Mali, a constitutional democracy, reelected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to a second five-year term in August 2018. International observers deemed the elections to have met minimum acceptable standards despite some irregularities and instances of violence. Parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for October 2018, were further delayed from June 2019 until at least May 2020, ostensibly to allow time to enact constitutional and electoral reforms.
Security forces include the National Police, the Malian Armed Forces (FAMA), the National Gendarmerie, the National Guard, the General Directorate of State Security (DGSE), and the National Penitentiary Administration (DNAPES). FAMA, the National Gendarmerie, and the National Guard are administratively under the Ministry of Defense, although operational control of the National Guard and National Gendarmerie is shared with the Ministry of Internal Security and Civil Protection. Police officers have responsibility for law enforcement and maintaining order in urban areas, while gendarmes have that responsibility in rural areas. The army occasionally performed domestic security operations in northern areas where police and gendarmes were absent. The National Guard has specialized border security units, which were largely ineffective. The responsibilities of the Ministry of Internal Security and Civil Protection include maintaining order during exceptional circumstances, such as national disasters or riots. The DGSE has authority to investigate any case and temporarily detain persons at the discretion of its director general. It usually did so only in terrorism and national security cases. Civilian authorities did not always maintain effective control over the civilian and military security forces.
As of November 6, the Coordination of Movements of Azawad (CMA), a signatory to the Algiers Accord for Peace and Reconciliation, had withdrawn from the national dialogue aimed at implementing the 2015 accord. The CMA signed the accord with the Malian government in 2015, as did the Platform of Northern Militias (Platform)–including the Imghad Tuareg and Allies Self-Defense Group (GATIA), the Arab Movement for Azawad-Platform (MAA-PF), and the Coordination of Patriotic Resistance Forces and Movements (CMFPR). The CMA’s withdrawal, which occurred on September 25, came in response to comments by President Keita that parts of the already signed Algiers Accord could be revisited in the context of the national dialogue. In July the government assisted in brokering signed agreements to “cease hostilities” between a dozen armed groups of the Dogon and Fulani ethnic communities. Intercommunal violence between nomadic Fulani herders and Dogon farmers and hunters increased in the first half of the year, and internal displacement throughout central Mali has more than quadrupled since January 2018.
Significant human rights issues included: reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings, by both government and nonstate actors; forced disappearance by government forces; torture by government forces; arbitrary detention by government forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; the existence of criminal libel laws; substantial interference with the right of peaceful assembly; significant acts of corruption; unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers by nongovernmental armed groups, some of which received support from the government; crimes involving violence against national and ethnic minorities; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) persons; violence against women and children, which was rarely investigated; slavery and trafficking in persons; and the disregarding of workers’ rights through the use of exploitative labor, including child labor.
The government made little or no effort to investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government, and impunity continued to be a problem. The 2012 coup leader Amadou Sanogo, first arrested in 2013, remained under arrest awaiting trial. Sanogo’s trial began in Sikasso in 2016, but the presiding judge accepted a defense motion to delay the trial until 2017. The case remained pending at the Court of Appeals, awaiting results of a DNA analysis. Impunity for serious crimes committed in the country’s North and Center continued with few exceptions. On September 30, the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided there was sufficient evidence for Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud to stand trial on charges including torture, rape, sexual slavery, and deliberately attacking religious buildings and historic monuments. Al Hassan had been transferred by the government to the ICC following a year of local detention in response to an ICC arrest warrant for war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the 2012 occupation of Timbuktu by al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Ansar Dine (“Defenders of the Faith”).
Ethnic militias committed serious human rights abuses, including summary executions, targeted killings, the destruction of homes and food stores, and the burning of entire villages. Despite the 2015 Algiers Accord for Peace, elements within the Platform–including GATIA, MAA-PF, and the CMFPR–and elements in the CMA–including the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA), the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA), and the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA)–committed serious human rights abuses, including summary executions, torture, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Extremist groups, including affiliates of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and the al-Qa’ida coalition Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (translated as the Group to Support Islam and Muslims, JNIM), neither of whom are parties to the peace process, kidnapped and killed civilians and military force members, including peacekeepers.
The French military counterterrorism operation, Operation Barkhane, continued. The operation had a regional focus, undertaking counterterrorism activities in Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Niger. Together, those five countries comprise the G5 Sahel, an alliance through which the countries coordinate security, counterterrorism, and development policies. Approximately 2,500 soldiers conducted counterterrorism operations in collaboration with the FAMA in northern Mali. The government, in collaboration with French military forces, conducted counterterrorism operations in northern and central Mali leading to the detention of extremists and armed group elements accused of committing crimes. Accusations against Chadian peacekeepers from the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA)–including accusations of killings, abductions, and arbitrary arrests in the Kidal region in 2016–remained unresolved. Reports of abuses rarely led to investigations or prosecutions.