March 2015 marked two years since the ousting of the Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré by mutinous soldiers. The subsequent instability energized the ongoing efforts of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad group to gain autonomy for northern Mali/Azawad and make it a homeland for the Tuareg people. After they made some progress and gained control of parts of the territory, several extremist Islamic groups quickly became the dominant actors in northern Mali.
It was at this point that France and its allies began operations against the Islamist groups to win back the lost territory. The mission was successful and, few months after, the United Nations established the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to support the re-establishment of state authority throughout Mali, focusing on northern Mali, and rebuilding the Malian security sector.
The policy brief “Building the capacity of the Malian police: Why MINUSMA needs to think outside the box” by the Institute for Security Studies examines the police component of the MINUSMA and recommends how the capacity-building aspect of the peacekeeping mission can be strengthened. This report is based on field research undertaken in May 2014 that involved interviews with “peacekeepers, national stakeholders from MINUSMA, the Malian national police and NGOs”. As a result, the policy brief identifies the real challenges facing MINUSMA and pin points its shortcomings.
Major shortcomings are the heavy presence of MINUSMA in Bamako and its inability to deploy to the north of the country where it is desperately needed, both of which led to a loss of support for the U.N. mission from the Malian people. The low deployment levels for the MINUSMA’s police component are due to the lack of funding and the insecurity in the north that prevents MINUSMA from deploying a larger amount of individual police officers in advisory reform and capacity building functions. Moreover, MINUSMA has a limited operational capacity and infrastructure for supporting its police component in the north. As a result, it deployed only 122 individual police officers where its mandate allows the deployment of up to 320 individuals. On the other hand, as MINUSMA increases its development of local and national police and moves towards a closer relationship, the public becomes even more distrustful of the Mission because of the very negative perception of the Malian police. MINUSMA cannot remain in the country without permission of the national government, and by extension, the Malian people thus Malians’ support for the mission is crucial. With this in mind, the brief outlines how the capacity building aspect of MINUSMA’s police component can be strengthened to assist re-establishment of state-authority, develop security sector, and regain the support of Malian people.
First, MINUSMA and the Malian police should complete the strategic plan for strengthening the capacity of the Malian police force that focuses on providing training and rebuilding infrastructure. It urges that all stakeholders need to support this new framework and ensure that enough funding is available for its implementation. Secondly, it should focus on increasing its operations and presence in the north to help build a more secure environment and a capable local police force. Third, beyond providing training, MINUSMA should also provide logistical and technical support to the Malian police to aid the extension of state authority in the north and curb the widespread crime in the area. Lastly, confidence-building measures should be applied to regain the trust and support of local population.
Peacebuilding is a long-term endeavour and the setbacks should be expected. Nevertheless, a clear identification of challenges and ways of addressing them is crucial in order to make progress. This policy brief succeeds in doing just that for MINUSMA’s police component.
Margarita Yakovenko received an MA from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa and was recently an intern at the Centre for Security Governance and the Security Governance Group.