Watch Group Advocates the Primacy of Civil Authority in Rebuilding Mali’s Security Sector

Col. (ret.) Christopher Holshek, Senior Fellow, Alliance for Peacebuilding, and member of the Editorial Board of Building Peace: A Forum for Peace and Security in the 21st Century

A highly influential group of foreign policy, civil-military, peacebuilding, and country and cultural experts –  including Malians of various walks of life – has identified  the primacy of civil authority as the crux of peace and security, democratization, and security sector capacity development in conflict areas such as Mali. The Mali Watch group, a non-partisan coalition working to restore peace, security, democracy and economic development to Mali, published a major point paper, “Enhancing the Primacy of Civil Authority in the Security Sector in Mali and Africa,” with recommendations for policy and practice in the restoration of not only Mali’s regular military force, but also the police and gendarmerie (or paramilitary force) as well as the inclusion of potentially reconcilable armed groups such as the Islamic Movement of Azawad (MIA). The point paper is among numerous consensus efforts of the group, co-sponsored by the Alliance for Peacebuilding and The Bridges Institute.  Mali Watch is peacebuilding in action at the policy level, yet brings in what “practitioners understand well that the solutions lie in integration, collaboration, and sharing knowledge,” as was pointed out in the last issue of Building Peace. This rich coalition of civil society and the private sector working closely with governments and international organizations like the UN has been working since January on three major goals for Malians and their supporters; namely:

  1. Restore and maintain the territorial integrity of Mali;
  2. Support free and fair elections as soon as technically feasible;
  3. Contribute to the restoration of social cohesion in which all Malians support the state, believe in the nation’s institutions and see a place for themselves in Mali’s future.

The group does not see a sustained, large-scale outside military intervention in Mali as the ultimate answer to transforming the conflict there. As Mali Watch co-chair and Bridges Institute President & CEO Vivian Lowery Derryck noted in The New York Times in referring to the military intervention: “in the short term this may be the only recourse, but addressing poverty, disparity and a bulging youth population with no hope, has to be another priority for the future.” Rather, the point paper assumes, “establishing a healthy, sustainable civil-military relationship that institutionalizes the primacy of civil authority and links security sector reform and civil society peacebuilidng efforts will be the key component of national reconciliation and addressing the main drivers of conflict.” The paper also recommends “more sophisticated strategies” for the U.S.  These would involve greater multilateralism and civil-military institution-building rather than the more typical “train and equip” response and overemphasis on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency that have hallmarked U.S. security assistance efforts in Mali and Africa. Such imbalances, it argues, have not adequately addressed the institutional and civil-military factors that led to the coup in the first place. In building civil-military capacity in post-conflict Mali, more universal civil-military models should be used. This has as much – if not greater – application to conflict prevention, to be covered in the upcoming edition of Building Peace, as for post-conflict peace and stability operations.

Read the entire point paper here.

1 Comment
  1. […] Our initial “Latest Insights” contribution is from Christopher Holshek, Senior Fellow at the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP), who shares with us the story of a non-partisan coalition of experts from different sectors and disciplines working together to identify the best way forward in rebuilding Mali’s security, democracy and economic development. This post echoes some of the perspectives expressed at the Building Peace launch hosted by USIP in April, which featured the Honorable Ambassador of Mali to the U.S. Al Maamoun Baba Lamine Keita and a select group of Building Peace authors. […]

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