Mali SSR Background Note


Key Statistics

Location: Landlocked country, West Africa

Population: 18M, 90% of whom reside in the southern region (World Bank 2017)

Capital: Bamako with 2.7M people (World Bank 2017)

Area: 1,240,190 Km2   (World Bank)

Mineral wealth: gold (72% of exports), iron ore, bauxite and manganese.

Local authorities: 703 municipalities, comprising of 666 rural municipalities and 37 urban municipalities (OECD 2016)

Languages: French (official), Bambara and around 12 others.

Constitution: The Constitution of the Republic of Mali, 12 January 1992

Political system: Republic

GDP Growth rate: 7.6% (UN 2017)

GDP per capita: 824.5 USD (World Bank 2017)

Most Productive Sectors: agriculture and mining make up 80% of Malian revenue and exports.

Poverty headcount ratio at national poverty line: 43.6% (World Bank 2009)

Literacy rate, adult total age 15 and above: 33% (World Bank 2015)

External Debt: 4.3 Billion USD (UN 2014) 

Ibrahim Index for African Governance: 25/54 (2017)

Freedom House Index: Partly free (2018)

Corruption Index: 122/180 (Transparency International 2017)

Human Development Index0.442 (2016)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction and General Background

     i. Cultural and Geographic Background

    ii. Economic Background

2. Historical Overview 

3.  Current Political Context and Governance System

     i. Recent conflict

    ii. Governance 

   iii. Peace talks

4. Security Sector Overview

    i.  Defence

    ii. State Control

    iii. Justice

    iv.  Police and Internal Security

     v. Civil Society

     vi. Human Rights

5. Security Sector Reform

     i. Justice Reform

     ii. Police Reform

     iii. Defence Reform

     iv. Public Expenditure Review

     i. Gender Equality Aspects

6. International Community SSR Engagement

7. Future Considerations

8. List of Acronyms     

9. Further Reading                

1. Introduction and General Background

i. Cultural and Geographic Background

The Republic of Mali is located in the interior of West Africa. It is divided into 10 regions and one capital district: Bamako, Gao, Kayes, Kidal, Koulikoro, Ménaka, Mopti, Ségou, Sikasso, Taoudénit, and Tombouctou. Despite being the eighth largest country in Africa, with 3% annual population growth, Mali’s population is still relatively sparse, with a little over 18 million inhabitants (90% of whom reside in the south).

This north and south divide can be seen in the geographical and cultural landscape of Mali. The north is composed of large areas of arid land and desert, with few large urban cities and more semi-nomadic communities. The southern region is more sub-tropical in climate and dense in population. It is also home to Mali’s capital, Bamako. Culturally, the south is predominantly composed of the Bambara ethnic group. The north is considered more ethnically diverse, with the Songhauis, Moors, and Fula communities located around the Niger River regions, and Tuaregs – a cluster of semi-nomadic communities – straddling the Niger River and extending northwards towards Algeria, Niger, and Libya. Despite being composed of various ethnic groups, over 90% of Mali’s population is Muslim. Islam is deeply rooted in the history of Mali, with the ancient city of Timbuktu considered an epicentre for Islamic scholarship in the 12-16th century.

ii. Economic Background

Mali is among the 25 poorest countries in the world. Most of the economic activity is confined to regions irrigated by the Niger River, with both agriculture and mining making up 80% of Malian revenue and exports. Mali has a high dependency on imported goods, making it vulnerable to food price shocks and highly dependent on remittances and foreign aid.

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  2.     Historical Overview

Mali gained independence in 1960, becoming a one-party state under Bambaran President Modibo Keita. Under Keita’s 8-year rule, the central government implemented economic and social policies perceived as favouring southern regions over the northern Touareg. A small group of Touareg nobles rebelled against the central government in 1962, resulting in a brutal repression by the State and retribution against the north. This created ethnic and regional mistrust, division, and resentment. By 1968, President Keita was overthrown in a coup d’état, and 23 years of military dictatorship followed. Throughout the dictatorship, the north suffered from successive droughts and limited development and economic growth. Combined with the harsh living conditions, many nomadic communities migrated either to aid camps in the south or abroad to Libya.

After four months of multi-party demonstrations, Moussa Traoré was overthrown on 26 March 1991 by Lieutenant-Colonel Amadou Toumani Touré. The constitution of the third republic was adopted by referendum on 12 January 1992. The new government signed the National Pact for reconciliation with the Touaregs on 11 April 1992, and presidential elections were won two weeks later on 26 April by Alpha Oumar Konaré. After two terms, Konaré retired, and Amadou Toumani Touré regained the presidency in the elections of May 2002.

