In 2017, Mali has seen a surge in ambushes, mortar fire, gunfire, and bombings by terrorists, with near-weekly attacks that often target some 15,000 U.N. peacekeepers serving in Mali. “The terrorists want to create permanent insecurity [and] undermine the morale of our troops,” said Malian Defense Minister Tiena Coulibaly, who added that the peacekeepers need a “more robust” mandate to fight terrorism. (Source: Bloomberg)

On November 20, 2015, two gunmen stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, killing 20 people and taking as many as 170 people hostage. The al-Qaeda-linked group al-Mourabitoun claimed responsibility for the attack, which it claimed to carry out in conjunction with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

AQIM and al-Mourabitoun announced their reunification in December 2015. The groups have since launched a revitalized terrorist campaign in the region, carrying out deadly attacks in Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire, as well as in Mali, where the groups target government and U.N. forces. On January 18, 2017, al-Mourabitoun claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb attack at a military camp in Gao, leaving 47 people dead and more than 100 wounded. The encampment had been serving as a joint site for government and Tuareg rebel forces, who were working to implement a peace deal signed in 2015. (Sources: CNN, Associated Press)

Overview

Extremism within Mali’s borders is tied to the country’s ongoing civil war. A March 2012 military coup and impending government collapse produced a power vacuum in which U.S.-designated terrorist groups including AQIM were able to recruit, implement sharia (Islamic law), and carry out violent operations against Malian soldiers, U.N. peacekeeping forces, and Western tourists and diplomats. In the more than four years since the beginning of the country’s civil war in 2012, security has only been slightly restored with the help of military operations launched by France. A peace deal was signed between the Malian government and rebel forces in June 2015, although the deal has not succeeded in ending the insurgent attacks. (Source: New York Times)

Prominent terrorist groups operating inside Mali include AQIM and several of its affiliates: Ansar al-Dine (AAD), the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and al-Mulathamun Battalion (“the Masked Men Brigade,” or AMB, a unit of AQIM), which merged in August 2013 to form al-Mourabitoun. Boko Haram, the Nigerian-based Islamist group that pledged allegiance to ISIS in March 2015, has also carried out operations in Mali.

In 2012, the Malian government appealed to the French, West African, and broader international community to intervene in efforts to address the terrorist threats within its borders. French forces became the first to launch a popular military operation in Mali in January 2013, followed soon after by West African forces and later, a formal U.N. intervention, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The work of French and international forces has enabled government services to return to much of Mali’s northern region. However, violent extremist groups continue to remain active.

Radicalization and Foreign Fighters

Mali’s Civil War and Rising Radicalization

Mali has been caught in an ongoing civil war since January 2012, when rebels of the Tuareg tribe—an ethnically Berber people concentrated in the Sahara—began an offensive against Malian government forces with the intent of creating an independent state in Mali’s north. Three months into the fighting, the Malian military launched a coup in response to what it perceived as the government’s inability to quash the Tuareg’s secession attempt and defend Malian soldiers. The coup plunged the country further into chaos and weakened the fight against the Tuareg rebels, who were backed by various Islamist groups. In April 2012, prominent Tuareg rebel group the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) declared the independent state of Azawad in Mali’s north. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, Deutsche Welle)

A number of violent Islamist groups initially fought alongside the Tuareg, however many separated from the Tuareg cause due to ideological differences. Violent al-Qaeda-linked groups like AQIM ultimately sought to implement sharia in the north, wipe out the largely secular Tuareg secessionists, and assume control of the north for themselves. In the months that followed the start of the Tuareg rebellion, 10 percent of Mali’s population and over half of its territory, including the major cities of Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal, fell to terrorist groups including AQIM, MUJAO, and AAD. As Islamists gained control in these and other areas, they began to carry out a series of atrocities, including attacks on UNESCO sites in Timbuktu between May and July of 2012. (Sources: BBC News, U.S. Department of State)

Extremism inside Mali preexists the start of the Malian civil war of 2012.

