With strict pressure from the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the August coup leaders have installed an interim government that will run state affairs until next elections. Plucked from obscurity, the former Defense Minister Bah Ndaw became the transitional President, while Colonel Assimi Goita serves as Vice President. The transitional committee made up of representatives of political parties, civil and religious groups agreed on both positions.
According to their biographical reports, both had part of their professional military training in the Soviet Union and Russia respectively. The transitional civilian government, swearing-in ceremony and inauguration into office took place on Sept 25, completely closed the political chapter on the political administration of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
The military takeover, Mali’s fourth since gaining independence from France in 1960, came after months of protests, stoked by Keita’s failure to roll back a bloody jihadist insurgency and fix the country’s many economic woes.
Over the years, reform policies have had little impact on the living standards, majority highly impoverished in the country. As a developing country, it ranks at the bottom of the United Nations Development Index (2018 report). The country, however, is a home to approximately 20 million population. The primary task, right now, is to draw up “a comprehensive road map” for economic recovery.
Earlier before the Sept 25 ceremony, Assimi Goita had issued a public statement at a media-covered conference to the Malian population, “We make a commitment before you to spare no effort in the implementation of all these resolutions in the exclusive interest of the Malian people. We request and hope for the understanding, support and accompaniment of the international community in this diligent and correct implementation of the Charter and the transition roadmap. The results you have achieved allow me to hope for the advent of a new, democratic, secular and prosperous Mali.”
While West African leaders would likely remove the economic sanctions imposed in the wake of last month’s coup, following the installation of a civilian interim president, a number of foreign countries including Russia have already recognized these new developments taken toward stability. Russia, apparently, is exploring all possibilities to regain part of its Soviet-era influence as Mali begins to restructure and systematize its state administration.
In an official statement to mark Mali’s 60th anniversary of its independence from France, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) hoped that Mali would fix in place civilian form of government and, focus on holding free and democratic elections following a short transitional period with the assistance of the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union.
It is noteworthy to recall here that Russia and Mali are linked by friendship and cooperation. In 1960, Mali attained independence following a prolonged struggle and opted for a socialist orientation. There were major projects implemented with Soviet assistance. These includes a cement factory, the Kalana gold-mining company, a stadium in Bamako, the Gabriel Toure Hospital, an airfield in Gao and a number of national education facilities. Large-scale prospecting operations were conducted, and 9,000 hectares converted into rice paddies.
Thousands of Soviet educators, doctors and other specialists worked in Mali. Over 10,000 Mali citizens received higher education in Russia.
“We hope that the time-tested Russia-Mali ties will continue to develop steadily in the interests of both states. We would like to congratulate the friendly people of Mali on their national holiday and to wish them every success in achieving nationwide reconciliation, reviving their country as soon as possible, and we wish them peace, prosperity and well-being,” the statement particularly stressed.
As Russia pushes to strengthen its overall profile in the G5 Sahel region, Mali could become a gateway into the region. Russia has made military-technical cooperation as part of its diplomacy and keen on fighting growing terrorism in Africa.
Experts suspected that the regime change in Mali could see Russia-friendly new leaders taking over the country from the French-friendly Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and his government, thereby dealing a severe blow to French influence and interests not just in Mali but throughout the Sahel zone.
Research Professor Irina Filatova at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow explained recently in an emailed “Russia’s influence in the Sahel has been growing just as French influence and assistance has been dwindling, particularly in the military sphere. It is for the African countries to choose their friends and people who are now in power will be friendlier with Russia.”
That said, the transitional government could continue to leverage with Russia. Reports indicate that Russia has established cordial relations with transitional government. On August 21, Russian Ambassador to Mali and Niger Igor Gromyko met with representatives from the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP). The CNSP is an umbrella organization of military personnel involved in the coup, which wishes to oversee an 18-month transition before returning power to civilian authorities. Russia signed a military cooperation agreement with Mali in June 2019.
In November 2019, demonstrators in Bamako urged Moscow to repel Islamist attacks in Mali as it did in Syria. At the Independence Square demonstrations in Bamako that followed the coup, protesters were spotted waving Russian flags and holding posters praising Russia for its solidarity with Mali.
Samuel Ramani, DPhil candidate at the Department of Politics and International Relations at St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford, wrote in the Journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute that “Since Russia possesses a diverse array of partnerships in Mali and Sahel countries are frustrated with the counterterrorism policies of Western powers. Moscow could leverage the Mali coup to secure economic deals and bolster its geopolitical standing in West Africa.”
