Mali catastrophe accelerating under junta rule (Africa Center for Strategic Studies/Defence Web – July 20, 2023)

The threat of militant Islamist groups is spreading to all parts of Mali as the military junta stakes its claim to stay in power indefinitely. The threat from militant Islamist groups in Mali continues to escalate in tempo and scale. With the military junta’s continued exclusion of other domestic political actors and alienation of regional and international security partners, the prospect of Mali’s collapse grows increasingly likely.

Mali is on pace to see over 1 000 violent events involving militant Islamist groups in 2023, eclipsing last year’s record levels of violence and a nearly three-fold increase from when the junta seized power in 2020. Approximately 6 150 km2 of Malian territory were swept up in militant Islamist violence in the first 6 months of 2023, compared to 5,200 km2 in the previous 6 months (an increase of 18 percent).

Much of the north of the country has come under the de facto rule of militant Islamist groups. In the first half of 2023, there were 16 episodes of militant Islamist violence within 150 km of Bamako. This compares to only five events in the previous 6 months.

Violence targeting civilians by militant Islamist groups is nearly 5 times more frequent in the last 12 months than in the year before the junta took power. The military junta, which has repeatedly ignored timetables to transition to a legitimate, civilian authority, has systematically alienated security partners from neighbouring states, ECOWAS, France, the European Union, and the United Nations.

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