Armed with weapons stolen from Muammar Gaddafi’s former regime in Libya, AQIM, AAD, and MUJAO imposed a strict version of sharia over local Malians, including stoning punishments for adulterers, and the cutting off of hands for thieves. Islamist police in terrorist-held areas reportedly set up checkpoints throughout northern Mali, with Kalashnikov-wielding teenagers repeating, “No cigarettes, no CDs, no radios, no cameras, no jewelry” over megaphones. The promise of a burgeoning caliphate (Islamic empire) in Mali drew jihadists from across Africa. As one U.S. official said in 2013: “Northern Mali has become a jihad front. People think of northern Mali like they thought of Chechnya in the late ‘90s—as someplace where you can go and do your part to restore the caliphate.” (Sources: Spiegel, Atlantic)

Although objectives for Islamist groups and Tuareg rebels do not always align, grievances such as extreme poverty and lack of opportunity are believed to have played a role in drawing civilians to join local Islamist groups. Two-thirds of Mali’s adults are illiterate, and UNICEF reported that between 2008 and 2012, just over half of Mali’s youth attended primary school. Islamists have been able to recruit Malians (94.4 percent of whom are Muslim, according to a Pew poll released in 2015) by presenting themselves as righteous defenders of the faith. However, many local Malian communities rejected the Islamists’ implementation of sharia. The majority of Malian Muslims follow Sufism, a mystical form of Islam considered idolatrous by mainstream Salafists. Nonetheless, Sufi communities have largely been unable or unwilling to drive the Islamist militants from power. (Sources: Combating Terrorism Center, Foreign Policy, RAND Corporation, UNICEF, Pew)

France’s January 2013 military intervention, Operation Sérval, brought northern Mali under the control of its fragile interim government within weeks. In August of that year, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was elected president and nearly a year later in July 2014, the government and the Tuareg rebels began peace negotiations. During this time, French forces refocused and expanded their military operation, launching Operation Barkhane to target Islamists in the larger Sahel region. As of late 2016, Mali has yet to implement the peace agreement signed with Tuareg rebels in mid-2015. (Sources: Reuters, Deutsche Welle)

Extremism inside Mali preexists the start of the Malian civil war of 2012. AQIM maintained a small-scale threat in Mali beginning with the group’s inception in 2006, using isolated parts of the country’s north as a safe haven. However, there was little or no confrontation between AQIM and Malian forces until 2009, when AQIM began to slowly pick up its insurgency. It was not until 2012 that AQIM took full advantage of the lawlessness caused by the country’s political chaos and launched full-scale attacks against the Malian government and international targets. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State)

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is al-Qaeda’s North African wing, a jihadist terrorist group dedicated to dismantling regional governments and implementing sharia. AQIM finds its roots in an Algerian insurgent group that merged with al-Qaeda in September 2006 and rebranded itself as AQIM in January 2007. The group was originally comprised overwhelmingly of Algerian members. In the years since its 2007 formation, however, the group has expanded into neighboring countries Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, and Niger, increasingly recruiting locals to execute attacks. As of 2016, Malians are believed to comprise the primary nationality of AQIM fighters. (Sources: Counter Extremism Project, Brookings, Al Jazeera)

The group is led by Abdelmalek Droukdel, an Algerian national suspected to reside in Algeria. A former leader and co-founder of AQIM, Mokhtar Belmokhtar split with AQIM in late 2012 and formed al-Mulathamun Batallion (AMB), which later merged with MUJAO to form al-Mourabitoun. Belkmokhtar, one of the Sahel’s most notorious jihadists, was designated as a terrorist by the U.S. in 2003. He and his al-Mourabitoun group rejoined AQIM in December 2015, at which point the reinvigorated AQIM was in the midst of carrying out a series of attacks in West African countries including Mali, Burkina Faso, and Côte d’Ivoire. (Source: U.S. Department of State)

Though AQIM was officially created in 2006, jihadists that would form its base entered Mali in 2003 after kidnapping 23 European tourists in the Algerian desert. In the years that followed, AQIM used northern Mali to hide foreign hostages and smuggle drugs, raking in millions in ransom payments. Today, the group still seeks to implement sharia and liberate Malians from what the militants perceive as French colonial legacy. (Sources: Washington Post, BBC News, Associated Press, New York Times)

AQIM’s funding is intricately tied to the work of human traffickers, who smuggle migrants through Mali on their way to Libya and then Europe. The human trafficking network has reportedly enabled AQIM and its affiliated groups to purchase weaponry and pay fighters’ salaries. AQIM has also reportedly amassed upwards of $90 million to date through ransom payments. (Sources: International Business Times, New York Times)

