Mali: Tribalism

Hello readers, welcome back to my blog. Last time you may remember me discussing globalisation and how the world in which we live has become ‘smaller’ and more concentrated via a nexus of connections. I also pointed out some of the downsides of globalisation as well as recent news events e.g. Trump’s implementation of protectionist policies which suggest that we could be entering a period of ‘de-globalisation’. My next three posts will be a little different to usual. I will be focusing on three African Low Income Developing Countries (LIDC’s) and writing a case study about each where the topic will be different each time.

My aim is to provide some background information about these countries economically but also to investigate countries that are of interest to me. The first post in this series will be based on the issue of tribalism in Mali; the second about the various waves of migration in Kenya and some of the policies that have been implemented; and the final post in this mini series will be about the world’s newest state: South-Sudan and how it has fallen into a deep civil war & political unrest resulting in detrimental socio-economic costs. The post on Kenya will be more detailed as Kenya is where my parents were born and I have travelled to the country on numerous occasions, witnessing first-hand some of the setbacks to the economy such as corruption and crippling poverty.


There are significant socio-economic and environmental contrasts in Mali. The north is a vast are of desert and semi-desert in which the Tuareg are the most dominant ethnic group. The south has the most economic activity as well as the capital, Bamako, located on the Niger. Gold, cotton and agricultural exportsgenerate income but overall this is a very poor, landlocked country, which depends heavily on foreign aid and migrant remittances.


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The Nature of Tribalism in Mali

In responses to a military coup d’état in 2012, Malian interim authorities requested assistance of France to ‘defend Mali’s sovereignty and restore its territorial integrity’. The challenges can be explained by the following:

  • International boundaries delineated by European colonial powers in the early 20thcenturyhad little regard for tribal lands, resulting in arbitrary division of the Tuareg ethnic group.
  • The Tuareg declared independence for Awazad, an area of northeast Mali over which they claim territorial and cultural rights.
  • There was fighting in the north to control routes for both legal trade and illicit smugglingg. Tilemsi Valley.
  • There has been ineffective state governance of the north, which has been marginalized and neglected from Bamako.
  • There is not just a centre-periphery divide in Mali; in addition to the Tuareg there are many other significant ethnic groups, e.g. the Songhai in the Gao area.


Global Governance Strategies

Global and regional institutions have intervened to resolve the sovereignty and territorial integrity issues. Their ultimate aim is to sustain the global system of sovereign nation-states.

  • UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA)aims to support the political process and stabilize Mali, ensure security, protect civilians, assist re-establishment of state authority and promote human rights.
  • ECOWAS and the African Unionhave been involved in mediation and returning power to civilian administration.
  • Success of the combined effects of global governance are evident in the 2015 peace dealbetween the Mali Government and Tuareg, providing some degree of autonomy for the North (locally elected leaders, greater representation of northern populations in national institutions and greater state budget for the north)
  • NGO’s provide assistance to local communitiessuch as: reproductive health, food insecurity, poverty alleviation, education, water, hygiene and sanitation.
  • Despite MINUSMA forces, it is increasingly difficult work in areas of armed banditsinvolved in smuggling, car jacking, land mines and kidnapping (tourists, NGO workers and diplomats for ransoms).


Opportunities for stability and growth vs. challenges of inequality and justice

The effects of global governance have been limited, there is continuing instability and the huge inequalities from which the problems stem, remain a challenge. Nevertheless HDI figures show slow improvement overall (male: 0.455, Female: 0.350). GDP per capita is recovering after it fell in the 2 years after the coup (US$496, 2015). World Bank also supports smallholder farmsby enhancing supply chains for farming and fishery products, for which Mali has a strong comparative advantage, through Agricultural Competitiveness and Diversification Project. Microfinanceinitiatives are promoting development from the grass rootsrather than “top down” projects. That said, like much of Sub-Saharan Africa, many villagers feel abandoned and disconnected due to limited infrastructure and service provision. There are also high levels of drug smuggling, human trafficking and corruption. Women and children are subject to a disproportionate amount of domestic and agricultural work, early marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), military conscription and unsafe conditions in gold mines.


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