Understanding Algeria’s Northern Mali Policy

by ptinti

Think Africa Press

After years of calling for greater military action in northern Mali, Algeria is now advocating a negotiated solution. Why the apparent change the heart?

Bamako, Mali: The whispers out of high-level meetings and shuttle diplomacy in recent weeks suggest an emerging consensus that some form of military intervention will be needed to retake northern Mali from the militant Islamist groups that now control the area. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is seekinga Chapter VII intervention mandate from the UN Security Council, and France has called for the immediate passage of such a resolution.

The United States, having maintained for months that democratic elections should precede any military action, has warmed to the idea of an African-led military intervention so long as it is “well planned”, “well resourced” and “has the support of all states in the region”, including those who are not ECOWAS members.

The last caveat is particularly crucial as Mali’s northern neighbour Algeria continues to call for a negotiated solution to the crisis. Aside from rejecting the idea of the creation of a new state, questions remain regarding the parameters of what Algeria considers an acceptable result in northern Mali. These questions are far from peripheral. Recent history and present imperatives suggest that Algeria will be active – either unilaterally or within an international framework – in shaping security outcomes in the region. As researcher Wolfram Lacher highlights, the challenge for the international community is to integrate Algeria into whatever mechanisms – political and military – that are used to put Mali back together.

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