Mali: Several Non-International Armed Conflicts with Various Insurgent Groups

Map of the RULAC online portal with the pop-up window of the non-international armed conflicts in Mali. Map of the RULAC online portal with the pop-up window of the non-international armed conflicts in Mali.

31 January 2019

Since 2012, the Government of Mali has engaged in multiple and overlapping non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) against various insurgent groups, most notably Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), the Plateforme, and the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA).

France and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) support the Government of Mali in its efforts to restore state control over areas in the hands of non-state armed groups and are parties to these NIACs.

Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal provides a detailed analysis and legal classification of the various NIACs that are taking place in Mali, including information about parties to these conflicts.

Criteria to Classify Situations of Armed Violence as Armed Conflicts

‘We use two criteria to assess whether a situation of armed violence amounts to a NIAC under international humanitarian law: the level of armed violence must reach a certain degree of intensity that goes beyond internal disturbances and tensions, and at least one side to the conflict must be a non-state armed group that exhibits a certain level of organization’ explains Dr Chiara Redaelli, Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.

‘In the case of Mali, we considered that both criteria are met for the armed violence involving the Government of Mali on the one hand and JNIM, the Plateforme, and the CMA on the other’ she adds.

A NIAC with Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM)

In recent years, the intensity of violence between Malian armed forces and JNIM has been significantly high. Since JNIM’s emergence in March 2017 as a coalition of different armed groups previously active in Mali, notably Ansar Dine, al-Mourabitoun and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the group has carried out numerous violent attacks against Malian soldiers. These have increased significantly in 2018.

‘Accordingly, we concluded that the intensity of violence threshold is met to classify the situation as a NIAC’ underlines Dr Redaelli.

As of September 2018, JNIM members are estimated to have between 1,000 and 2,000 fighters. While scant information is available on the group’s internal structure, other factors suggest that the non-state actor meets the minimum organization criterion.

RULAC Non International Armed Conflicts in Mali Armed Groups

NIACs with the Plateforme and the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) Despite the June 2015 Peace Agreement

Between 2014 and 2015, two coalitions of armed groups emerged: The Plateforme and the CMA.

The CMA is an umbrella organization that was created in 2014 and that encompasses a number of armed groups that rebelled in 2012, including the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA) and the Coalition of the People of Azawad (CPA). Its objective is to obtain self-determination for the northern regions of Mali and the broader Azawad.

The Platforme was founded in June 2014 as a reaction to the creation of the CMA. It is composed of a number of armed groups who were military active in Mali since 2012, such as the Imghad Touareg and Allied Self-Defense Group (GATIA), the Coalition of the People of Azawad (CPA), the Coalition of Movements and Patriotic Resistance Front (CM-FPR) and the Popular Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MPSA).

In 2015, the two groups engaged in peace talks with the government, which led to the conclusion of a peace agreement on 20 June 2015. Nevertheless, armed confrontations did not cease and significant violations of the ceasefire took place in 2017. Furthermore, as of today, both coalitions still control considerable parts of the territory in the northern part of Mali.

‘The existence of a ceasefire agreement does not in itself put an end to a NIAC: violence frequently continues after the conclusion of such agreements and a NIAC only ends in the case of a lasting cessation of armed confrontations without real risk of resumption’ explains Dr Redaelli.

‘This is not the case in Mali. The 2015 peace agreement did not lead to such a lasting cessation and armed clashes have continued on a regular basis. As such, the level of violence and degree of organization of both coalitions continue to meet the criteria to classify these situations as NIACs’ she adds.

The Involvement of France and MINUSMA

Since July 2013, MINUSMA has been active in Mali, supporting the government to restore state control over areas in the hands of armed groups and implement the 2015 peace agreement.

France has been providing ongoing military support to the Malian armed forces in their fight against rebel groups since 2013. MINUSMA’s mandate also authorizes French forces to intervene in support of MINUSMA when the mission is under imminent and serious threat, and upon the request of the Secretary-General.

