European Aid and the Securitization of the Conflict in Mali

Master's Thesis, 2020

68 Pages, Grade: 80


Table of Contents:

List of Abbreviations

1. Introduction

2. Historical Background of the Conflict in Mali
2.1. Independence from France and National State Building (1960-1990)
2.2. Armed Tuareg Rebellion and Peace Accords (1990-1996)
2.3. First Democratic Transition of Power in Mali, Amadou Toumani Touré’s “Consensus” Model and the 2012 Crisis (2002-2012)
2.4. International (Military) Involvement in Mali (the 2012 coup and its aftermath)

3. Aim and Research Question

4. Literature Review
4.1. Influence of Foreign Aid in Mali
4.2. Causes of the Conflict as Proposed by the Literature
4.3. International Framing of the Conflict in Mali
4.4. French and EU Military Involvement in Mali

5. Methodology and Theory
5.1. Frames and Frame Analysis
5.2. Scope of the Study
5.3. Securitization Theory

6. Changes in the Volume and Types of ECHO Aid and European Military Spending in Mali After 2012 Crisis
6.1. Amount and Types of ECHO Grants between 2010-2014
6.2. The EUTM Mali Mission: Its Scope and Budget (2013-2014)
6.3. African Peace Facility and its Financial Contributions to AFISMA
6.4. Comparing Figures

7. Securitization of Mali’s Conflict in the European Parliament’s Debates
7.1. Framings of Mali in Debates between 2010-2011
7.2. Framings of Mali in Debates after the Coup D’état in March 2012 - Until the end of 2014

8. Discussion

9. Limitations

10. Conclusion

11. Bibliography


Foreign aid and military interventions have been important determinants in Mali’s domestic politics for decades. Focusing on the European Union (EU) as an external actor in Mali, this study investigates the relationship between the EU’s political discourse and aid policy in this country. I looked at the amount of European humanitarian and military aid sent to Mali between 2010 and 2014. I also looked at the framings of Mali in the European Parliament’s (EP) debates within the same time frame. In this way, this study investigates whether there is a connection between the framings of Mali in the EP debates and the types and amount of European aid sent to Mali. Frame analysis is used as a method to examine the speeches in the EP debates. The changes in aid and the analysis of the speeches show us a connection between the framings of Mali in the EP and the EU’s aid policy in Mali.

Keywords: Mali, foreign, aid, military intervention, securitization, framing

List of Abbreviations:

AFISMA: African-led International Support Mission to Mali

AQIM: Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb

APF: African Peace Facility

AU: African Union

ATT: Amadou Toumani Touré

ECHO: Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

ECOWAS: Economic Community of West African States

EP: European Parliament

EU: European Union

EUCAP: European Union Capacity Building Mission

EUTM: European Union Training Mission

FIAA: Front Islamique Arabe de l’Azawad (Arab Islamic Front of Azawad)

GSPC: Groupe Salafiste pour la Predication et le Combat (Group for Preaching and Combat)

IDP: Internally Displaced Persons

KSA: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

MAF: Malian Armed Forces

MINUSMA: United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali

MNLA: Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad)

MPLA: Mouvement Populaire pour la Libération de l’Azawad (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Azawad)

MUJAO: Mouvement pour Unicite et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (Movement for Oneness and the Jihad in West Africa)

NGO: Non-governmental Organization

UK: United Kingdom

UN: United Nations

UNSC: United Nations Security Council

USA: United States of America

1. Introduction

Mali has witnessed several coup d’états in its history since its independence from France. The last one occurred during the time of writing this thesis, on 18th August 2020. Protests have been going on since June 2020 in the country against the incumbent president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, with calls from protestors that he should resign. The protesting crowds and the lead figure of the government opponents, Imam Mahmoud Dicko, have argued that the Keïta regime is not able to solve Mali’s urgent problems such as corruption and ongoing violence. Also, the protesters claimed that the President does not take into consideration the society’s needs and demands and does not cooperate with the opposition and civil society actors to tackle the urgent issues, therefore he should resign. There were also grievances within the military, stating that the soldiers are risking their lives fighting against terrorists but they do not receive the support they deserve from the Malian government (Diallo and Soumaré 2020; Mugabi 2020).

Eventually, the President was detained and forced to resign on the night of 18th August, by the Malian armed forces. Several international and African organizations have condemned the coup and advised the Malian army to release all political detainees immediately and return the country to civilian rule. On 25th September, an interim civilian President was appointed by the army to lead the transition period and talks are still ongoing about the future political endeavors of Mali (Agence France-Presse 2020).