According to the expert, Kremlin-aligned research institutes and media outlets have consistently framed France’s counterterrorism operations in Niger and Mali as a façade for the extraction of the Sahel’s uranium resources. Russian nuclear energy giant Rosatom, which directly competes with its French counterpart Avenda for contracts in the Sahel, could benefit from favorable relations with Mali’s new political authorities. Nordgold, a Russian gold company that has investments in Guinea and Burkina Faso, could also expand its extraction initiatives in Mali’s gold reserves.
As one of the largest on the continent, Mali is a landlocked country located in West Africa. For centuries, its northern city of Timbuktu was a key regional trading post and center of Islamic culture. Mali is renowned worldwide for having produced some of the stars of African music, most notably Salif Keita. But, this cultural prominence has long since faded.
After independence from France in 1960, Mali suffered droughts, rebellions, and 23 years of military dictatorship until democratic elections in 1992. Mali has struggled with mass protests over corruption, electoral probity, and a jihadist insurgency that has made much of the north and east ungovernable. President Ibrahim Keita, who took office in September 2013, proved unable to unify the country. With time and commitment to sustainable development and good governance, there is still hope for Mali. (Modern Diplomacy)
‘We want justice for these girls’: The Kenyan helpline for victims of gender violence
Around four million girls worldwide suffer female genital mutilation every year. Although it is forbidden in Kenya, COVID-19 has led some families to revive itthe traditional practice, and a UN-supported phone helpline for victims of gender-based violence in the country has seen a big rise in calls since the pandemic hit.
Somewhere in Kenya, an early morning in July: A woman organizes a once-in-a-lifetime “ceremony” for her 11-year-old niece: The girl’s genitals will be cut off as part of her cultural transition into adulthood.
All schools in the country have been closed for months. No classmate will notice the girl’s absence, no teacher will be aware and report the case to the police. The school community cannot protect the girl now.
During the ceremony, the fresh wound starts bleeding heavily. The procedure was performed by a local “cutter,” and there is no anaesthesia and no painkillers. The bleeding doesn’t stop, and, eventually, the family has no choice but to take the girl to the nearest hospital.
‘I don’t want to see people suffering’
A few hours later, a telephone rings in an office in Nairobi. The phone is connected to the number 1195, the national helpline for gender-based violence. One of the girl’s relatives has called in to report the incident anonymously — she does not want to be considered as a family troublemaker.
“What we want is justice for these girls,” says “Steve,” one of 31 staff in the call centre. (Counsellors interviewed for this article use pseudonyms to protect their anonymity.) After receiving the call, Steve and his colleagues respond immediately. The police are dispatched to search for the mother and aunt, and a safe home is arranged for the girl once she is released from the hospital.
The helpline is staffed 24 hours a day by trained counsellors who stay on the line with callers until help arrives, whether in the form of the police, an ambulance, a village elder, a child protection officer. Counsellors arrange for health care, security, and legal aid. They also spend long hours on the phone, giving psychosocial support to callers in need.
Female genital mutilation or FGM is just one of the reasons people call the hotline. Others include assault, rape, child neglect and defilement, child marriage. The list goes on. “So many cases go unreported,” Steve says. Asked why he works at the call centre, he says simply, “I don’t want to see people suffering”.
Some calls will break your heart
COVID-19 has aggravated the situation: “Women have been violated like never before,” says Fanis Lisiagali, who heads the 1195 helpline. “We’ve seen women committing suicide, we have heard of women being killed. Both men and women are seriously depressed.”
Indeed, the number of cases handled by the hotline rose from 86 in February to over 1,100 in June of this year. Cases dropped in July, but the total number of calls is four times higher than during the same period last year. Not all of the callers are women. Around one third of the callers who report psychological violence from their spouses and families are men, saying they have been harassed or abused for failing to provide for the family.
Sitting at their desks, a half-dozen tele-counsellors are equipped with masks and gloves and are separated by acrylic glass walls. Aside from Swahili and English, they speak other local languages, from Kikuyu to Luhya to Kalenjin; the aim is for callers from everywhere in Kenya to have someone to talk to.
“You find that psychological problems come up during things people go through every day,” says another counsellor, “June.” In 2009 she became a caregiver with another organization for sexually abused girls and, five years later, she joined the helpline staff.
Some calls will break the heart of even the most experienced counsellor, says June. Earlier this year, she took a call from an 18-year-old woman who had been cast out by her father and then endured an abusive marriage. When she became pregnant and gave birth, her husband rejected her, claiming the baby was crying too much and that it couldn’t possibly be his. Having been disowned for a second time, the woman’s desperation became unbearable. She threw the baby into a pit latrine and ran away. The girl walked into a rescue centre and called the GBV helpline.