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3 . Current Political Context and Governance System

i. Recent conflict

Mali’s recent history has been marked by a series of northern-led insurgencies against the southern Malian government in 1990, 1992, and 2006, with the common theme of achieving greater political autonomy for the north, improved access to state services, decentralisation of the government, state supported economic development, and integration of armed forces into the national army.  Treaties making concessions to these effects were never fully implemented, which, along with the cross-border fallout from the fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya in 2011, contributed to the conflict which erupted in 2012. Many Touaregs, leaving the Libyan army equipped with fresh weapons, supplies, and training gathered to form the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). The MNLA united various rebellious northern factions and aimed at independence for the north, which they called Azawad, as their ethnic homeland.

The government’s perceived mismanagement of both the crisis in the north and the armed forces in general prompted a faction of the military to stage a coup against the democratically-elected President Amadou Toumani Touré. The coup crippled the capacity of the government and armed forces, subsequently creating a political vacuum upon which various insurgent groups capitalised. The economic activity of the north, in the absence of functioning governing authorities, has become oriented towards cross-border trafficking of legal and illegal products through an informal economy.

The international community and Malian Civil Society Organizations (CSO) were quick to condemn the unfolding political and military events in Bamako. A number of targeted sanctions were imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and ultimately culminated in the resignation of the junta in April 2012. A civilian interim government was then created and led by President Dioncounda Traoré. This interim government and UN-backed forces lacked the capacity to effectively combat insurgents and, as a result, France led a military offensive against northern extremist groups in January 2013. Within a month, French forces re-captured the northern region of Mali including three major cities Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal. Insurgents fled to nearby countries and desert hideouts, from where they continued to launch attacks on civilian and military outposts.

On 1 July  2013, AFISMA handed overs its authority to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Under the Ouagadougou preliminary agreement of 18 June 2013, the remaining insurgent parties to the conflict agreed to allow for elections to be held in Kidal, in exchange for an inclusive dialogue following the election. MINUSMA, after being granted access to northern regions, took on a robust peace enforcement role and facilitated the country’s political and electoral process in 2013. During this time, MINUSMA was free to initiate and conduct operations that concerned Malian defence and security. Furthermore, the mandate authorised the French forces stationed in Mali to come to the aid of MINUSMA if ever they were under imminent attack.

Mali held Presidential and parliamentary elections in 2013. After two rounds, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was declared the winner. Election observers from the African Union, ECOWAS, Canada, and the UN declared both rounds of elections free and fair, while the EU also declared the final round of election “transparent”(BBC, 2013). One highlight of the election process is that the security forces did not declare or provide support for any candidate. Keita was re-elected in 2018 gaining 67% of the vote in elections declared acceptable by the EU and AU poll observers.

As the 2012 conflict evolved, the MNLA gradually began to splinter along ethnic and cultural lines. These clashes included the Coordination of the Azawad Movements (CMA), a pro-independence coalition composed of Touareg groups from the Ifoghas community and Arab groups (MNLA, HCUA, MAA and CMFPR II), and the Platform of Armed Groups, a coalition of groups including Arabs, Songhaïs and Touaregs from the Imghad community (GATIA, CMFPR-I, MAA and CPA loyalists). The Platform is supported by the Bamako government and led by General Gamou of the Malian National Armed Forces (FAMa). By June 2014, the fighting amongst the various groups and the state prompted UN Security Council Resolution 2164, expanding MINUSMA’s mandate.

The Algiers Peace Talks were initiated in April 2014. The talks consisted of two separate platforms of non-state armed groups: the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) and the Platform of armed groups. The Peace Talks were highly challenging due to the lack of a common agenda on matters regarding autonomy, federalism, and decentralisation. A peace agreement was signed on 20 June 2015, calling for a ceasefire and withdrawal insurgent groups in opposition regions. In February 2016, the signatory parties announced a timeline for the implementation of interim authorities, and cantonment.  Most of the provisions of this agreement have not been fully implemented.

Radical and militant groups continue to be engaged in the area (UNSG, 2016), and asymmetric attacks attributed to armed radical groups against national and international security and defence forces have increased. In winter 2017, a newly formed coalition of three main terrorist groups (Ansar Dine, Al-Mourabitoune, and AQIM) emerged, contributing to the instability of the country (IFRI, 2017). Local and international actors have responded by adopting sub-regional approaches to combatting violent extremism. The Malian Government has responded by promoting security partnerships with neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire.

