Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on the outlook for Mali after the initial phase of the military intervention. Part I looked at the military challenges ahead. Part II examines the political and economic challenges ahead.
Much of the domestic and international attention on Mali is focused on the fierce fighting going on in the north between French and Chadian troops and elements of the Islamist militant groups the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. But both the Malian government and the international community would do well to refocus on the political side of the crisis soon, as it will be there and not on the battlefield that the success of the intervention will ultimately be decided.
Recent reports of abuse and extrajudicial killings committed by Malian forces against suspected supporters of Tuareg and Islamist rebels have already stoked tensions and increased the risk of large-scale ethnic violence among the various groups in the north. Malian and international forces cannot risk adding open conflict with ethnic militias and secular rebels to the war being waged against the Islamist fighters.