“At first the girl was too shocked to speak. When she finally opened up, what I heard made me completely numb,” says June. She sent the caller to a psychiatrist and his attestation prevented her from being imprisoned. June is still in contact with the young woman, and is helping her build a future. “My job gives me an opportunity to give back to society,” she says. “I cannot always help, but sometimes I have a chance to help in a little way.”
A beacon of hope
The helpline is a beacon especially now during the pandemic. Many rescue centres have to turn away survivors of gender-based violence, as they do not have the resources necessary to quarantine new arrivals for COVID-19.
The helpline was established in 2010 by an organization called Healthcare Assistance Kenya, with the support of UN Women, which is still the NGO’s main partner. It is now also supported by UNFPA, the UN Population Fund.
“COVID-19 exacerbates the already horrifying levels of sexual and gender-based violence in Kenya,” says Anna Mutavati, UN Women Country Representative. “But the helpline is saving lives. While services like 1195 are fundamental, we need to tackle society’s underlying causes that perpetuate these gross human rights violations and wider gender inequality.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, the helpline has proven its worth and needs to be strengthened, says Healthcare Assistance Kenya director Fanis Lisiagali. “In the coming years,” she says, “I would like to see the helpline known to all communities in all counties throughout Kenya, so that anybody who needs it has a place to turn to”.
The Repudiation Report: Guterres Reinforce Morocco’s position over Western Sahara
Same scenario and same dialogue when the Polisario Front (SADAR) adapted the populist approach in dealing with the Moroccan (Western) Sahara case, with the imminent release of the UN resolution at the end of this month, which is anticipated to be a continuation of the recommendations of the last report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Kingdom of Morocco determined to endorse a strategic approach in dealing with these circumstances through cooperation With the UN, due to overcoming any resentment with inconvenient consequences.
This was confirmed after a source from the Moroccan Ministry of Interior denied the authorization of any civil society or community initiative to march from Rabat capital to Guerguerat, commence from the 16th of this month. On the other hand, the Polisario Front (SADR) reacted to the current UN statement of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, by assaulting the Kingdom of Morocco, and to a lesser extent, the United Nations, meanwhile seeking to win over the Security Council.
Over the years or so, the Kingdom of Morocco has sustained to deal with the Moroccan (Western) Sahara file as a National concern, considering the issue of Moroccan (Western) Sahara for the Kingdom and Moroccans is the reference national of their identity and loyalty to the Moroccan sovereignty and also dealing with it as a key issue in promoting economic, security, and stability of institutional development to the North African region as well Arab Maghreb region.
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, has reiterated the groundwork of a political solution to the Moroccan Western Sahara file as suggested by the Security Council in all its resolutions issued since 2007.
In his statement to the Security Council on the Moroccan Western Sahara, Guterres noted that on October 30 of last year, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2494 under which it focused on the need to reach a “political, rational, practical, lasting and consent-based solution” to the case of the Moroccan (Western) Sahara.
In a response to the MINURSO mission, Guterres pointed out, through his report, to extend its mandate for one year until October 31, 2021, without needing to justify that “the key task of the mandate of MINURSO is to supervise the ceasefire.” This means eliminating the false accusation of Morocco’s opponents regarding the organization of the alleged referendum that the Security Council and the United Nations Secretary Council have approved for more than two decades.
Due to this, The Secretary-General of the United Nations mentioned to “the political impetus made by the process of meetings held by Horst Kohler, the former personal envoy, with the participation of all parties concerned with the Moroccan (Western) Sahara dispute, which creates the only way to pursue the exclusive political process of the United Nations.”
Yet, The Personal Envoy, Horst Kohler, was capable to reconstruct the necessary dynamism and steam to the political process, particularly through the spectrum of negotiation meetings that brought together involved parties the Kingdom of Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania, in addition to the so-called” SADR” Polisario Front. Guterres emphasized that the need for the political process and final settlement shouldn’t be interrupted, and reiterated his “commitment to appoint a new personal envoy to build on the progress made in the round tables series.”
Additionally, The UN official pointed out that “the Kingdom’s position on the subject of the invented conflict over its southern provinces, as stated in the royal speech on the occasion of the celebration of the forty-fourth anniversary of the Green March.” Thus, the UN official also praised and appreciated Morocco’s cooperation with the MINURSO mission during the difficult period of the “Covid-19” epidemic, stating that: Let me say straight away, this is a time for solidarity “thanks to the measures taken by the Moroccan authorities, no Corona case was reported among the MINURSO mission.” Now it’s very important, that we need government solidarity and cooperation to share and to pool resources where they are most needed and to make sure MINURSO’s representatives get the help that they need from Morocco’s administration.