The conditions that ignited the months-long protests and the seize of power by the military derive from Mali’s structural problems existing for decades. In 2012, Mali has faced armed insurgencies of several rebel groups, deterioration of the state control over its territories and another coup d’état. But this did not happen mainly because of internal administrative problems or poverty. A sequence of events through history has brought Mali into the complex situation where its people suffered the damage most.

This research investigates the time period between 2010 and 2014 in Mali, to see the situation clearly before and after the events of 2012. The focus will be on the connection between foreign aid and security politics of Western donors concerning Mali, and internal political developments in the country. Also, the influence of the political discourse in the European Parliament on these developments will be investigated.

Existing research about foreign aid and its impact on receiving countries is large. A wide array of studies claim frequently that foreign aid money directly or indirectly causes corruption in recipient countries and reduces the quality of social services provided by the state (Bergamaschi 2014; Esquith 2013; van de Walle 2012). In the context of Mali, international NGOs and financial institutions are criticized by many scholars because of their inefficient partnerships with the Malian government and their involvement in the deterioration of the political and economic situation in Mali, for instance the incidents of 2012. The administrative and social crisis in 2012 has been examined from different perspectives. Some studies focused on the root causes of the conflict, claiming that it is caused by the Malian state’s decades-long negligence of ethnic minorities’ unmet demands and the colonial times’ ongoing influence in the country (Chauzal and Damme 2015). Others interpreted the conflict as part of a global jihadist movement.

The perspective of the European Union on the situation in Mali is important for this study since the EU is one of the biggest foreign donors in Mali and a significant actor in the political and military scene in there. Although a large part of the academic work focuses on France and its military intervention in Mali that started in 2013, a significant amount of studies look at the EU’s Mali policy within the larger picture which is the EU’s changing Sahel strategy (Wing 2016). This makes Mali an interesting case to focus on while thinking about EU’s foreign policy.

While examining the legitimization of military interventions and aid spending in Mali within the political discussion in the donor countries, framings of the conflict by the Western media and the French government are most frequently investigated in existing scholarship. Since France is the dominant actor in the region because of its historical and economic ties with its previous colonies, research about the EU’s significance as a political actor in Mali is neglected compared to the vast literature about France (Artz 2017; Kfir 2018; Smith 2016; Wilandh 2015; Wing 2016). Therefore, this study will focus on this relatively neglected area. To investigate the influence of the EU as a political actor in Mali, I will investigate how much money from the EU budget is spent there, how the spending changed after certain political incidents, and how the actions of the EU are legitimized in front of the European citizens.

This thesis uses the theory of securitization in political discourse while investigating the foreign aid politics of the donor countries. It aims to look at the connection between political discourse and aid policies in the context of the European Union and Mali. Frame analysis will be used as a method to examine parts from debates in the European Parliament concerning the research question. In the next chapter, we will look at the historical background of the events to have a better understanding of the political situation in Mali within selected timeframe.

2. Historical Background of the Conflict in Mali

2.1. Independence from France and National State Building (1960-1990)

Mali gained its independence from France in 1960 and a process of building a nation state in Mali started after that. The remnants of the colonial rule were still in effect while the new order was being designed in post-independence Mali. Especially the education policies that were implemented by the French colonial administration were decisive in the emerging of the new ruling elite of the new independent state. The French colonial system made education opportunities only available to some specific groups of Malians, who did not resist their colonial rulers. These people constituted the educated class among Malians who could get positions in the state offices of the colonial administration and they were the progenitors of the ruling class in the new Malian state (Kisangani 2012).

The new Malian state excluded the nomadic peoples who live in the northern parts of the country from political decision-making processes. Tuaregs, a northern ethnic group which constitutes around 5% of the total population1, were not allowed to speak their mother language (Tamasheq) in schools. This ban was a part of the nationalization process. Only the language of the majority (Bamanakan) and French were used in national education. The first President of the Republic of Mali, Modibo Keita, implemented several other policies to oppress Tuaregs through different social aspects, such as forcing these nomadic communities to settle (forced sedentarization), not allowing them to found political associations, and collecting higher taxes from them compared to other ethnic groups. His approach towards Tuaregs were perceived by the Tuareg populations as “assimilating”, however, at the state level the policies were pictured as “improving the situation of underdeveloped nomads in the north and helping them to adapt to the new nation state” (Lecocq 2010; Silva 2017).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Map 1: Ethnic Groups in Mali

Source: ‘Atlas Jeune Afrique 2010’, in Bossard, L., op. cit., OECD, Sahel and West Africa Club, 2015, 191 (Chauzal and Damme 2015).

