To what extent has the French intervention weakened the African Union leadership on the Malian crisis?
Certainly the French intervention has three pronged undermining effects on the African interventionist approach: Firstly by putting the military action well ahead of the political , the French intervention may derail political processes beyond control. The intervention also makes political process more problematic as the military operation sets the tone and the Islamist may gain upper hand in impeding political progress between Malian rebels in Azawad and Bamako. This is the very situation the international elements of the terrorist groups are interested in. Secondly it will certainly attract more terrorists and complicate African intervention and the conflict on the ground as the extremist Islamic groups mainly the leadership MUJAO and Ansare Dine will try to depict the French intervention as alien, anti-Islam, and make use of it to attract recruits and funders of terrorism in the middle east and elsewhere. Both of the MUJAO and Ansare Dine are internationalized and nomadic terrorist groups trying to make use of ungoverned spaces where genuine grievances of the Tuaregs and some local Islamic radicals exist.In a positive note, the French intervention has exposed the problem of ECOWAS and AU in bridging the gaps between early warning and early response, political decision and deployment capacity. It also exposes the duplicity in the international community in delaying funding African peacekeepers.
Would it be possible/advisable to substitute an African leadership to the French one in the present security operations in Mali?
The only intervention that could help Mali stabilize and democratize is an African led and African owned peace intervention. The problem for an African intervention will be to strike the balance between the objectives of various actors aiming at nation re-building, peace building, participatory transitional political process, the counter violent extremism (CVE), the interest of regional countries and international actors.
Which is the key factor that could lead to a solution of the Malian crisis?
Three major factors will be vital for the success of the intervention in Mali:
1. The military intervention is meaningless without a solid political process in Bamako. Bamako has to change politically, it needs to begin transition to democracy, Azawad needs much of the delivery of service. Now with the French intervention, the advances in Military Font and the delays in Political Progress creates a situation where the Military is ahead of politics, while the problem is mainly political.
2. Vital intervention point in this regard comprises soft intervention –political process that aims at addressing the three different causes and interests in the rebel groups: a genuine request for democratic accommodation of the grievances of the Tuaregs through inclusive politics and self-administration autonomy; a locally based Islamic groups that needs more engagement in the political process; and lastly an internationally mobile and regionally nomadic terrorists groups who do not genuinely interested in the resolution of the problem as they always in search of ungoverned spaces like Azawad. If they were to be defeated in this war, they will try to go elsewhere to create similar crisis in more vulnerable state. Military measures and criminal justice are the tools to address these elements of the Azawad rebels.
3. For the Islamist groups who are hell-bent to make use of the genuine localized grievances for their Jihadist aim, Mali needs to deny the social base upon which these extreme violent groups thrive. This requires drying and addressing the breeding ground for mobilization to extremism. In short Mali needs to democratize to build resilient state institutions and deliver vital services.
*Mehari Taddele Maru is International Consultant on African Peace and Security, and African Union Affairs.