In light of this, Guterres’s report said, “The Moroccan government has provided support to MINURSO in many aspects by maintaining assistance and providing rapid results of the” Covid-19 “test for the benefit of aircraft staffs and by helping civil and military personnel to embark to and from the mission’s area of operations, not to mention enabling them to gain access. As Rabat reiterates that since the Kingdom of Morocco is a state that advocates returning the favor, the Moroccan side will never forget MINURSO’s help when it was hit by the epidemic.
On the other hand, the UN report pointed criticism regarding the “Polisario’s Front” movement and its continuous violations of the ceasefire agreement 1991, military accords, and Security Council decisions, especially in the Guerguerat region, calling strongly and explicitly for the Polisario Front (SADR) to “quickly pullover from Guarguate frontier zone and settle down these irresponsible violations of Military Agreement.
In a response to the increasing of human rights violation and harassment, the statement of the Secretary-General of the United Nations reviewed the outcome of the significant transgressions of these rights in the Tindouf camps in Algeria by Polisario Front, predominately during the period of “Covid-19”, indicating that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had received many reports highlighting the negative and unfavorable outcomes of the borders suspension and the stumbling access of Humanitarian aid and reducing economic activities in the Tindouf camps.
Here is self-evident to mention that Mr. Guterres also appreciated Morocco’s investments in its southern provinces, stating, in particular, the construction of a new port 70 km north of Dakhla. Thus, and as the Secretary-General of the United Nations reflects, the Kingdom’s investments in its Moroccan (Western) Sahara have continued and enhanced, mostly since His Majesty King Mohammed VI launched the new development model for the southern provinces in November 2015.
The Secretary-General demonstrates, since 2016, the efforts and sustainability for economic development and infrastructure projects that the Kingdom of Morocco is carrying out in its Moroccan (Western) Sahara. Many of these social projects were observed by the former Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, Horst Kohler, during his trip to the region in 2018 Yet, this economic development is escorted by the strengthening supremacy framework and legal dedication of the full Moroccan sovereignty over its southern provinces, through the adoption approach of two laws to ratify the borders of the territorial waters of the Kingdom, which include The coasts of the Moroccan (Western) Sahara.
To sum up, the United Nations Secretary-General report has strongly reinforced Morocco’s position through a sequence of development projects in Moroccan (Western) Sahara, which has been showing the awareness of the United Nations, MINURSO, and the Security Council through the seriousness of the Polisario Front ( SADR) violations of this well-known antagonist armed group. For its proven connections to terrorism and jihadism in the Sahel region. These measures also jeopardize regional stability and severely hinder the international process.
Why should we support Cabo Delgado?
As the adage goes, prevention is better than the cure. This wisdom applies as much to public health crises, and to security and development challenges, as it does to the prevention of violent conflict. Not only does prevention save lives and protect development gains, but it is also highly cost-effective. Last year, Mozambique signed a peace agreement to end its long-running conflict with RENAMO. While presenting a real opportunity for a durable and sustainable peace, this agreement also marked a shift in conflict dynamics in the country and focused attention on an emerging – and potentially more intractable – front in the Northern-most province of Cabo Delgado. The escalating insurgency there has claimed about 2,000 lives and displaced nearly 300,000 people since it began in 2017, and it risks spreading down the coast and into neighboring provinces, enabled by a north-south regional divide, perceptions of the capture of the state and its resources, and a sense of socioeconomic exclusion, particularly among the youth, who face a future with limited avenues for self-improvement or social mobility. Little is known about the perpetrators, their backers, or their intentions: however, what is clear is that the longer the conflict lasts, the more entrenched it risks becoming and the higher the costs will be in terms of destruction of human, social, and cultural capital; in terms of lives lost; in terms of young people who are hooked into extremist groups; and in terms of the loss of economic growth and development potential.
As has been seen in other countries, preventing the onset or escalation of violent conflict and managing crises is complicated by the confluence of multiple challenges that reinforce and amplify fragility. Fragility in turn reinforces poverty and limits efforts to level the playing field. The quest to end poverty and increase equality has suffered its worst setback globally this year since we started to track it consistently, with 88 to 115 million people worldwide expected to be pushed into extreme poverty, taking the total number of poor to 729 million. The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mozambique just as the country was beginning to recover from the destructive trail left by the twin cyclones of 2019, highlights the role of pre-existing vulnerabilities in determining the capacity and ability of formal and informal institutions to mitigate the impact of shocks. A recent review reveals that 37 fragile and conflict-affected countries have 10 percent of the world’s population, but 40 percent of the world’s poor. Internally displaced populations, vulnerable populations, youth, women, the elderly, and those who eke out a living on the margins or in the informal sector, are already struggling to access basic services, a source of livelihood, shelter, and food security. It is these groups who will have been most impacted by these consecutive shocks and who are most at risk now from the impacts of violent conflict in Cabo Delgado. Focusing on Cabo Delgado and the underlying causes of fragility and conflict in Mozambique is not only an economic imperative, but also a moral one.