Keita carried out so-called socialist policies, which ended up with unequal distribution of state resources, poverty for the biggest part of the population and wealth for the ruling elite (Kisangani 2012). The Marxist-socialist approach that the new Malian state embarked on, also required some changes in the social structure. The perceived assimilation of Tuaregs and other minorities in the north (Moors) was therefore a part of the multilayered strategy of nation-state building (Silva 2017). The government wanted to abolish the tribal administrative system, which partly evolved during the colonial times but also contained traditional ways of organizing the life of nomadic peoples. It was, however, not perceived as suitable with socialist ideals such as equality among citizens. Nevertheless, the government was also aware of the fact that they did not have enough state officials to appoint as local administrators who could replace the tribe leaders and gain support from the public at the same time. Therefore, the government worked together with the tribe chiefs in the beginning of the new Malian state. However, the state also officially abolished the chiefs’ “positions within the state” and used them as mediators between the state and the local population, since the tribe leaders knew their people better than the administration in the south did. In 1962, Keita’s government tried a different way of dealing with this issue and they stopped appointing or approving a new chief in regions, when their current chief died. This was one of the key decisions which would contribute to Tuareg dissatisfaction with the Malian government in the future (Lecocq 2010).

An example of how this administrative change led to the uprisings is following: One of the largest Tuareg confederations in Mali, Kel Adagh, lost its leader Attaher in late 1962 and the question of succession arose. Attaher had two sons, Zeyd and Intalla. Zeyd viewed the Malian state as an oppressor which was not giving the Tuaregs what they deserved and they had before independence, namely the upper-class status within the society. On the contrary, Intalla was supporting the idea of a Malian national state and engaging the Tuareg society with the central and modern education. These differences in their understanding of the Malian central state would later make Zeyd lead an armed struggle against the state while Intalla was opposed to that. The central government in Bamako did not appoint a new leader to Adagh officially, however they used Intalla as an unofficial mediator and their representative among the Adagh community. Nevertheless, Zeyd had more public support and him being ignored or not favored by the state administration frustrated and incited him (Lecocq 2010).

The first Tuareg revolt against the Malian state erupted as a result of these tensions in 1963. The rebellion against the government did not come from the whole Tuareg population, instead it was mainly about a power struggle within Adagh community, who used to have good relations with French colonizers before the independence. Some people within this group were not satisfied with the new national state, especially Zeyd and his supporters, because the new state did not give them what they expected to have after the independence: maintaining the privileges they previously had (Lecocq 2010; Pezard and Shurkin 2015). The uprising was quelled harshly by the Malian army and afterwards the government declared that the northern region will be ruled under “martial law”, which would be in effect until 1987 (Chauzal and Damme 2015). There was no attempt to reach a peace deal between the government and the rebel group, since it was not a widespread insurgency. Additionally, the military administration in the north did not solve the grievances of minority groups, such as economic, social, and cultural issues of the general population. Taken all together, Keita’s regime was not perceived as legitimate by the Tuareg elite and general population, because they thought that the supremacy of Keita’s group on them was not earned through a struggle. The Tuareg elite group had more control over the administration of their own society before the independence, therefore, losing that control to a central national state frustrated them (Kisangani 2012; Lecocq 2010; Silva 2017). The martial law caused an increase in the military presence in the northern regions and contributed further to the hostile relationship between the Tuareg people and the government. Their water sources were poisoned and animals were killed by the military and they were forced to work in labor camps; all as part of the government’s response to the 1963’s insurgency (Lackenbauer, Lindell, and Ingerstad 2015).

