Conflict and Fragility

Reports and papers

The case of Northeastern Mali

09 Mar 2022 - 11:57
Customary Characters in Uncustomary Circumstances

Six years following the 2015 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation signed to stabilize northern Mali, the northeastern regions of Ménaka and Gao are characterized by expanding territorial control by violent extremist organizations (VEOs). While customary authorities such as village chiefs have in the past increasingly become a target of VEOs, this report focuses on their agency. In particular, it asks what role traditional and religious leaders play in community resilience against violent extremism.

In a context where the Malian state struggles to establish its presence in large parts of the country, customary leaders are largely considered to be the most readily accessible governance actors to rural communities. However, this report’s findings highlight the extent to which both state and customary administration in northeastern Mali has become constrained by armed violence, including by VEOs.

The report finds that the actual impact of customary governance – despite crucial regional differences between Gao and Ménaka – is severely limited, as customary leaders have been largely undermined in the prevailing quest for protection alliances. These findings thereby highlight the extent to which calls to include customary leaders, in the quest to stabilize northeastern Mali and prevent violent extremism, need to be contextualized through a localized analysis of their evolution amid the proliferation of armed actors. At present, such calls are largely based on the ex ante role of customary leaders prior to the 2012 insurgency.

Read full report.
Pour la version française cliquez ici / this report is also available in French.

About the project

This report is part of a series of reports produced for the project Customary Actors & Community Resilience. The project explores community resilience against violent extremism. It assesses specifically how traditional and religious authorities can improve the resilience of their community. In partnership with USAID and ICCT Clingendael experts surveyed nearly 30 municipalities in the Ménaka and Gao regions (Mali), the Tillabéri region (Niger), and the Sahel, Est, and Centre-Nord regions (Burkina Faso). Results are based on 1400 quantitative surveys and 600 qualitative interviews.

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