No clear settlement of the crisis in Mali seems
possible in the short term, despite a UN Security
Council resolution on October 12th paving the way
for a military intervention by ECOWAS countries.
The crisis is fed by various dynamics that need
to be reconciled for peace to prevail. Firstly, the
transition in Bamako is going nowhere, and further
divisions in the government and the resurgence of
the coup makers undermine the fragile progress
witnessed in July. Unable to agree on a solution in
Bamako, most political actors have developed a
militaristic approach to any solution for the north.
Secondly, Islamist and jihadist movements were
able to gain control of northern Mali (two-thirds of
the country) in a few months and have enforced
new rules inspired by their understanding of Islam.
Although protests erupted in several cities, the
militants deepened their control over the region
and its local and transnational economy and
may have a constituency among the population.
ECOWAS, supported by France, is willing to
intervene militarily, but the fragmentation of
the Malian army is a key weakness. Moreover,
ECOWAS has not spelled out the actual aims
of its intervention: mere territorial gains without
addressing local and national grievances may
mean the return of the status quo ante, which
would be unacceptable to most people in northern
Mali. As usual, the long-term political dimensions
of the ECOWAS intervention are dismissed in
favour of an immediate military victory that would
be very fragile as a result.