In 1968, Mali witnessed its first military coup d’état when the military led by General Moussa Traoré toppled the government and seized power. He founded a military governing committee with 14 members including him as the new President of Mali. The constitution was changed in 1974 and Mali became a single-party state, which would only change to multiparty system in 1992. Traoré was the head of the national single-party regime and he won several so-called elections, oppressed all of protests and opposition against his government (Federal Research Division 2005). The first few years of Traore’s rule were relatively calm, however, economic, and administrative problems continued. The aridity in Mali was at extreme levels in between 1973-1974 and 1983-1986. These droughts affected the populations in the north most, as the region is mainly composed of desert and the government disregarded the basic needs of the population during the disastrous drought there (Kisangani 2012). As a result of that, thousands of Tuareg and Arab men, some with their families, migrated to neighboring countries and Libya. Libya’s the then leader Mohamad Qaddafi welcomed Malian refugees, one reason being that he could recruit them as soldiers for his Islamic Legion army. Malian men fought Qaddafi’s wars as paid soldiers in many different regions (i.e. the war in Chad between 1978 and 1987) (Chauzal and Damme 2015). In the late 1980s Qaddafi abolished this army and the Malian refugees had to return to Mali. The returning ex-combatants brought weapons and fighting skills with them. This would lead to the start of next Tuareg rebellions and armed rebel groups in Mali (Charbonneau 2017).

2.2. Armed Tuareg Rebellion and Peace Accords (1990-1996)

In June 1990, a second armed rebellion against the Malian state started, this time however, not as a power struggle within the elite but rather as a movement from the people with demands for the entire northern population. Some of the veterans who returned from Libya formed armed insurgent groups who led this second rebellion, such as the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (Mouvement populaire pour la libération de l’Azawad [MPLA]) and Arab Islamic Front of Azawad (Front islamique Arabe de l’Azawad [FIAA]) (Pezard and Shurkin 2015). Since they could not defeat the rebel groups by military means, the government in Bamako agreed to sign a peace agreement with the rebel groups after negotiations in Tamanrasset, Algeria (Tamanrasset Accords). The peace agreement was signed in January 1991 and it was comprehensive regarding the demands of northern peoples. The most important and outstanding articles of the agreement concerned the demilitarization of the northern region and administration, and granting almost half of the Malian development budget to the north of the country (Pezard and Shurkin 2015). However, the agreement could not be implemented because the Moussa Traoré regime was toppled by the military with the support of underground democratic movement organizations in March 1991. The lead General was Amadou Toumani Touré (from now on will be referred to as ATT) and he became the leader of the transitional government after the coup. In January 1992, the constitution was amended again and approved with a national referendum. With the new constitution, Mali became a multiparty democracy, and first elections were held in 1992. ATT did not participate in these elections, Alpha Oumar Konare was elected as president (Chauzal and Damme 2015).

The conflict in the north did not stop after the change in administration. During the rule of the transition government, another peace agreement was signed between the rebels and the Bamako government in April 1992, which is called National Pact and its content was similar to the previous agreement. The main aims were extensive withdrawal of the army from the north, disarmament of ex-combatants and their employment by the Malian army and decentralization of the state administration. It was again a good agreement on paper regarding the demands of the Tuareg people, however, the implementation proved more difficult (Pezard and Shurkin 2015; Silva 2017). With the decentralization attempts, the number of communes increased from 19 to 703 (Pezard and Shurkin 2015). The government of Mali used these new administrative bodies as a tool to control the remote regions by giving official positions to some community leaders that were aligned with them and in this way they had the ability to intervene in local ways of organization of northern populations (Lecocq 2010; Silva 2017).

The outcome of the National Pact was not as expected, the economic improvements were too slow and did not meet the needs of communities in the north. In 1994, several armed groups emerged within Tuareg and Arabs and these groups started to fight against each other, in order to gain more power and have a say on the negotiation table. In 1994, more than 2000 people died because of clashes among armed groups and around 160.000 people had to flee to Algeria and Burkina Faso. President Konare tried to implement the 1992’s peace agreement, when all the warring groups slowed down their actions. With this initiation, a ceremony called “Flames of Peace” was organized in 1996, in which all warring parties participated and they burned the weaponry that was captured from rebels as a symbolic message for peace (Danzell, Kisangani, and Pickering 2019).

The objectives of the peace agreements such as disarmament of ex-combatants and their reintegration in the society were not achieved completely. Economic inequalities between the north and the south continued, while Islamist armed groups were providing social services and security to places, which were neglected by the Malian state. These groups were easily recruiting young Malians, because the youth was desperately poor and had no other opportunity or prospects for the future. For them, being a part of an armed group meant providing security for their families and money to survive (Chauzal and Damme 2015).

2.3. First Democratic Transition of Power in Mali, Amadou Toumani Touré’s “Consensus” Model and the 2012 Crisis (2002-2012)

In 2002, General ATT participated in elections as an independent candidate and won the presidency. This was the first democratic transition of power in the history of independent Mali, although the elections were shady and the voter turnout was only around 30% (Boeke and de Valk 2019). There was no strong opposition to his election, because members of political parties and even other presidential candidates were expecting to be included in the new government under his lead (Bergamaschi 2016).