The July 2018 presidential elections resulted in a significant victory of Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, the incumbent candidate. The greatest challenge facing the newly elected administration would be to revive the Bamako peace agreement that fell short regarding its main provisions on the devolution of power and economic development in the north, as well as the demobilisation of the armed groups that signed the deal. The lack of engagement of the signatories and of its guarantors led to limited impacts on the ground. Renewed efforts could potentially bring the stability Mali has long sought. 

  ii. Governance

The 1992 Constitution established three branches of government- the legislative, executive and judicial branches- imbued with separate powers. Below is an overview of the key institutions and actors in Mali.

  • Legislative Branch – The National Assembly—the single chamber of the Malian Parliament—exercises powers of parliamentary oversight over the security apparatus. It also votes on laws and puts in place fundamental principles for the organisation of defence and security. 
  • Executive Branch – The executive branch is the cornerstone of the governing apparatus of the armed forces. The executive exercises direct control at all levels and determines the budget, guidelines and priorities for the security sector. The president is commander-in-chief and chairs the National Defence Council, the Committee for National Defence, and the Council of Ministers.
  • Judicial Branch – The judicial branch has constitutional and legal purview over the security sector. It has the capability to monitor and prosecute security sector actors through civil or criminal proceedings for criminal offenses. It is additionally composed of political courts for cases involving ministers and the president and Constitutional Courts.

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4.  Security Sector Overview

The Malian security sector is governed by various bodies and institutions. Control and oversight of the security sector is under the management of civilian authorities and is governed by a legal framework that seeks to prevent violations of and by the security sector actors.

  i. Defence

The Malian Armed Forces consist of the National Defence, composed of the Air Force, the Army and the National Guard, alongside the National Gendarmerie, all of whom fall under the authority of the Ministry of Armed Forces and Former Combatants (MoAF).

The President is the supreme commander of the armed forces, and the Prime Minister is responsible for the implementation of the national defence policy. The Armed Forces fall under the MoAF, and consist of 13,800 personnel. The armed forces are also used during peacetime as an auxiliary force to maintain public order. As of 2014, 7% of the army and 6% of the air force were composed of women.

There has always been tension between the civilian population and military forces because of Mali’s history of authoritarian rule. This relationship has been further damaged by the recent coup and continued influence of the ex-Junta leaders on the interim government. Furthermore, Mali’s military remains deeply divided, underpaid and unable to effectively defend the country from insurgent groups. Security forces have also been accused of violating basic human rights and attacking individuals who belong to specific ethnic groups thought to be in collusion with the insurgents.

i. State control

Despite having the infrastructure and constitutional backing, Mali has historically struggled with persistent corruption at all levels of the government as well as a culture of secrecy. Moreover, the parliament suffers from a lack of adequate resources and expertise, and it has not been assertive in the governance of the security sector in relation to the executive (DCAF, 2010). Below are the main actors in the Malian oversight system responsible for aiding in government accountability.

  • Office of the Auditor General – Created in 2003, its mission is to contribute to better management of public resources by fighting corruption, waste, and abuse of public funds.
  • Ombudsperson – The Ombudsperson (‘’Médiateur’’) is empowered to investigate cases, use specialized inspections, and propose recommendations, but do not have jurisdiction over the armed forces.
  • Committee on National Defence, Security and Civil Protection - Like the 11 other committees of the National Assembly, it is composed of 12 members, and its main role is to study bills or proposals for legislation. Chaired by President IBK's son, Karim Keita, the Committee has been tasked with studying the Military Orientation and Programming Act for the years 2015-2019.

iii. Justice

Mali’s judicial system is based on French civil law and international customary law. It is constitutionally guaranteed independence. In 1994, Mali established a Constitutional Court for juridical review of the legislative branch and a High Court of Justice for trying government officials. The Supreme Court has administrative and judicial powers and deals with appeals and rulings.

Although the judicial system is independent, the executive branch has substantial influence over the judiciary, as the president heads the Superior Judicial Council (the body that supervises judicial activity) and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights (responsible for appointing judges and providing court oversight). Moreover, judges face case backlogs, contributing to long detentions and remand periods. Problems such as chronic corruption, shortage of staff and material resources, linguistic barriers, lack of knowledge on procedures and laws, and insufficient connections with ‘customary justice’ providers exist (CLU, 2015). Customary justice is considered more accessible, comprehensive, affordable, and familiar, notwithstanding issues of corruption and legality.

