The crisis in Mali must be a wake-up call for a new response in the Sahel

Statement from the People’s Coalition for the Sahel – As members of the People’s Coalition for the Sahel, a group of civil society organisations from Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and beyond, we stand together with the Malian people during the current political crisis.

We call on the Malian authorities, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union and governments and institutions with influence in the region to ensure that any intervention puts the needs and rights of Mali’s most vulnerable people at its heart, and reinforces, rather than jeopardises, vital humanitarian, development, democratic governance, peacebuilding and human rights efforts in the country. Poorly-targeted sweeping sanctions are inconsistent with these aims, and instead risk penalising the entire population, hitting the most vulnerable, whose situation has already worsened in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The crisis in Mali is born of years of corruption, indifference, poor governance and alarming human rights violations by armed groups, self-defence militias and members of security forces with rampant impunity. This has caused widespread public discontent, distrust in the state’s authority and worsened the security situation. The prioritisation of a military response to a complex crisis, including massive attention and funding to the security aspects of the crisis, and countless new initiatives by the international community, has failed to protect civilians from atrocities, prevent further instability and alleviate inter-communal grievances.

The latest political crisis must be a wake-up call to Mali, the Sahel region and the international community that a new response is needed, radically refocused on populations’ needs, to address the growing destabilisation not only of Mali, but also of Burkina Faso, Niger and the wider Sahel region. Last month we came together as a new People’s Coalition for the Sahel to launch the ‘People’s Pillars’, setting out four key priorities that we believe must guide any response to the crisis in our region: protection of civilians, a comprehensive political strategy to address the root causes of instability, a massive increase in humanitarian aid, and accountability for violations by all actors. The recent events in Mali add a renewed urgency to our calls, demonstrating the futility of any approach that fails to put the people and the root causes of conflict at the centre of engagement.

In order to stabilise the country and restore the rule of law, we, as members of the People’s Coalition for the Sahel, urge the Malian authorities, ECOWAS, the African Union and other relevant governments and institutions with influence in the region to:

  • Work closely with diverse communities and civil society, including women and youth groups, to develop a comprehensive time-bound political roadmap that puts the protection of civilians and human security at its heart, and addresses the root causes of the conflict, including the governance crisis. This should include a timeline for transition to a civilian-led government in Mali.
  • Ensure that any intervention does not exacerbate the humanitarian crisis, nor impede humanitarian access and aid or the freedom of movement for the Malian population, including by ensuring inclusion of comprehensive humanitarian exemptions in any sanctions regime.
  • Push for immediate action to ensure equal access to justice, combat impunity at all levels and advance transparent accountability mechanisms for all violations against civilians, including by armed groups and international military actors.


  1. African Security Sector Network (ASSN)
  2. All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC)
  3. Association des Juristes Maliennes (AJM)
  4. Association Malienne des Droits de l’Homme (AMDH)
  5. Association Malienne pour la Survie au Sahel (AMSS)
  6. CARE International
  7. Centre Diocésain de Communication (CDC)
  8. Coordination des Associations des Femmes de l’Azawad (CAFA)
  9. Coordination Nigérienne des ONG et Associations Féminines du Niger (CONGAFEN)
  10. Cordaid
  11. Fédération Internationale pour les Droits Humains (FIDH)
  12. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  13. International Rescue Committee
  14. Institut malien de Recherche Action pour la Paix (IMRAP)
  15. Ligue Tchadienne des Droits de l’Homme
  16. Médecins du Monde
  17. Mouvement Burkinabé des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples (MBDHP)
  18. Observatoire Kisal
  19. Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI)
  20. Oxfam International
  21. Plan International
  22. Première Urgence Internationale
  23. Réseau Nigérien pour la Gestion Non Violente des Conflits (RE-GENOVICO)
  24. Saferworld
  25. SOS-Civisme-Niger
  26. Transparency International Defence & Security
  27. WATHI, Think Tank citoyen de l’Afrique de l’Ouest
  28. West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) Mali

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