After he assumed power, President Touré created a political system which would eventually eliminate all possibilities for a strong political opposition to emerge. It was a coalition including all political parties, which meant that all Malian politicians would be part of the government and could profit from state resources. Opposing the regime or not being a part of the coalition would isolate a political party or figure, and exclude them from political influence and resources (Bergamaschi 2008).

This consensus system was also described as ‘unanimism’ by some politicians in Mali, however, this unanimity did not arise after discussions and concessions. The system did not allow the emerging of opposing ideas and alternative political solutions to Mali’s problems. Rather it brought politicians and civil society members together, who would normally have different political stands, in a coalition which was not based on mutual ideas and policies but rather on personal and financial interests. Expressing ideas about Mali’s governance different to ATT’s would risk anyone’s position in the coalition. State funds became accessible mainly to this privileged political elite. These developments caused a further deterioration of the productivity and effectiveness of civil services in Mali (Bergamaschi 2008).

President Touré did not approach the northern question differently than his progenitors. Instead of addressing the social and economic problems, he preferred to continue with the negligence of northern regions. Since security and social services were not adequately provided by the state, jihadist groups were able to enhance their presence. One of the first and most effective of these groups was called Groupe Salafiste pour la Predication et le Combat (GSPC), which was an Algerian group that escaped to Mali after the civil war in Algeria. GSPC announced their allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2007 and changed their name as Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Two other influential jihadist groups in the region are Ansar Dine and MUJAO (Mouvement pour Unicite et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest) (Benjaminsen and Ba 2019). These groups attracted young and poor Malians and gained public support from the people by providing them with food and health care (Chauzal and Damme 2015).

In 2006, another Tuareg rebellion took place in Mali, however, it was not widespread and did not last long. Algeria initiated a mediation between the rebels and Malian government, so another peace agreement was signed. This agreement was heavily criticized by several rebel groups in Mali, they claimed that it only accounted for the interest of some specific rebel groups and they blamed those groups for working with the government. Since the presidential elections in 2007 were approaching, many claimed that ATT wanted to sign the agreement to create a tentative peaceful environment so he could guarantee his re-election (Pezard and Shurkin 2015).

In 2011, a new rebel group called MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) was founded as a merger of secular Tuareg insurgents. This group mainly consisted of Tuareg ex-combatants who returned from Libya (van de Walle 2012). In the early 2012, MNLA collaborated with jihadist groups against the Malian army and took control of several Tuareg regions in the north, continued their progress down south towards the capital Bamako. The Malian army was not capable of defeating the insurgents. Lack of funds and ammunition, and embezzlement claims led families of soldiers to protest the Bamako government. On 22 March 2012, a group of frustrated army officials toppled the ATT government and the President fled the country (Boeke and de Valk 2019).

After the coup d’état, which was unexpected for many Western donors and politicians, the power vacuum deepened and caused further violence. Insurgent groups’ alliances started to resolve. The jihadist groups turned their back on MNLA and established their control over some main Tuareg cities in the north, such as Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu. Soon after the crisis, transition of power from the military to an interim government took place, however, the military kept maintaining its influence on policy making (Bergamaschi 2013). Western donors and governments, especially the USA, condemned the coup d’état in Mali and suggested that elections should take place immediately and Mali should return to its democratic governance (Arieff 2013).

2.4. International (Military) Involvement in Mali (the 2012 coup and its aftermath)

Following the coup d’état in 2012, Mali has received much more international attention. Until the coup d’état in 2012, Mali was the “poster child” of the democratic rule in West Africa, constantly praised by its Western allies and donor agencies because of its almost two decades long democratic governance. However, democracy was not working that well in Mali as it was pictured by the Western states and aid agencies. From 1991 until 2012, participation in elections was always much lower (around 30%) than would be acceptable for many Western democracies. Both the 2002 and the 2007 elections were not free of fraudulency but these facts were either ignored or not taken very seriously by the Western donors (Boeke and de Valk 2019).