The Directorate for National Penitentiary Administration is meant to investigate and monitor prison and detention centre conditions; however, it is unclear whether it is effective or even active. Prisons in Mali are overcrowded with poor access to healthcare and food. There is also a lack of qualitative judicial police, a lack of staff resources, sizeable backlog, and, at times, a notably harsh punitive approach to criminal justice that makes little use of alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders. Administratively, prison systems struggle with poor recordkeeping, no specific ombudsman for prisoners complaints, and mismanagement of prison funds (CLU, 2015). Finally, despite Malian law requiring it, it appears that there is little-to-no separation of genders or age groups in prisons.

iv. Police and Internal Security

Internal security and public order are ensured by the National Police, the National Gendarmerie, and the National Guard, which report to the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection (MSPC) for employment. The two last institutions remain attached to the Ministry of Defence and Veterans (MDAC) for their administrative and budgetary management. The 2015 Peace Agreement also allows for the creation of territorial police forces in the regions.

  • The National Police falls under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Security and Civil Protection (MoI). It is estimated to employ over 6,000 individuals, 700 of whom are women. The National Police’s mandate focuses primarily on the protection of people and property, identification and record of criminal offenses, gathering evidence, finding and arresting perpetrators, and gathering intelligence to inform government decision-making.
  • The Judicial Police, an integral part of the National Police, is tasked specifically with reporting violations of criminal law, gathering evidence, tracking down suspects and supporting investigating authorities once a case is opened.
  • The National Gendarmerie shares a number of security related responsibilities with the National Police and the National Guard, including maintaining public order, collecting intelligence, and protecting private property. Having military status, it is also entrusted with territorial defence. As of 2015, it is estimated that the gendarmerie counts 4,000 individuals, 100 of whom are women.
  • The National Guard is responsible for providing security to political and administrative institutions as well as contributing to the maintenance of public order and the territorial defence of Mali. The National Guard falls under the MoAF for administrative affairs and the MoI for deployment. As of 2015, it is estimated that the National Guard contains 3,000 individuals, 100 of whom are women. 

v. Civil Society

Mali has historically maintained a flourishing civil society which has served as a means of oversight for the security sector. These include women’s organisations, human rights organisations, individual citizens, and the media. CSOs have remained engaged in public affairs, regularly providing consultation on security strategies and policies of the state as well as working in collaboration with security sector actors such as the police to improve the security and well-being of society.

vi. Human Rights

The National Commission on Human rights began to function only since 2010. While it operates under the Ministry of Justice’s guardianship, it encompasses a few members of Civil Society organisations. From a broad perspective, Mali's government generally respects the human rights of its citizens and observes relevant constitutional provisions and prohibitions. There are some reported abuses but they seem to be rare occurrences rather than structurally-induced violations. In Mali, the greatest threats to Human rights originate from the conflict. Bombings, shootings and summary executions keep inflating the conflict’s death toll.  Some Islamist armed groups managed to impose their version of Sharia and established courts that did not adhere to fair trial standards. Government forces took steps to protect civilians by patrolling and intervening to stop communal tension, but military operations to counter the growing presence of Islamist armed groups resulted in serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary arrest. The military made little effort to hold to account soldiers or militiamen but it promised internal investigations into alleged abuses by their forces would be conducted.

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  5.     Security Sector Reform

In 2005, the government of Mali launched a national debate on SSR and formulated a national security policy redefining Mali’s security policy on the basis of human security, inclusiveness, and prevention. Notable components to the policy were: capacity building for security forces; promoting neighbourhood policing; and implementation of shared governance of security. The Shared Governance of Security and Peace Programme (PGPSP) was established and launched in 2008 as the instrument for implementation of the National Security Policy. Notable achievements to the PGPSP include the adoption of a National Policy Framework Document on Internal Security and Protection by the Council of Ministers, capacity building efforts including round table discussions on human rights, conferences, and training programmes, and programmes designed to encourage intercommunity dialogue in the north. While the PGPSP marginally improved civil-military relations, the slow adoption by the security services and a lack of ownership of the SSR process hindered the overall process. Gender relations serve as one example; as of 2015, despite the adoption of a national strategy to increase female participation by in government 30%, it is estimated that women represent 9.5% of the National Assembly, 7.6% of municipal councils, 9% of Ministers.

The 2012 coup had lasting impacts on the SSR process in Mali. The 2013 insurgency and clashes between the Malian Armed Forces and armed groups not only temporarily derailed the PGPSP and SSR efforts; the conflict additionally illustrated the lack of capacity and efficiency of the armed forces, the persisting problem between civilian and military institutions, and chronic corruption throughout the security sector. The crisis additionally highlighted the security services’ disregard for human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL), as allegations of extrajudicial execution of civilians and torture surfaced.

