Mali (The Sahel)


Conflict Summary

The internal conflict in Algeria morphed from a civil war into a transnational Islamist insurgency. In 2007, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) became the new name for the Groupe Salafiste pour La Predication et Le Combat (Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, GSPC), a terrorist organisation committed to overthrowing the Algerian state. It has attacked security forces, kidnapped soldiers and tourists, and is involved in terrorist training, smuggling and other criminal activities across the Sahel region. In 2012, the centre of conflict moved from Algeria into southern Mali, as the democratically elected Malian government was deposed in a military coup. In subsequent months, a battle for control of northern Mali was fought between the secular secessionist Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and various local Islamist movements that were backed by AQIM. By the time French forces intervened, Islamist forces had established control and had begun the implementation of Sharia law.

By 2015, two coalitions of armed groups had emerged and engaged in peace talks. The first, the Platform (CMFPR–I*, CPA, MAA and smaller factions such as GATIA) is considered to be pro-government; while the other, the Coordination (CMFPR–II, MNLA, HCUA and another faction of the MAA) is more hardline and has sought the ‘liberation’ of Azawad, a region in the country’s northeast. Reports have suggested that the conflict is in fact an ethnic clash between two Tuareg tribal groups, the Imghad and the Ifogas (or Iforas). Violent clashes continue to occur on a weekly basis throughout the country, with the northeast still the most insecure region. Both the Platform and the Coordination have violated the peace agreement, and other Islamist groups also carry out violent attacks on military and civilian actors.

[*CMFPR: Coordination of Movements and Resistance Patriotic Fronts; CPA: Coalition for the People of Azawad; MAA: Arab Movement of Azawad; GATIA: Group of Imghad Tuareg and Allies; HCUA: High Council for the Unity of Azawad.]