Recent developments in Mali have brought international attention back to the lingering challenges of instability and distrust since the signing of Algiers Peace Accord in 2015. On 5th and 19th of June, thousands of people protested in the streets, demanding, among other things, the resignation of the President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK). These protests were triggered by discontent about persistent allegations of corruption and incompetence of the IBK administration; slow progress in addressing insecurity in North and Central Mali, poverty and unemployment; and the recent controversy with the results of the April legislative elections.

This is not the first protest of this nature in Mali, but this time it is different for two reasons. First, in addition to Imam Dicko who is not a new actor to the scene in Mali, the protests have the support of a wide range of actors notably trade unions, political actors (including the main opposition party whose leader Soumaila Cisse, kidnapped in March 2020, is still missing), civil society organizations and some members of the security sector, including the police, who have publicly criticized the government for mismanaging security resources. Second, and most importantly, the protests have the support and participation of a vast majority of the population, especially the youth, with over 70% expressing dissatisfaction with IBK’s mandate, as a recent poll by Inferentielle Opinion Research indicates. This suggests wide-spread dissatisfaction with the trajectory in Mali which should worry the political leadership in Mali and the international community [who endorsed and have supported the implementation of the Peace Accord].

The current political turmoil in Mali is of grave concern considering the multidimensional impact of an escalation of the political impasse on about 19 million citizens and what a destabilized Mali will mean to West Africa. The consequences will reverberate across the whole West Africa region, with the safety and security of Senegal, Burkina Faso and Niger directly at risk. If those countries stumble, the effects will ripple across coastal states such as Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Guinea.  It will reverberate even to Nigeria. Mali is the levee that if breached, will create a wave of insecurity throughout Africa’s western region.

Three things must be addressed urgently. First, negotiate a compromise to bring the protests to an end and immediate relief to the country which will not compromise democracy, security and human rights. I am encouraged that IBK and his political coalition, on one side and Imam Mahmoud Dicko and the M5-RFP on the other side have shown openness to dialogue and continue to interact with diplomats and mediators including the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Second, ensure the implementation of the Peace Accord in collaboration with other stakeholders crucial to peace and where necessary make needed adjustments to meet new realities through inclusive consultation with all stakeholders. This will foster inclusivity in conflict resolution governance and decision-making which has been at the core of the tensions in Mali. Finally, the actors and process must acknowledge the influence of geo and international politics in Mali and ensure the cooperation and commitment of the key external players to ensuring peace, stability and growth for the people of Mali.