After the 2012 crisis, a lot has happened in the military field in Mali. France has intervened militarily in 2013 and they were not the only foreign troops in Mali. The African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) decided to build a regional joint military force to support the French operations in Mali. This joint force was called the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) and it was partly funded by the EU’s funding institution African Peace Facility. AFISMA was not fully implemented as it was planned, and because of the delays and difficulties in its implementation it was handed over to the UN. The UN was then also creating a peacekeeping mission for Mali: Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). (Avezov and Smit 2014; European Commission 2014). MINUSMA was not an offensive force, it was only there for peacekeeping mission but actually its main logic was to support the French intervention and let the French army do what the UN troops are not allowed to do. French operation gained its legitimacy partly from this idea because there needed to be some troops on the ground to fight against terrorists (Adamou 2019; Charbonneau 2019).

The European Union launched a mission in February 2013, the European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali), with the purpose of giving military assistance and training to the Malian army (Krizsán 2014). Although the European Union’s troops were not fighting on the ground against the insurgent groups like French troops did, their existence in the region shows a great perspective and strategy change in the European Union’s Sahel policy, as it was not common at that time for the EU to send military missions to other regions or countries (Cold-Ravnkilde and Nissen 2020).

In the lights of this historical background of events prior to the 2012 crisis, the motivation and goals of this study will be explained in the third chapter.

3. Aim and Research Question

Foreign aid and foreign military interventions have become matters of political debates with growing interest especially after the launch of War on Terror and the constantly increasing influence of the foreign aid in domestic policy making of recipient countries in recent decades (Bachmann 2015). Donors influence the domestic politics of aid receiving states, implicitly or explicitly, sometimes by imposing conditionalities on aid, and sometimes by funding the projects which are compatible with donor countries’ own political agendas. This is also the case in Mali. The country has been receiving big amounts of development and humanitarian aid in last decades, as its administration and domestic politics were seemingly compatible with donors conditions (such as democratic rule) (Bergamaschi 2011, 2014).

Similar to the foreign development aid, scholars criticize foreign military aid and interventions, as their outcomes are not always as expected by their planners and executioners. A study by Danzell, Kisangani and Pickering shows that foreign aid might influence the rise of terrorist activities, also the foreign military interventions cause a hike in terror attacks in near terms, while it might help to lower them in the long run (Danzell, Kisangani, and Pickering 2019).

In the light of these findings, it is interesting to see how foreign aid and foreign military interventions take place and receive support from their country of origins. The situation in Mali is a great example to examine different types of foreign aid in one country and its donors’ legitimization points about that money flow.

Although Mali has been receiving huge amounts of foreign aid since its independence, the country could not reduce its levels of poverty, cannot solve the problems in equal distribution of wealth and still is not able to address the needs and demands of its minorities in the northern regions (Bergamaschi 2016). Nonetheless, the foreign aid keeps coming in different forms to Mali. How does this legitimization take place in the decision-making bodies of donor countries and institutions and how does it affect the magnitude and the type of foreign aid that is being transferred? These questions brought up the need to understand the discourse-action relationship in the European Union’s aid policies in Mali. The main aim of this research therefore is to discover if there is a relationship between the European Union’s aid policy and the framings of the conflict in Mali in the European Parliament. The research question is the following:

“What is the relationship between the change of the type and volume of EU aid to Mali after 2012 and the change in the framing of the conflict in Mali in the European Parliamentary debates?”

At first, I will look at the amount of aid that the European Union sent to Mali through ECHO between the years of 2010 and 2014, in order to see the change between the amounts before and after the 2012 crisis. After that, I will also look at the budget of the EUTM (European Union Training Mission in Mali), which started to operate in February 2013 and specifically targets the training and improvement of the capacity of the Malian army. Another military mission that the EU funded in Mali is AFISMA, and the budget spent for that mission will also be included. The overall aim is to see how much budget is given to the military missions by the EU compared to the existing ECHO aid (non-military aid) in Mali. In order to find out if there is a relationship between the change in EU’s aid policy and political discourse, I will examine the framings of Mali in the European Parliamentary debates between the years of 2010 and 2014, and see how the politicians described the incidents in Mali, how they see the country before and after the 2012 crisis. In this way, I aim to find out a connection between the aid policy and political discourse. Existing research in this topic is examined thoroughly below.

4. Literature Review

4.1. Influence of Foreign Aid in Mali

The prolonged conflict in Mali has its origins in pre-independence times. It is a complex conflict which has economic, ethnic, cultural, religious, and administrative reasons. Therefore, a holistic perspective is important while looking at this conflict. Focusing on one or two of the abovementioned aspects would undermine the intertwined structure of root causes and hence, might lead the analysis to be not comprehensive enough and may also create ineffective recommendations to resolve the conflict.