The human and economic costs of conflict require all those concerned to work more collaboratively through targeted, flexible, and sustained approaches to support national and regional prevention agendas. In the three months since I assumed the role of Country Director for Mozambique, I have had the opportunity to meet with and hear the perspectives of a wide range of stakeholders. These conversations have reinforced that as partners of the Government of Mozambique, and of the people of Mozambique, and the country’s development actors, the World Bank has a key role to play in supporting the efforts of the Government to address the core development issues that underpin Mozambique’s fragility challenges. In light of the heightened fragility risks in Mozambique, and in a bid to align the efforts of the Government with those of the development community to mitigate the danger of an escalation in violent conflict, Mozambique is eligible to secure USD$700 million additional funding from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), specifically to address the underlying causes of fragility and conflict.
Global experience highlights a number of key lessons for successful prevention: that effective prevention is a collective undertaking – led domestically by the government, as the key actor in shaping a pathway towards sustainable development and peace, and building on existing strengths – with support from local and international partners across the political, humanitarian, security, and peace spectrum, to facilitate timely action. The most successful examples of prevention, including from Indonesia, Burkina Faso, Kenya, and Sierra Leone, have involved extensive consultation with, and mobilization of, a coalition of domestic actors to leverage the comparative advantages of civil society, including women’s groups, youth, religious actors, and the private sector, while drawing on support from the international community. In response to subnational instability in Cameroon, Ukraine, and Nigeria, multilateral vehicles such as Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessments have supported governments through technical capacity and policy dialogue to chart an inclusive post-conflict trajectory and development plan to address core socioeconomic grievances. These vehicles have also proved powerful at aligning domestic and international finance for a more effective recovery effort.
The most effective way to prevent societies from descending into chaos is to strengthen their resilience by investing in people through inclusive and sustainable development. Experiences from contexts as varied as Tunisia and Niger, Northern Ireland and Nepal, demonstrate that the often-fraught and uncomfortable process of strengthening and reforming institutions to foster greater inclusion is key to maintaining peace and stability, despite it being a long-term endeavor, sometimes taking generations. Similarly, opening spaces for contestation and for voice is neither easy and nor is it devoid of risk, but it is crucial for increased representation and for alleviating grievances related to perceptions of exclusion, particularly among the youth. In tandem, efforts to address inequalities and exclusion, addressing the legacy of past abuses, and redistributing resources, are all key avenues by which to preserve the social fabric, build social cohesion, and boost the capacities of individuals, communities, and society at large to mitigate impacts of crises and shocks.
For our part, as a friend and partner of Mozambique, the World Bank commits to accompanying the Government and people on the path towards building a more inclusive, transparent, and equitable society. We will support efforts towards peace and stability in Mozambique by leveraging global experiences, using policy dialogue and strong partnerships, and through the application of our technical capacity. The World Bank has in place and will ramp up interventions to address the causes of fragility, conflict, and violence, in Cabo Delgado, but also across the country. These include interventions designed to create opportunities for employment and training, particularly for the youth; delivery of quality services in a transparent and inclusive fashion; support to governance reform efforts and the devolution of power to subnational levels; provision of global best practices in relation to the management and governance of extractives industries and natural resources; support to building resilience to natural hazards and the impacts of climate change; and efforts to boost the capacity of civil society actors and NGOs to build grassroots representation and increases spaces for dialogue and contestation. We are also pushing to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, particularly those impacted by COVID-19, by expanding social protection and safety nets, supporting efforts to increase access to quality education and health services, and boosting efforts to address institutional weakness and policy gaps.
We believe we have a role to act as part of a collective to work with the Government to address these core challenges that underpin fragility in Mozambique. We note with satisfaction the government strategy to address the socioeconomic grievances that feed the insurgency in the North, under the umbrella of the Integrated Northern Development Agency (ADIN). We are committed to working with the Government to ensure that every Mozambican, regardless of who they are and where they live, has the opportunity to live a life of dignity and hope and has the chance to realize their full potential as a contributing member of society.
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