Ansar al-Dine

Ansar al-Dine (“Movement of Defenders of the Faith,” or AAD) was founded in November 2011 by Malian Tuareg fighter Iyad Ag Ghali, cousin of AQIM senior leader Hamada Ag Hama. A largely homegrown movement comprised of Tuareg and northern Malian Berber Arabs, AAD works closely with AQIM in their joint goal of implementing sharia. Many of its members are Tuaregs who previously fought alongside deceased Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and returned to Mali after his overthrow. (Source: BBC News, Agence France-Presse)

Following the fall of northern Mali in March-April 2012 to the Tuaregs, AAD gained control over major cities including Kidal and Timbuktu, and sought to implement sharia in those areas. However, AAD’s control was reportedly merely nominal, with AQIM’s presence in AAD-controlled areas an “everyday reality.” In July 2015, reports emerged that AAD had begun to ramp up attacks in Mali’s south, especially near the capital, Bakamo. (Sources: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, International Business Times)

The U.S. Department of State designated AAD a foreign terrorist organization in March 2012, with the United Nations soon following suit. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, United Nations)

Al-Mourabitoun

Al-Mourabitoun (“The Sentinels”) is a U.S.-designated violent jihadist group that operates and seeks to implement sharia in Mali, Algeria, southwestern Libya, and Niger. The group is the outcome of an August 2013 merger between two AQIM splinter groups: Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and al-Mulathamun Battalion (AMB). On November 20, 2015, the group claimed responsibility for a deadly gun and hostage attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali, allegedly as part of a joint attack with AQIM. Earlier that year, al-Mourabitoun claimed responsibility for a hotel siege in Sevare, central Mali that claimed the lives of nine civilians and four Malian soldiers. (Sources: Guardian, Reuters, U.S. Department of State)

Al-Mourabitoun believes it has a sharia-based duty to unite Africa’s Muslims and Islamic movements against secularism, in particular France and French influences in the region. It also finances itself through drug smuggling and kidnapping for ransom. (Source: Australian National Security)

In August 2015, al-Mourabitoun published an online statement announcing Mokhtar Belmokhar as the group’s leader. The memo was signed, “Al-Mourabitoun – Al Qaeda in West Africa,” leading analysts to believe that the group now fully considers itself under al-Qaeda’s umbrella and loyal to al-Qaeda emir Ayman al-Zawahiri. The group formally rejoined AQIM in December 2015. (Sources: Long War Journal, Long War Journal)

The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa

The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) first appeared in southern Algeria and northern Mali in December 2011. At that time, its purported leader, Hamada Ould Mohamed Kheirou, announced the group as an AQIM splinter and claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of Italian and Spanish aid workers in Tindoug, Algeria. MUJAO merged with al-Mulathamun Battalion (AMB) in August 2013 to form al-Mourabitoun. (Source: News24)

MUJAO disdained AQIM’s lack of jihad and preference for criminal activity. Following the capture of northern Mali by Tuareg rebels in March-April 2012, MUJAO controlled the city of Gao and surrounding areas. During this time, AAD purportedly brokered a truce between MUJAO and AQIM. (Source: Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

MUJAO was composed of Mauritanians and Arabs from Gao and its environs, but is believed to have had little public support in Mali. Nonetheless, the group drew recruits from the region and internationally, from countries including Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and others. In its height, MUJAO attacked Algerian targets in both Algeria and Mali. (Source: Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Analysts disagree on MUJAO’s level of activity, ranging from defunct to still active. It is also disputed whether it is a distinct entity from al-Mourabitoun. The U.S. Department of State has used “MUJAO” and “AMB” as aliases when referring to al-Mourabitoun. (Source: U.S. Department of State)

Macina Liberation Front

The Macina Liberation Front (MLF) came to international attention in 2015, when the group claimed responsibility for the November 2015 attacks in Bamako, contesting claims made by AQIM and al-Mourabitoun. The group—which carried out a number of attacks in 2015—reportedly seeks to establish an ethnically Fulani Islamic state in southern Mali. To that end, the group has reportedly attracted 4,000 members, primarily of Fulani ethnic origin. Led by extremist preacher Amadou Koufa, MLF reportedly shares a mentor with AAD. (Source: Newsweek)