The foreign aid is an important part of the Malian economy and its government’s budget. Mali has received a huge amount of aid from Western donors since the droughts in 1970’s and it always received more aid than other West African countries (van de Walle 2012). When the foreign aid turns into a substantial source of income for a country, its effects grow wider than it officially aims. There are critical views about the nature of development aid in general and specifically in Malian context. Bergamaschi argues that in Mali, the foreign aid is not controlled very well, and it is sometimes hard to verify if the donors’ conditionalities are being met by the recipient institutions or not. However, even though the donors’ rules and regulations are not always strictly followed by the local authorities, the aid keeps coming to Mali (Bergamaschi 2009).

Foreign aid is also criticized by many scholars because of its direct and indirect effects on recipient countries’ democracy and administrative systems. According to van de Walle, extensive amounts of foreign aid gives the incumbent politicians an upper hand, as they can show the benefits of aid programs as outcomes of their own policies and in this way gain more public support than they could gain without the help of foreign aid. When the distribution of foreign aid is in control of the recipient government, this power might be abused and cause further inequalities in states which already lack efficient mechanisms to control the distribution of wealth in the country (van de Walle 2012). Several scholars argue that the huge volume of aid that Mali has been constantly receiving despite well-known high levels of corruption in the country, helped Malian politicians to cover up their unequal ways of governing, contributed to their lack of accountability to the public, hence funded a regime which is dependent on favoritism and schism (Allen 2013; Esquith 2013; Moss, Pettersson, and van de Walle 2011). Boeke and de Valk also point out to the significance of the non-governmental organizations’ (NGO) presence and influence in the country. Their argument is that the NGOs which provide development and humanitarian aid projects in Mali, were inadvertently or aware, supporting the so-called democratic state in Mali which was indeed a ticking time-bomb with all its weak institutions and long-lasting inequality problems regarding its minorities in the northern regions (Boeke and de Valk 2019; Brown 2017). The corruption that took place in Mali was chronic and widespread for a long time. The donors were aware of it, but they did not try to help Malians tackling the corruption problem by imposing conditionalities and follow-up the usage of funds they gave to the Malian government (Boeke and de Valk 2019).

4.2. Causes of the Conflict as Proposed by the Literature

Studies also focus on the root causes of Malian conflict erupted in 2012 in a broader sense, emphasizing the ethnic divisions, colonial borders and the horizontal inequalities which aggravates the grievances of minorities in the northern regions (Silva 2017). The colonial division of countries left the Tuareg population in the middle of five countries (Niger, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Mali, and Libya). Main problems of the communities in northern Mali starts with that division, continues with independence demands of Tuaregs and the need for equal distribution of resources between the north and the south of Mali (Hilali 2018; Kisangani 2012).

Another trigger of the conflict in Mali is seen by many as jihadism. However, several studies show and scholars argue that in Mali, jihadism was born and it is still growing as a result of deep rooted poverty, loose borders, and the inefficient state apparatus which could not provide basic social services to many of its citizens. Jihadist groups provide food and health care to people in need, which is supposed to be done by the Malian government, and that is how they recruit new members to their organizations and gain public support (Benjaminsen and Ba 2019; Chauzal and Damme 2015).

4.3. International Framing of the Conflict in Mali

Other critical standpoint in the literature focuses on the framings of the conflict actors by the foreign interventionists. It is seen as one of the underlying motives which made the “war on terror” an acceptable strategy for many states in the first place. Framings of the local actors as “terrorists”, regardless of their engagement in an armed insurgent activity or smuggling goods between borders, this “terrorist label” puts several local actors in one basket and gives the interventionist the upper hand, which is being the noble fighter against terrorism (Charbonneau 2017; Kfir 2018).

Framings of Malian conflict differ from time to time, as we can see in the study of Artz, who examined the framings of the conflict in significant newspapers from the USA, France and the UK between January 2012 and January 2013. Artz shows us the transformation of stories from describing a neglected Tuareg nation and their legitimized rebellions towards an Al-Qaeda related jihadist insurgent groups’ effort of bringing the Sharia law in Mali. This change in giving the news, the correlation of Tuareg insurgencies with jihadist groups and ignoring the fact that Tuareg uprisings had other motivations than religious ones, is clearly shown as a common trajectory of influential Western newspapers (Artz 2017). It is argued by many scholars that Western media and the French government are amongst main narrators that obscuring the Tuareg uprisings that Mali has seen since the independence and downsizing the issue to a radical Islamic movement which is part of a global threat, especially a threat against the “Western values”. France with its allies is the focus point when we look at the framings of Malian conflict and how these are studied, since France is seen as the main foreign actor in Mali (Smith 2016; Wilandh 2015; Wing 2016).

