The Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF) has done Africa watchers and policy makers an important service by publishing David J. Francis’s analysis of the Mali crisis with his suggestions as to the way forward. Titled “The Regional Impact of the Armed Conflict and French Intervention in Mali,” Francis teases out for the educated non-specialist the highly complicated Malian narrative, identifying key players, groups and events. The study is especially strong on the French domestic political dimensions of President Hollande’s military intervention, and what the likely consequences may be.
Americans will note with interest that he raises the potential for “mission creep” with respect to the U.S. drone base in Niger if the military conflict between French-led forces and the radical Islamists persists: “Possible counterinsurgency warfare will include the increasing use of U.S. drones against terrorist and militants, like the U.S. use of drone warfare in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.” That is precisely what so many in West Africa fear.
Francis’s recommendations range from the exceedingly practical–coup leader Amadou Sanogo should be removed from the Malian equation by sending him to France on a fully-funded scholarship for five years–to the more obvious: the Mali crisis should be seen “as a regional problem that requires a regional approach to dealing with Islamist extremists, as well as addressing the depressing regional socioeconomic and development issues of poverty, injustice, drought, and famine.” There are generic recommendations, recommendations for the French government, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, the UN, and the European Union.
There are also specific recommendations for Norway, a reminder of the important role engaged European states and non-governmental organizations can play. Francis recommends that Norway should renew its assistance to Mali with verifiable benchmarks, collaborate with the Norwegian Church Aid mediation group to promote political dialogue involving the Tauregs and the Bamako government, and in partnership with the international community, promote governance reform.
David Francis holds the Professorial Research Chair in African Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Bradford in the UK. NOREF is a resource center and think tank with ties to the Norwegian foreign ministry. It has an extensive list of publications available online in English.