Boko Haram

Nigerian-based terror group Boko Haram has operated training camps in Gao, Mali, according to sources from Niger. AQIM has also reportedly given training to Boko Haram members in northern Mali. In June 2012, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou publically alleged that Boko Haram held close ties with AQIM. However, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS, al-Qaeda’s foe, in March 2015. (Sources: Atlantic, BBC News, Perspectives on Terrorism)

Foreign Fighters

There is little information to suggest that Malians are leaving the country to fight alongside Islamic extremists in other parts of the world. However, militants from across Africa have come to fight alongside extremists in Mali’s north, including from Algeria, Mauritania, Sudan, Niger, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal, and Western Sahara. The number of foreign fighters in Mali is difficult to assess, and the amount has most likely decreased since the height of the country’s civil war in 2012-2013. (Sources: Washington Post, Stratfor, BBC News)

Major Extremist and Terrorist Incidents

Extremist and terrorist incidents in Mali have included improvised explosive device (IED) attacks as well as rocket and mortar fire attacks, suicide bombings, kidnappings, hostage-taking, and landmines. These attacks regularly target Malian, French, and U.N. peacekeeping forces. The U.S. Department of State reported in its 2014 Country Report on Terrorism that in a five-month window between May and September, a total of 27 separate attacks targeted U.N. peacekeepers inside Mali. (Source: U.S. Department of State)

 

Domestic Counter-Extremism

Since January 2012, Mali has had to grapple with a secessionist Tuareg movement and Islamist rebellion in the country’s north. In that time, Mali’s government has relied on military operations—domestic and international—to quash extremist elements within its borders. In 2015, the government conspicuously lacks what the U.S. Department of State called “an official strategy to counter violent extremism.” Despite a shaky peace deal signed with rebel forces in June 2015, Mali continues to rely on French and U.N. military forces to stabilize its northern region and suppress violent Islamist activity. (Source: U.S. Department of State, New York Times)

Military Endeavors

From January to March 2012, Mali relied on its military to suppress the northern Tuareg rebellion. After months of failed strategy and continued Tuareg attacks on Malian forces, the military launched a coup on March 22. In the weeks that followed, Mali lost large swaths of territory to the rebels who, on April 6, declared the independent state of Azawad in the north of the country. With its own military failing, the government of Mali appealed to the international community—and its former colonial master France in particular—for emergency military intervention.

The country is still heavily dependent on French and U.N. forces to maintain security in areas under its control.

In December 2012, the United Nations sanctioned an African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) intervention for late 2013. However, as secessionist and jihadist attacks escalated in late 2012 and early 2013, France—and later West African and U.N. forces—expedited their plans for January 2013. France’s Operation Sérval, which sought to put “an abrupt end to the advance of jihadist groups to the south of Mali and to ensure the safety of the 5,000 French nationals in the country,” launched on January 11, 2013. On January 17, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) launched its U.N.-authorized AFISMA mission eight months ahead of schedule. The AFISMA mission aimed to “contribute to the rebuilding of the capacity of the Malian Defence and Security Forces…; support the Malian authorities in recovering the areas in the north of its territory under the control of terrorist, extremist and armed groups; transition to stabilization activities to support the Malian authorities in maintaining security and consolidate State authority through appropriate capacities; support the Malian authorities in their primary responsibility to protect the population; and support the Malian authorities to create a secure environment for the civilian-led delivery of humanitarian assistance and the voluntary return of internally displaced persons and refugees.” On January 17, Nigeria became the first ECOWAS member state to contribute military support to Mali. It was joined soon after by military contingents from Togo, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and other ECOWAS member states. (Sources: Ministère de la Défense, United Nations, Fox News)

In July 2013, the United Nations formally took over authority from the AFISMA mission and established the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Not unlike the AFISMA mission, MINUSMA sought to “support the political process and carry out a number of security-related stabilization tasks, with a focus on major population centres and lines of communication, protecting civilians, human rights monitoring, the creation of conditions for the provision of humanitarian assistance and the return of displaced persons, the extension of State authority and the preparation of free, inclusive and peaceful elections.” In the months following the international interventions in Mali, violent rebellion subsided significantly in the north, although attacks have continued to erupt in the months and years since. (Source: United Nations)