A Multidisciplinary Focus Group on Security Sector Reform (GPRS), composed of civilian and military representatives and development partners, was created in November 2013. The GPRS contributed to defining the process of SSR and put forward a strategy for resource mobilisation to support national SSR efforts. Recommendations put forward by the GPRS led to the creation of a National Council for Security Sector Reform (CNRSS), an advisory and decision-making body under the office of the Prime Minister responsible for guiding and leading the SSR process. As of June 2016, the composition of the CNRSS has been modified to integrate representatives from the north. The change has allowed for the creation of security consultative committees, regionally and municipally implemented, to evaluate the local security situation on a monthly bases (National Decree, 2016). While the creation of the CNRSS is a positive step forward in establishing a holistic SSR process, concerns have been voiced over the lack of ownership and engagement (DCAF, 2016).

In 2014, the Malian Government, with support key partners, made progress in framing a national SSR vision, setting up a coordination mechanism, and assessing fundraising opportunities through the Security Sector Reform Multidisciplinary Working Group established in early 2014 (UNSC, 2014). The Malian government additionally prioritised reform and governance of the security sector in its agenda, highlighting its commitment to promoting good governance, strengthening internal control of institutions, and public sector accountability in general. These factors, coupled with the Peace Agreements signed in 2015, allowed for the government to begin working towards further establishing strong democratic institutions and consolidating the RoL priorities already stipulated in the Government Action Programme (PAG 2013-2018). As of 2016, PAG continues to seek to reinforce human security, re-establish administrative structures in the North, reinforce national cohesion, and improve public trust and confidence in the armed forces.

In July 2017, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad, with the support of France, formed the Joint force of the G5 Sahel (FC-G5S). The FC- G5S is a mixed force whose objective is to coordinate efforts to combat terrorism, organized crime, and human trafficking with a view to restoring peace and security in the Sahel region. In October 2017, the UN Security Council expressed its support for the G5 Sahel joint force. Following this declaration, the United States pledged funding of 51 million dollars in addition to the funding already obtained from the G5 countries, the EU and France. 

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i. Justice Reform  

In 2000, a Ten Year Justice Reform Programme (PRODEJ) was created as a means to improve the efficiency and credibility of the justice sector. PRODEJ was launch in hopes of addressing some of the challenges previously stated. However, it has been widely criticised for alleged mismanagement of funds, inability to incorporate customary justice effectively, and a top-heavy approach. It has been described by some as “slow and non-impactful” (CLU, 2015). A study conducted in 2013-2014 by the Centre for International Legal Cooperation and the Netherlands Helsinki Committee found that entrenched resistance by political and judicial elites, both prior and after the crisis, have persistently hindered reform.

Efforts have continued to improve the justice sector. President Keita considered changing the composition of the CSM to make judicial discipline more transparent and allow for better oversight by civil society. Judges are increasingly being investigated on charges of forgery, fraud, and extortion. As of April 2016, the MoJ is working alongside MINUSMA, establishing monthly working sessions in which all reported violations are reviewed in hopes of addressing human rights abuses and violations.

  ii. Police Reform

In May 2015, the National Assembly adopted a Military Orientation and Programming Act (LOPM), solidifying the power of the President of the Republic to reform Mali's defence and security system. This text provides for a 1,200 billion FCFA investment for the army for the period 2015-2019. The implementation of this law is justified, among other things, by defence tool dysfunctions and insufficient manpower to cover the country's needs. Two years later, the National Assembly adopted the Law on Internal Security Programming for the years 2017-2021 (LPS) initiated by the Minister of Internal Security and Civil Protection, General Salif Traoré. This aims at correcting the deficiencies noted in the internal security sector for an amount of more than 446 billion FCFA. The adoption of this law is part of the implementation of the Accord for Peace and National Reconciliation resulting from the Algiers process.

The Minister Traoré, appointed in 2015, created a special anti-terrorist force (Forsat), made up of members of the gendarmerie police and the National Guard, whose aim is to intervene quickly and anywhere in the country in the event of a terrorist attack. In January 2017, he announced the implementation of a security plan for the Mopti and Ségou regions (the PSIRC) which integrates security, development and governance dimensions. This plan focused on strengthening the security system and taking governance and socio-economic development issues into account. It is widely supported by UNMISMA and the EU, associated with the PARSEC programme funded by the Emergency Trust Fund.

