ABSTRACT

For Mali, 2012/2013 was a bad year, but the combined forces of the 2012 coup in Bamako and the rebellion in the north also entailed an unmasking of Mali. What had been presented as a showcase of democracy, good governance, and peace and reconciliation proved to be a façade for institutional weakness and mismanagement. The collusion between regional and national ‘Big Man’ interests that the crisis revealed showed little if any respect for human security and development. The French military intervention in Mali has beaten back the Islamist rebels

and nominally taken control of the northern cities of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu. However, a number of challenges remain. The Islamists are not beaten, even if they have taken losses and casualties that include prominent figures such as the AQIM leader Abou Zeid. They have demonstrated capacity to resist and also to strike inside towns under French control. Thus, whereas capturing the major towns in NorthernMali may have been a swift military operation, controlling this vast territory will be much more difficult and time-consuming for the French forces and the UN operation currently on the ground in Mali (MINUSMA). It is tempting to compare the current situation in Northern Mali to the

conflict that prevailed here in the 1990s; however, the crisis is no longer local. It has been internationalised through criminal networks and ‘global jihad’. The conflict in the north is therefore far more complex than in the past. Previous experiences of reform indicate that conducting combined political democratisation, economic liberalisation and administrative decentralisation in a weak state such as Mali runs the risk of being hijacked by a combination of national elites and regional ‘Big Men’ (Bøås 2012; see also McGovern 2011). This is precisely what happened in the 1990s in Mali, and the events in 2012 are an unintended consequence of this. This chapter will therefore analyse the background of the crisis with an emphasis on the Kidal region in Northern Mali, as this is the area from which all Tuareg rebellions have started.