HD has been present in Mali since the end of 2011, initially focused on efforts to help address and prevent inter-communal conflicts. To contribute to the country’s peace process, HD’s work later developed and the organisation started providing mediation support, in the form of technical and strategic advice, to the parties engaged in the negotiations that ultimately led to the signature of the Algiers Agreement in June 2015. HD has also been working with civil society representatives from the north and south of the country, as well as with refugees in the neighbouring countries, to encourage greater understanding of each other’s concerns as well as their support for, and involvement into, the peace process. HD also initiated a dialogue among religious communities in order to tackle opposing issues and reduce tensions. In addition, HD has fostered and supported networks of community leaders in the northern part of the country to help reduce tensions between them.
Following the rebellion in the north of the country in January 2012 and the ensuing military coup in Bamako in March 2012, a fragile negotiation process was initiated by Burkina Faso. These efforts led to the signing of the Ouagadougou Agreement in June 2013 between the Government and some of the armed movements, which allowed for local and national elections to take place.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was elected in September 2013 but the peace process subsequently stalled. It resumed in February 2014 under the auspices of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). However, it stumbled over the Government’s slow action, the fragmentation of the armed movements, and overlapping attempts at external facilitation of the process.
In May 2014, a military victory by the armed rebels over the Malian army in Kidal and a ceasefire negotiated by Mauritania created new momentum for the peace process. Algeria became the lead mediator in the process and a common declaration was signed in June 2014 by all the parties involved. This committed the armed movements to dialogue with the Government under the facilitation of Algeria and in co-ordination with other international mediation stakeholders (such as the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union, and the United Nations). This process, known as the Algiers process, was based around a roadmap covering political, security, justice, and socio-economic development issues.
In August 2014, during a meeting facilitated by HD with the support of MINUSMA, the main armed movements involved in the Algiers process signed a non-aggression pact (called the Ouagadougou Declaration) to cease hostilities in the north of Mali and present a united position in the Algiers process. However, this agreement was short-lived and these movements fragmented into dissident movements based around communities soon after.
The Algiers process nonetheless carried on and resulted in the signature of the so called Algiers’ Agreement in Bamako on 20 June 2015.
Much work still needs to be done however to guarantee durable peace in northern Mali. Power-sharing and wealth-sharing agreements will need to be carefully detailed and a decentralization model, approved by all, will need to be crafted through a revision of the constitutional framework. Armed movements will have to be demobilized and reintegrated into society and a genuine transitional justice process will have to be carried out. This process has started with the creation of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (CVJR for its French acronym) but Malians will need to ensure its work is fair, inclusive and representative in order to pave the way for reconciliation.
For the Algiers’ Agreement to be sustainable and to gain the support of civil society, its monitoring mechanism will need support, a system of incentives and sanctions will have to be implemented, and a credible development policy fostered for northern Mali.
HD’s project in Mali contributes to the peace process by combining the organisation’s ability to provide technical expertise with its capacity to reach out to all parties who have an influence on the conflict. The project aims to strengthen the negotiating capacity of the armed movements and State actors involved in the peace negotiations while ensuring that civil society is suitably included in, and supportive of, the process.
HD works with all signatories to the Algiers Agreement – both the armed movements and the Government. During the Algiers negotiation process, HD’s priority was to ensure the participants had the skills they needed to engage effectively in the process. Since the signing of the Agreement in June 2015, HD has been focusing on creating and supporting dialogue spaces among and between the signatories, to ensure they all have the same understanding of the Agreement and agree on a way forward for its implementation. HD has also been supporting the signatories in explaining the Agreement to their constituencies across northern Mali in the latter half of 2015, to pave the way for its implementation throughout the year to come.
As part of its inclusion efforts, HD has been inviting women and young people from north and south Mali to join discussion forums with various local authorities and leaders to share their views and concerns about the peace process and the future of Mali. These discussion forums aim to promote an inclusive approach to the peace process which is essential to finding a lasting solution and gaining nationwide civil society support for any ensuing reform. HD ensures the participants have access to technical experts during these discussions to enable them to define their claims; the forums also serve as a platform through which their voices can be heard by the parties to the negotiations.
In addition, HD has established dialogue processes between communities in northern and central Mali (for example, between the Arab and Touareg communities in Ansongo and Bourem or between Fulani and Dogon communities in Mopti Region), leading to the signing of local agreements and verbal engagements to ensure that tensions between them are peacefully mitigated.
HD also organised networks of religious leaders of various regions (Mopti, Gao and Timbuktu), in order for them to better understand the national peace process, to tackle religious discrepancies among congregations, and to play a role in the pacification of the country.
In 2018, HD will expand its work in support of peace in Mali by continuing to provide its expertise to various segments of the Malian society.