Mali’s internal security apparatus has historically struggled with a lack of resources, low pay, and inadequate training. Security services in the north are insufficiently established with a low concentration of infrastructure and staff. Cross-border crime is difficult to monitor due to porous borders. Because of this, the influx of illegal transfers of small arms, human trafficking and the trade of illicit drugs has been difficult to address. Since the outbreak of conflict, the absence of internal security structures has stoked support for community based auto-defence groups amongst some tribal chief and politicians, who perceive these groups to be useful intermediaries and security actors. However, auto-defence group are perceived as fragmented and less structured as well as lacking in a unifying point or common leadership. As a result, some fear that auto-defence groups could provoke further inter-communal violence (ICG, 2016).

Moreover, police officers and gendarmes have been accused of extortion and bribery at checkpoints. The judicial police in particular has been criticised for the poor quality of its services, and its abuse of power. As a result, a survey conducted between 2011 and 2013 showed that only 29% of the population contacted the police to report crimes, and 46% stated that they viewed the police and gendarmerie as corrupt (AB, 2015).

Domestic violence and rape have been cited as an additional cause for concern. Despite the development of a National Gender Policy and the creation of hotlines for victims, data on the number of investigated and prosecuted attacks remain unavailable, and police have been reluctant to intervene in cases of domestic abuse. Furthermore, although efforts have been made to increase representation of women in the national police force, women make up an average of 12.4% of the personnel and 9.2% of the senior level personnel as of 2014.

After the 2012 crisis, 2,026 gendarmes and police officers were deployed in the north, compared with 469 before the coup. Malian authorities also proceeded to transferring law and order responsibilities from the armed forces to law enforcement institutions. Additionally, the Malian Government, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), established a joint initiative—the Governance, Peace and Security Programme—aimed at establishing community policing in northern Mali. Some provisions include “organising traditional chiefs into associations capable of securing the movement of populations and creating local neighbourhood watch brigades in charge of retrieving weapons” (IDP, 2012).

The establishment of a territorial police force is provided for in the 2015 Peace Agreement without the content of its powers, its relations with the national security forces and its functional attachment being clearly defined yet. In 2016, discussions were initiated on this sensitive issue within the Ministry of Decentralization (in charge of the project) but also within the Ministry of Security.

  iii. Defence Reform

In 2014, in response to challenges in the professionalisation and structure of the military, the government of Mali presented the draft defence and national security policy and the draft framework law and military programming (LOPM) 2015-2019. By March 2015, Mali adopted the LOPM, which will have mobilised 1.5 billion Euros in funding over the course of five years. The LOPM seeks to develop the operational capacity of combat units and mobile teams, to increase logistic support for means of transport and counter-mobility, and to improve the quality of life for army personnel (NFdU, 2015). Additionally, as of March 2016, steps have been taken towards the implementation of DDR and SSR processes—as detailed in the peace agreements—in the north.  This process has however been plagued with delays (UNSC, 2016).

In March 2016, the first steps to implement DDR and SSR processes in the north were taken in accordance with the terms of the Peace Agreement. Despite the very active support of UNMISMA (financing and preparing cantonment sites), the process is evolving slowly for various reasons, in particular the reluctance of the rebel groups that signed the Agreement and the persistence of violence in the north due to the jihadists, of whom the rebel groups themselves are beginning to be the victims (for example, the attack on the MOC in Gao in January 2017) (UNSC, 2016).

iv. Public Expenditure Review

Substantial progress has been made for several years regarding regulation, administration and management of taxes and customs duties.  Recorded results for the collection of tax revenue are generally good. Budget execution reports are regular, complete and of good quality. The “Section des comptes de la Cour supreme” (SCCS) is in charge of the external control of government spending but it is suffering from a severe lack of human, material and financial resources. It cannot fully play its role as "external auditor" of the management and use of public funds. The Budget’s credibility has been affected by weaknesses in the system of payment follow-up and because collected data on budgets are not made easily available to the public.  Well-defined sectoral strategies for most sectors allowed to optimize the articulation of actions in the medium term and to predict the availability of resources. However, internal control and accounting deficiencies make it difficult to determine and control programs’ costs. The weakness of external controls can lead to disempowerment in policy implementation.

v. Gender Equality Aspects

Currently one seat is occupied by a woman in the National Commission for SSR (CNRSS). This low presence is due to the lack of women in the security sector and the low representation of women among signatories to the Peace Agreement (IMRAP, 2018).  In 2014, women represented less than 3% of the staff of the Gendarmerie, while in the army and in the air force, respectively, 7% and 6% of personnel were women (DCAF Survey, 2015). In 2017, women accounted for 13.7% of staff and 11.1% of senior staff of the National Police.  In January 2019, women represented 5% of the total personnel in the National Guard.