‘In light of the involvement of MINUSMA and France in the conflict and the number and nature of armed confrontations between them and the rebels, we concluded that MINUSMA and France are parties to the conflict’ underlines Dr Redaelli.

‘As this United Nations mission and France are intervening with the consent of the Mali government, these involvements do not affect the classification of the conflicts, which remain non-international in character’ she adds.

On the other hand, RULAC concludes that the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel (FC-G5S), is not a party to the NIACs in Mali. FC-G5S was founded in March 2017 by G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger), with the support of France and with the aim of countering terrorism and tackling organized crime in the Sahel.

‘We draw this conclusion on the basis of the low intensity and number of armed confrontations between the FC-G5S and the non-state actors active in Mali’ underlines Dr Readelli

RULAC Non International Armed Conflicts in Mali MINUSMA

About RULAC

The RULAC database is unique in the world in that it legally classifies situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict – international or non-international – under international humanitarian law (IHL).

‘This is crucial because IHL applies only in armed conflicts. Before humanitarian players, civil servants or academics can invoke IHL or analyze whether IHL was violated, they must know whether it applies. Outside armed conflicts, only international human rights law applies’ underlines Marco Sassòli, Director of the Geneva Academy.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Marco Sassoli reading the Geneva Conventions News

The Geneva Conventions at 70: Our Ongoing Contribution to their Implementation

12 August 2019

On the occasion of the Geneva Conventions 70th anniversary, our Director Professor Marco Sassòli discusses their importance and our contribution to their implementation. 

Read more

The Geneva Academy 2019 Pictet team with their coach News

Ignacio Lepro, Eliška Mockova and Tori More will represent the Geneva Academy at the 2019 Jean-Pictet Competition

8 January 2019

Ignacio Lepro, Eliška Mockova and Tori More, currently enrolled in our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, will represent the Geneva Academy at the 31st Edition of the Jean-Pictet Competition that will take place in Obernai (France) from 16 to 23 March 2019.

Read more

Portrait of Lindsey Cameron Event

The importance and the Limits of International Law for Resolving Humanitarian Issues in Situations of Armed Conflict and Transitional Justice

25 September 2019, 18:00-20:00

In the face of a rapidly changing world, this opening lecture of the academic year by Lindsey Cameron will explore some of the current challenges for IHL and transitional justice.

Read more

Logo of the Atlas Network Event

Women's Perspective on a Career in International Law

25 September 2019, 12:30-14:00

This event, co-organized with the ATLAS Network will feature prominent women in international law. Coming from different professional backgrounds, they will share their experience and advice through an interactive discussion.

Read more

An aerial view of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), which have appeared following latest attacks by M23 rebels and other armed groups in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Short Course

International Refugee Law

6 March - 9 April 2020

This short course analyses the main international and regional norms governing the international protection of refugees. It notably examines the sources of international refugee law, including the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and their interaction with human rights law and international humanitarian law.

Read more

Somalia, explosion of a bomb in the Mogadishu's market place. Short Course

The Classification of Armed Conflicts

31 January - 14 February 2020

This short course aims to study, in depth, an emblematic example of the complexity of international humanitarian law and the challenges it raises: the classification of armed conflicts.

Read more

UN Peacekeepers on Patrol in Abyei, Sudan. Zambian peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) patrol streets lined with looted items awaiting collection in Abyei, the main town of the disputed Abyei area on the border of Sudan and newly Project

The Intersection between Transitional Justice, International Security and Responsibility to Protect

Started in February 2017

This project aims at mapping various existing accountability mechanisms, in the context of military interventions, through the lens of the requirements of a transitional justice process in order to identify possibilities and gaps.

Read more

Libya, Misrata, Tripoli Street. After a battle between members of the armed opposition and government forces. Project

The War Report

Started in December 2013

As an annual publication, The War Report provides an overview of contemporary trends in current armed conflicts, including key international humanitarian law and policy issues that have arisen and require attention.

Read more