In Mali, all armed groups fight for the control of a space flourishing in criminal activities so it is difficult to find barriers among actors involved in drug trafficking, jihadism and secessionism. They broke the power balance (2012) reached with the State until then and rose up in arms causing a division in the country between north and south.
An international intervention led by France in 2013 tried to re-establish the territorial integrity. That intervention was approved after a UN resolution and involved the collaboration of other partners of the EU such as Spain (the Strategy of National Security of 2013 points at the Sahel as one of the vital areas in the next decade in which it will be necessary to act to promote the Spanish security). Four years later, there is still a multidimensional conflict in the north of Mali, because those acting are not only secessionist guerrilla fighters willing to reach a peace agreement with the central Administration, but also jihadists from Mali in disagreement with any political normalization.
The Spanish Government supported the international mission sending troops to the south of Mali in Koulikoro (southwest) for the training of native forces within the framework of the European mission (EUTM). The Armed Forces participate with more than one hundred forces in the country in bilateral collaboration with France. Besides, a Spanish contingent (Detachment Marfil) supports from Senegal in the air transport the operation Berkan, led by France in the Sahel in the fight against terrorism and organized crime.
The support to the States of the Sahel, in particular to Mali, is necessary to face strict ideologies
The need to build an army in Mali is urgent, but difficult in a short period of time, since the central power is unable, due to the shortage of human resources and means, of neutralizing rival and competitor groups of the north. Other civil missions of the EU with Spanish participation have started being developed in the training of security forces in Mali (EUCAP) —also in Niger— in the interest of a greater stability in a country that is currently suffering a division de facto between the north (a peace agreement is being negotiated with the UN’s support to transfer power to the new military elites of the north) and the south.
In this sense, the involvement of the countries of the EU, and Spain in particular, is important for the management of weakened borders crossed by organized crime groups, inseparable from the jihadist or secessionist phenomenon. The support to the States of the Sahel, in particular to Mali, is necessary to face strict ideologies from the countries of the Gulf whose Salafist indoctrination is corrupting the Sufi Islam of Maliki tendency that has surrounded the Sahel. Furthermore, it is crucial to accompany the States so that they can provide an increasing unemployed youth with new instruments in the future, whose limited possibilities of future force them to fall in armed groups or in migration routes in search of a better future. Migration flows are not reduced precisely due to the lack of opportunities offered by their countries of origin, which takes them to transit bridges towards Europe such as Libya, whose security gap, since the war of 2011, has allowed mafias to use this way for human trafficking. The Spanish armed forces also participate in a mission of the EU in waters of the Mediterranean, near the Libyan coasts, to fight against a millionaire business model that puts the lives of hundreds of people at risk every day.
The relatively recent wars in the North of Africa (Libya) and the subsequent conflict in Mali and even Nigeria have contributed to the creation of a new agenda for the Spanish foreign policy that places the Sahel as a priority. The interest is not only limited to the political class, the Spanish historical, academic and journalistic production about the region of the Sahel starts to develop and help the Sahel-Sahara region to turn into an area of study for everyone.
This article is a summary of the one published by esglobal.