The inclusion and participation of women in security forces is not only an operational requirement, but also a fundamental step in rebuilding trust between local populations and security and defense forces. Representative and diverse security and defence forces are integral to building lasting peace in Mali. However, women’s representation is not enough. Security and defence forces must also integrate a gender perspective within their institutions and in their operations. Malian authorities have understood this dimension and thus, developed a National Gender Policy, which seeks to advance gender equality in all spheres of government, including the security sector (PNG-Mali, 2011). In addition, the Law n°2015-052/18 December 2015 guarantees that there should be no less than 30% of either sex for all elected and appointed positions in government (IMRAP, 2018).  Malian authorities launched their first National Action Plan (NAP) on the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2012 that was in effect until 2014. A revised NAP was developed for 2015-2017 and a new plan is currently being drafted for 2019-2023. The National Police launched a Three-Year Action Plan to Combat Gender-Based Violence (2018-2022), which led to the creation of a “One Stop Centre” in 2018 (IMRAP, 2018). The center in Bamako consists of a multidisciplinary team with a holistic approach, where survivors of gender-based violence can not only report crimes, but also seek medical and psychosocial assistance.     

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6. International Community SSR Engagement

Currently, the Malian government’s capacity to ensure effective governance of its security sector is limited. As a result, and as outlined below, Mali has received widespread support and funds from the international community. In addition to those listed below, notable contributors include the US, France, AU, Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, and ECOWAS.

The UN primarily supports Malian SSR through its MINUSMA peacekeeping force, which was established in 2013 and provides support for stability operations and technical assistance for the implementation of SSR. In January 2017, MINUSMA had 13,093 personnel, 10,651 of whom are authorised military personnel and 1,262 police staff. Majority of peacekeepers in the mission are from Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, and Chad.

The EU supports efforts in security challenges in the Sahel region generally through its Comprehensive Strategy for Security and Development (2011), Comprehensive Regional Approach (2013), and Action Plan (2015). Its Regional Action Plan 2015-2020 constitutes a framework for implementation of the EU Comprehensive Strategy, focusing on preventing and countering radicalisation; border management, the fight against illicit trafficking and transnational organised crime. The action plan also focuses on support to the CDSP EU-Training Mission in Mali (EUTM) and CSDP EUCAP Sahel Mali missions, both of which seek to improve the capacity of security services.

In July 2017, France, Germany and the European Union, along with the African Development Bank and the UNDP, launched the Sahel Alliance, an international cooperation platform to enhance the stability and global development of the region by financing and coordinating over 500 projects with the G5 Sahel countries to address all current challenges. Since its launch, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg have joined the initiative.

Denmark established a variety of projects aimed at supporting peace and development in Mali and the broader Sahel region stressing the importance of civil society in building peace and stability. For instance, Denmark launched a reconciliation and dialogue programme with key stakeholders, including the government, the army, the armed groups in the north and CSOs.

The Netherlands has been a primary partner in the justice sector in line with the Dutch Multi-Annual Strategic Plan 2014-2017 for Mali which outlined  a strategic focus and framework on security and Rule of Law with the specific aim of reinforcing the legitimacy and capacity of the government. Contributing to MINUSMA in 2018, the Netherlands also announced its new aid strategy in 2018 which aims to boost stability, reduce poverty and promote economic growth to combat irregular migration in the Sahel among other key regions. (Dutch MfA). Netherlands funds the DCAF Mali Programme (‘Enhancing Security Sector Governance in Mali, 2017-2020’) which addresses gaps in accountability, responsiveness and gender equality in the Malian security sector. The DCAF programme engages the National Council for Security Sector Reform (CNRSS), especially its executive arm, the SSR Commissariat (CRSS); the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection (MSPC), under which operate the National Police, the Gendarmerie, and the Inspectorate General of Security Services (ISSPC); the National Assembly (i.e. the Parliament); the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH); and leading Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the fields of peacebuilding, human rights, and research on security and political processes.

Germany has provided support to MINUSMA, the European military (EUTM) and civilian missions (EUCAP Sahel) by increasing the number of its military staff on the ground from 650 to 1000 in 2018. Germany has also reinforced the Ministry of National Reconciliation through the “Supporting the stabilisation and peace process in Mali 2016-2018” programme aimed at promoting the peace agreement and at enhancing dialogue in the regions.

Sweden is also active in Mali through its development agency Sida and provides support in the areas of democracy, gender equality, human rights and human safety as well as a more sustainable use of natural resources in line with the Swedish Cooperation Strategy with Mali 2016-2020. Sweden also contributes to MINUSMA.

