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Research Report

Crime after Jihad:: armed groups, the state and illicit business in post-conflict Mali

Ivan Briscoe
Copyright Date: May. 1, 2014
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 65

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-4)
  2. (pp. 5-6)
  3. (pp. 7-8)
  4. (pp. 9-10)
  5. (pp. 11-11)
  6. (pp. 12-12)
  7. (pp. 15-18)

    A little over a year ago, the state of Mali confronted both an existential challenge and a direct military threat from a coterie of radical Islamist groups. Its collapse from an exemplary sub-Saharan democracy to the ragged condition of late 2012, when the country was run by an interim president with an army rendered impotent by infighting and coup-mongering, can be attributed to a host of causes. In fact, the complexity of the latest Malian conflict is perhaps one issue on which all commentators can agree.¹

    Its origins can be traced to the disputed nature of the new state once...

  8. (pp. 19-32)

    Transnational criminal networks are present as buyers, traders or suppliers in almost all countries of the world, and contribute to a global flow of criminal proceeds that a recent estimate from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) puts at US$870 billion.⁶ Yet even though transnational crime is ubiquitous, its centres of production (above all of drugs) remain heavily concentrated in a few countries. Moreover, the main illicit business groups prove surprisingly resilient despite the death and capture of many of their members. Contemplating the evident fact that the centres of criminal activity are not nearly as mobile...

  9. (pp. 33-43)

    Illicit activity in northern Mali was empowered in the period to 2012 by the overlapping set of causes detailed in the last chapter, involving displacement of trafficking routes and Islamist groups, intensifying rivalry between ethnic factions in an unremittingly poor territory, and the ham-fisted efforts of the central state to co-opt and counteract groups in the north.

    At the same time, it is apparent that ‘crime’ is not a phenomenon that can be surgically separated from other concurrent phenomena. Criminal activity was, and is, a part of everyday life in northern Mali, particularly in the form of smuggling. It was...

  10. (pp. 44-47)

    Following several months of discussion, the UN Security Council in October and December 2012 approved two resolutions aimed at establishing an African-led military force to support Mali in liberating the country’s north from the grip of Islamist rebels. However, events outpaced the timetable for UN planning: a sudden and unexpected advance south by combatants from Ansar Dine and AQIM generated an urgent plea for assistance from the Malian president to France. On 11 January 2013, the French responded with an aerial assault under the aegis of Opération Serval, whose success in halting the advance, as well as clearing the main...

  11. (pp. 48-54)

    The magnitude of the international presence in Mali, the shock waves that have been felt across the Sahel and the Sahara from conflict in the country as well as in Libya, and the speed of the democratic transition under way in Bamako all signal deep changes in the conditions under which criminal organizations can operate. Information on the illicit activities being carried on at present is not easily available, nor are police and judicial investigations always a reliable guide. However, a certain amount of evidence suggests that each of the networks analysed in Chapter 3 is undergoing changes in its...

  12. (pp. 55-58)

    Mali found its way into the transnational criminal economy through the displacement of trafficking routes from elsewhere, as well as by the huge competitive advantages offered by an established, well-connected and socially rooted smuggling economy in the north of the country. Yet this process, which generated new income through a variety of illicit commodities, was far from being a self-contained business operation, as it may at first appear.

    On one side, it was concurrent with a catalogue of other foreign influences on Mali, whether the spread of jihadists from Algeria after the end of that country’s civil war (and their...

  13. (pp. 59-60)
  14. (pp. 61-62)
  15. (pp. 63-64)