military equipment less than six months after the inauguration of the new President in September 2013, has immediately created a feeling of mistrust of the military with regard to the new government.


Act 2: The visit, of the then Prime Minister to Kidal in 2014, has exposed the Malian army weaknesses, thus reinforcing the armed groups, who were offered an unexpected opportunity to test an army which, according to policy statements, was combat ready! It was a disaster, because, in addition to the heavy loss of life within the army ranks, (more than 70 people), the armed groups recovered the positions they have previously lost.


Act 3: The disruption of the chain of command, resulting from the Prime Minister's visit, has demonstrated a real inability of those responsible, at the time, to define a co-ordinated and coherent defense policy. The resignation of the then Defense minister, led the very strategic defense ministry to a great instability. The department has experienced four ministers over a period of three years


Act 4: The increase in criminality, petty crimes, acts of incivility and popular justice, have plunged the capital into a great insecurity and even in a psychosis ambiance. Security in Bamako should have been addressed several months before allowing any other military operations. It is only once it is ensured that other operations, such as the quiet return to the northern regions, should have been undertaken.


The regression of the Malian army. Paradoxically, and despite the commitment of the international community, there is a clear regression of the Malian army. The effectiveness of an army is measurable by its ability to take and retain strategic positions.


Since 2013, that has not happened in Mali. Worse, in addition to the absence of a military doctrine, the recruitment policy, which was once considered corrupt by the majority of observers and military actors, has never been improved. Even worse, acts of disappearance of military equipment, previously almost non-existent, are becoming more and more frequent, (probably in connection with banditry and the organized crime). Moreover, structures with a prominent role, such as the National Commission to Combat the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons, are slowly fading away as there is no real Plan of Action.


Strenthening the MINUSMA or the Army?


Mali still does not have an army capable of taking back the lost territories. Instead of seizing the opportunity of the international presence to reinforce its army, the Malian government, candidly believes that the international forces would be present for ever to ensure the protection of its citizen.


Much worse, believing that the MINUSMA, the UN force in the country, must fight the terrorist threat in its ‘’lieu and place’’, the Malian authorities are constantly shouting to the whole world on the need to strengthen the MINUSMA mandate. In fact, that the Mandate has never ceased to evolve. It is rather an effective Malian army that is missing within the security system.


Barkane is not a permanent force. During the French conservative party campaign for the selection of its candidate to next May presidential election, a number of the contestants did not conceal their intention, if they were elected, to withdraw their country troupes from Mali. Former president Nicholas Sarkozy, the lead actor in the intervention in Libya, has openly questioned the usefulness of the French troupes in the Sahel. Moreover, the increase in terrorists’ attacks against French soldiers in this pre-election period is clearly part of a strategy aiming at encouraging French public opinion to vote in favor of the withdrawal of troupes from the Sahel.


The overall objective sought by the terrorists is to provoke the withdrawal of the operation Barkhane troupes. Indeed, for the main cities of northern Mali, these troupes constitute the only credible protection.


The end of Barkhane would cause a collapse of the security architecture in the Sahel. That would, de facto, allow terrorists to reach their 2013 target which is capturing Mali southern regions including Bamako.


The reinforcement of terrorists. It is estimated that there would be close to 2.000 young Africans in the ranks of terrorist groups in the Middle East. With others, they could move to the Sahel-Sahara band. Moreover, the figures announced by the armed groups in Mali about the fighters for the cantonment are edifying. The armed groups have announced between 9.000 and 18.000 combatants, whereas, at the beginning of the events, they were only a few hundreds. That also shows a great evolution of mercenary activity in the area.


The Peace Agreement became a "Trojan Horse". The signing of the Agreement, which was originally to take place sixty days after the establishment of the new government, was finally signed almost two years later. Despite the signing in 2015, these Agreements are still not implemented. Their slow implementation has allowed some allies, in the shadow of the terrorist groups, to benefit from a comfortable situation between Bamako and Kidal. In addition to benefiting from the largesse of the government, these individuals also have access to Strategic information.


The very uncertain security future of Mali. The Malian authorities, having failed to adopt a coherent defense and security policy, have placed the country in an uncomfortable situation. At this stage, the end of Operation Barkhane is not desirable but, today, no one can predict its continuation in case of an alternation to power in France. By then, one can only hope that no heavy loss will occur, within the French forces. Indeed that could spell disaster for Mali security.

Last Updated ( Monday, 28 November 2016 18:08 )

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