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Mali’s Enduring Crisis

August 1, 2022

Northern Mali fell into the hands of armed jihadists in 2012. This resulted in the launch of the French-led "Operation Serval," designed to liberate the occupied territory. But the crisis only worsened.

Mali Französische Soldaten
Image: Reuters

The crisis in Mali is a story of failure. The failure of a state, as well as the failure of the international community. This failure created a breeding ground for jihadists. How did it come to this?

Mujao Islamisten Rebellen Mali
Image: Ollo Hien/AFP/Getty Images

The crisis began in the early 2000s with the arrival of Algerian jihadists in Mali. At the time, their arrival did not worry those in power, who believed they would be safe if they left the jihadists alone. As problems arose, the international community looked the other way, continuing to view Mali as an example of democracy at work in Africa. 

Mali Französisches Militär
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/N. Bothma

When the jihadists finally took control in the north and introduced Sharia law, France sent in the army. But without a political solution, the army was stymied. Aid money was embezzled and corruption was pervasive. As France looked for an off-ramp, the crisis in Mali crossed the border into both Burkina Faso and Niger. 

Symbolbild | Amnesty: Kinder leiden unter Terror in Westafrika
Image: imago images/Joerg Boethling

In all of this, civilians are the forgotten victims. The violence in the Sahel has created more than two million refugees - a number that has quadrupled in less than two years. These refugees are settling wherever they can, as they struggle just to survive. 

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