4.4. French and EU Military Involvement in Mali

Literature about the military intervention after the coup d’état in Mali mainly revolves around French military operations Serval (January 2013 – July 2014) and Barkhane (August 2014 – ongoing). Although there have been UN troops sent to the region and EU military training missions later on, those ones are not fighting the “terrorists” on the ground like the French army does. French intervention in Mali and its expansion into the whole region afterwards is interpreted by some scholars as an old colonial master pursuing regional interests, further maintaining and increasing its control over the politics and economics of the Sahel region, but this time not by itself, rather with international support and cooperation (Charbonneau 2019).

France’s military existence in Mali is criticized from many different viewpoints. One of the key arguments is that the intervention has further contributed to the securitization of the region and putting the local conflict in a broader “war of terror” agenda, making it a global security problem. The way that the French politicians and diplomats framed the conflict in Mali is seen problematic because it portrays their military endeavors as a necessary part of the counterinsurgency war, which is an inevitable war to be fought and Mali alone would not be able to handle it (Wing 2016).

Foreign military intervention in Mali is seen problematic by scholars also because it shows the ignorance or underestimation of the root causes of the conflict by the intervening actors (Bergamaschi 2013; Charbonneau 2019; Kfir 2018). Charbonneau argues that in Mali the military interventions do not really aim to finish the conflict, rather they just manage it for the time being, in a sense keeping it going, because there are parties which see opportunities and ways of income in the continuation of the armed conflict (Charbonneau 2019).

European Union’s involvement in the military intervention scene in Mali rather seems to remain in the background within existing literature, compared to the main actor France. The European Union Training Mission, which has been actively working in Mali since early 2013, is examined by some scholars more from a technical perspective. Their works focus on the EUTM Mali only as an EU organ which needs some improvement in the ways that it was structured and its achievements or failures are assessed by the numbers such as the number of soldiers they have been training or the money that has been spent for the mission etc. (Dicke 2014; Krizsán 2014; Lebovich 2018; Reykers 2019).

EUTM Mali is also analyzed as a part of European Union’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), which describes the mission as a recent reflection of the strategy changes in the CSDP (Castilla 2013; Krizsán 2014; Pettke 2013). Pettke argues that the CSDP was deploying more civilian missions before because of the reluctance of the EU states in getting involved in armed conflicts. However, this approach gradually evolved in recent years into more of a combination of development-security focused one, especially in the Sahel region (Pettke 2013). Although the mission in Mali, which is a part of the EU’s attempts to promote the security sector reforms (SSR) in the country, is officially only a training mission, in practice it has an indirect influence on the fight between the Malian army and the armed insurgent groups. This brings up the discussion whether the mission is in a way a counterinsurgency effort of the EU from distance or rather just a capacity building endeavor (Cold-Ravnkilde and Nissen 2020; Skeppström, Hull Wiklund, and Jonsson 2015).

Criticism directed at EUTM Mali has two main points, more common is the way things are done by the EUTM on the ground, the second is questioning of the real purpose and motivation of the whole mission (Raineri and Strazzari 2019). Tull points out the perceived inefficiency of the mission as it is seen both by the EUTM staff in the field and their Malian counterparts. Malian officers claim that their European colleagues in EUTM do not fully comprehend the situation of the region, needs, and demands of the people in Mali, which causes the ineffectiveness of the program. On the other hand, the EUTM incumbents believe that Malians lack the understanding of their own situation and therefore do not carry out necessary reforms in their security sector. Tull also examines the practical problems of the mission, such as officers who do not speak French and need interpreters all the time, inexperienced officers who came to Mali to join the mission as an internship and thus are not able to teach the Malian staff etc. This allegedly causes a disbelief among Malian officials in the efficiency of the EUTM (Tull 2019).


1 2010 data (Chauzal and Damme 2015)

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European Aid and the Securitization of the Conflict in Mali
University of Marburg  (Center for Conflict Studies)
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Conflict, Mali, securitization, European Parliament, foreign aid, EUTM, frame analysis
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Gülşah Gürsoy (Author), 2020, European Aid and the Securitization of the Conflict in Mali, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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