Soumaïla Cissé’s kidnapping in Mali shines a spotlight on how the country’s conflict hotspots are carved up into micro-zones of control and influence, which actors navigate on the basis of imperfect and constantly changing information. Resolving Mali’s crises will require a meaningful set of political settlements at hyper-local level. The contested government response to the kidnapping shows that even if the Malian state is weak, the authorities nevertheless have considerable scope for making choices. The attempt to free Cissé has deepened existing competitions between the president’s team and various counter-elites. With Cissé’s kidnapping becoming a symbol of Mali’s crisis, policy makers should harmonise all credible efforts to secure his release.
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