U.S. assistance to Mali seeks to support the country’s fragile peace and implementation of the June 20, 2015, peace accord. U.S. foreign assistance is administered through a whole of government approach that includes the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of Defense (DOD). On October 9, 2015, the Government of Mali signed a 5-year Country Development Cooperation Strategy with USAID. The objectives of the $690 million aid programme is reinforcing the stabilisation of conflict-affected areas reinforced, especially in the Norhern regions Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, fostering improved public trust in government through improved public service delivery especially health, education, and justice, increasing resilience of vulnerable communities through mitigation of climate change, countering violent extremism, economic diversification and strengthening human capital among other things (US State Department).

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7. Future Considerations

The multiple dimensions encompassed in the Malian crisis are complex, with the heart of the problem historically linked to regional tensions and mistrust between the various communities. Therefore, genuine attempts as developing inclusive dialogue and reconciliation need to be prioritised at local, sub-national, and national levels. It is essential that progress on implementing peace agreements, including commitments made to northern communities such as DDR and cantonment, progress more rapidly. In doing so, this will help to build trust between the government and regional actors. However, measures additionally need to be extended beyond the Algier Accords, which has overlooked actors in the Central region. With a larger population and important economic activity occurring in the centre of Mali, overlooking the security challenges has and will continue to further entrench and expand the reach of violent extremists, terrorists, and criminal groups.

Provided that most communities outside the capital rely more heavily on customary system, inclusion of customary actors will likely facilitate the SSR process. Identifying and mapping the distinctions between state and customary systems on a locality-by-locality basis, with a focus on understanding why and how several justice systems exist concurrently and how they can best be supported to work together, would be a fruitful exercise for the Malian government and international donors.

Due to the various insecurities facing Mali – including violent extremism, organised crime, banditry, illicit trafficking of arms and drugs, and an absence of state services – it is essential for the international community to maintain a human security perspective that takes into account the various dimensions of insecurity. This means that funds and efforts need to be balanced and appropriately allocated so as to address all dimensions of insecurity. Thus, it is crucial to for the international community to maintain a comprehensive, coordinated and coherent approach towards supporting Mali’s SSR—and broader peace—efforts. Strategies such as the EU Comprehensive Approach demonstrate a positive step forward; however, the momentum for cooperation needs to be sustained. Additionally, as international support and funds continue to pour into Mali, donors should remain prudent regarding sustainability and financial management of reform processes.

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8.      List of Acronyms

AFISMA African-led International Support Mission in Mali IHL International Humanitarian Law
AQIM Lands of the Islamic Maghreb MAA Mouvement arabe de l’Azawad
CMFPR-II Coordination des mouvements et fronts patriotiques de résistance II MINUSMA United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali
CPA Coalition du peuple de l’Azawad MNLA National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad
CSO Civil Society Organisations MoAF Ministry of Armed Forces and Former Combatants
DDR Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration MoI Ministry of Internal Security and Civil Protection
ECOWAS Economic Community of West African States MOJW Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa
EUTM EU-Training Mission in Mali RoL Rule of Law
EU European Union SSR Security Sector Reform
GATIA Groupe d’autodéfense touareg Imghad et alliés UNDP United Nations Development Programme
GPRS Multidisciplinary Focus Group on Security Sector Reform PRODEJ Ten Year Justice Reform Programme

Haut Conseil pour l’unité de l’Azawad





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9. Further Reading

Goff, Diana and Erwin van Veen “A Crisis of Confidence, Competence and Capacity: Programming Advice for Strengthening Mali’s Penal Chain.” Clingendael and IDLO (2015)

Nimaga, Mahamadou. Challenges of Security Sector Governance in West Africa . “Mali.” DCAF (2008).

N'Diaye, Boubacar. Parliamentary Oversight of the Security Sector in West Africa . “Mali.” DCAF (2008).

Pezard, Stephanie and Michael Shurkin “Achieving Peace in Northern Mali: Past Agreements, local conflicts, and the Prospects for a Durable Settlement.” RAND (2015). 

Triquet, Veerle and Lorraine Serrano. Gender and the Security Sector: A Survey on the National Police, Civil Protection, and Armed and Security Forces, the Justice system and Penal Services of Mali . DCAF (2015).

  “Council conclusions on the Sahel Regional Action Plan 2015-2020.” Council of the European Union. (April 2015).

 “Report to the Secretary-General on the situation in Mali,” UNSC S/2016/281 (March 2016).

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