Although Mali has been entrusted with some military and governance responsibilities for its northern region, the country is still heavily dependent on French and U.N. forces to maintain security in areas under its control. Launched on August 1, 2014, France’s Operation Barkhane has continued to conduct anti-terrorism operations in the country’s north. The United Nations has also extended its MINUSMA operation into 2017. The U.S. Department of State noted in its 2016 Country Report on Terrorism that Mali’s military is insufficiently resourced and lacks personnel trained in counterterrorism investigation techniques and law enforcement. In June 2015, Tuareg-led rebels signed a peace agreement with the Malian government, though violence has since continued to erupt in the country, with attacks frequently attributed to Islamic extremist rebels. (Sources: Deutsche Welle, Le Figaro, Ministère De La Defense, United Nations, United Nations, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State)

Security Agencies

Mali’s domestic counterterrorism entities are primarily its Armed Forces and Air Force. Under the country’s Ministry of Security, the General Directorate of State Security has the authority to detain and investigate individuals for terrorism-related offenses. The U.S. State Department noted in its 2015 Country Reports on Terrorism that Mali lacks the capacity, training, and equipment to secure its borders, although the country does have basic border security mechanisms. In 2016, Mali security forces participated in several U.S.-led counterterrorism training programs, including crime scene investigations of a terrorist attack, surveillance detection, incident response, and securing vital infrastructure. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State)

National Programs to Counter Extremism

In June 2016, Mali drafted its first national strategy to prevent radicalization, terrorism, and violent extremism. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is charged with developing and monitoring the strategy. The strategy involves Mali’s Ministry of Religious Affairs working with Islamic organizations to promote moderate Islam. However, the absence of government control in parts of northern and central Mali was hindering efforts to prevent radicalism and recruitment by violence extremist groups, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2016 Country Reports on Terrorism. (Source: U.S. Department of State)

Combatting Terrorist Financing

Mali has made efforts to combat terrorist financing, both within its own borders and throughout the region. In November 2010, Malian representatives voted unanimously to implement legislation countering terrorist financing in the country. To combat the threat of terrorism financing in the region, Mali also belongs to the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA). Established by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), GIABA works to “strengthen… the capacity of member states towards the prevention and control of money laundering and terrorist financing in the region.” (Sources: Primature, U.S. Department of State, GIABA)

International Counter-Extremism

International Effort in Mali

MINUSMA was charged with stabilizing the country’s north in the aftermath of the international military interventions.

In January 2013, Mali became host to an international effort to quash the country’s Tuareg and Islamist uprising. On January 11, 2013, France became the first country to contribute to the effort, conducting air strikes in northern Mali and dispatching troops there soon after. ECOWAS member states joined the French days later, as part of the U.N.-approved AFISMA effort. In July 2013, the United Nations took over responsibility from AFISMA under the U.N.-mandated MINUSMA mission, which was charged with stabilizing the country’s north in the aftermath of the international military interventions. As of late 2016, MINUSMA has been authorized to use up to 15,209 uniformed personnel and over $933 million. (Sources: Primature, United Nations)

Alongside MINUSMA, French forces have continued military operations in Mali through successive Operations Sérval (launched January 2013) and Barkhane (launched August 1, 2014). While France—alongside AFISMA and the U.N.-led MINUSMA—has produced major successes in reclaiming northern territory from the rebels and Islamists, violent extremist activity continues to remain a threat. As of November 2016, the U.N. and French missions in Mali are ongoing, with MINUSMA’s strength marked at 13,083 personnel. (Sources: Le Monde, Le Figaro, Ministère De La Defense, Primature, United Nations)

International Counterterrorism and Counter-Extremism

Mali is part of a number of international initiatives working to counter terrorism and extremism in West Africa. In February 2014, Mali and four other West African countries—Mauritania, Niger, Chad, and Burkina Faso—agreed to form an organization called the G5 Sahel. The group aims to strengthen regional cooperation on development and security. In announcing the group’s formation, the Heads of State formally reiterated their “strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms.” The countries formally agreed to set up a joint counterterrorism force in February 2017. (Sources: Primature, BBC, Africanews)

Since its formation, the G5 Sahel has worked to coordinate with foreign forces undertaking counterterrorism and counter-extremism efforts in the region. Among other entities, the G5 Sahel has met with the European Union, whose EU Sahel Regional Action Plan works to prevent and combat extremism and radicalization in the West African region. (Sources: Reuters, European Union)

Mali is also part of ECOWAS, and has benefitted from ECOWAS membership, particularly via its 2013 military intervention. According to ECOWAS’s General Officer, religious extremism is a contributing factor to terrorism and the threat of terrorism in West Africa. Other factors the Officer links with terrorism are “poverty, poor governance, conflicts, political instability, corruption, weak government institutions, easy access to small arms, [and] violence.” According to the Global Center on Cooperative Security, ECOWAS’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and its Implementation Plan in particular, holds principles that mirror those aimed to counter violent extremism. (Sources: Diplomatie, Global Center)

To combat the threat of terrorism financing, Mali holds membership in the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa. Mali is also a member of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership, and has participated in the Global Counterterrorism Forum. As the U.S. Department of State has noted, Mali has volunteered to act as a pilot country for the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, an effort designed to support local communities and help them resist violent extremism. (Source: U.S. Department of State)

Public Opinion

The Northern Rebellion and Military Activity

According to a poll by ORB International conducted in late 2012, 78 percent of Malians supported an international intervention in northern Mali to quash the rebellion. In the region closest to the northern conflict, that number was higher, with 89 percent supporting an international intervention and only 8 percent opposing it. At the time, Malians polled lacked confidence in their own military, with 61 percent believing that the nation’s military should not attempt to retake the north until it was stronger. Immediately following France’s intervention, a poll conducted by Al Jazeera showed that 96 percent of Malian respondents polled were supportive of the intervention. (Sources: ORB International, Gallup, Al Jazeera)

According to an August/September 2014 poll, 39.9 percent of Malians believed that the fight against armed militias in the north should be a priority of the government. By that time, however, surveys showed that other issues—including youth unemployment and government corruption—ranked higher on citizens’ priorities. Malians in 2014 were also significantly more confident in their country’s military capabilities, with 58 percent believing that the military was capable of securing the country, including the northern region. After France’s intervention, 56 percent of Malians appreciated France’s efforts in the country through Operations Sérval and Barkhane. A total of 71.9 percent of Malians believed in 2014 that armed forces and MINUSMA were sufficient to ensure the security of Mali going forward, although the country had a mixed response to the ongoing presence of MINUSMA forces on Malian territory. A poll of Malians conducted in October 2015 showed that 67 percent of the population was dissatisfied with MINUSMA’s work, compared to 29 percent who were satisfied. (Sources: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, GISSE)

A poll of Malians conducted in October 2015 showed that 67 percent of the population was dissatisfied with MINUSMA’s work.

By 2015, pollsters could reach the northern Malian regions of Gao, Kidal, and Menaka. Polls published January/February 2015 revealed that 25.32 percent of Malians in those areas believed that the fight against armed militias should be one of the government’s main priorities. This came in contrast with 52.60 percent of those polled, who believed that negotiating with the armed militias should be one of the government’s main priorities. (Source: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung)

By October 2015, a slight majority of Malians polled—54.3 percent compared to 44.6 percent—believed that Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta has done a good job managing the northern conflict. A larger majority—67.3 percent—are satisfied with France’s efforts in Mali, compared to 32 percent who are dissatisfied. While this figure appears to indicate broad support for France’s activity in Mali, it is worth noting that the figure is significantly lower than it was at the start of the conflict, when over 90 percent of the Malian public supported France’s intervention in the country. (Source: GISSE)

After the November 2015 Bamako attack, online surveys have indicated scattered dissatisfaction with Malian security forces, and some disillusionment with Western attitudes to Mali’s security situation. Roughly 35 percent of those polled in an online survey following the attack believed that Malian security forces are failing, and 31.29 percent believe that the West treated the attack as trivial. Twenty one percent believed that the hotel attack was a response to the June 2015 peace deal signed between the Malian government and insurgents. (Source: aBamako.com)

Islamic Extremism

Polls show that Malians have mixed attitudes regarding Islamic extremism, and whether or not it constitutes a national priority to address. According to a Gallup poll from 2012, a slight majority (51 percent) of Malians reject the implementation of sharia. A Pew poll released in 2013, however, showed that 63 percent of Malians favored the implementation of sharia. (Sources: Gallup, Pew)

According to a 2014 poll by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a minority of Malians—27.6 percent—believe that religious and political extremism constituted one of the greatest challenges in Mali. In the northern regions of Mali, that number was higher by early 2015, with 34.6 percent of Malians polled in Gao, Kidal, and Menaka considering religious and political extremism a major challenge for the country. (Sources: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung)