Things Are Looking Up in Mali

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This is Mali’s former finance minister, Soumalia Cisse, very graciously conceding Mali’s presidential election to his rival, former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. With that  Tweet, Mr. Cisse affirmed Keita’s victory and showed a commitment to national patriotism and democracy that eludes so many other election-losers in the region.

For the international community, this is a singularly important moment. It means that they finally have a reliable partner in Bamako.

This is key because the 12,600 peacekeeping mission is shaping up to be one of the most complex and potentially difficult in modern history. A French led intervention force routed al-Qaeda affiliated groups in Mali’s north, and now the French are largely withdrawing as a UN force takes over. The peacekeeping force must rapidly fill a security vacuum and prevent a brewing insurgency from taking hold.

UN Peacekeeping played an important role in facilitating a peaceful elections, and now their role will shift to supporting Mali’s security forces to provide basic law and order to places previously occupied by rebels.  This requires close cooperation with Mali’s government, but until now politics in Bamako was schismatic and volatile. Various groups vied for control, which complicated the UN’s ability to carry out its mission.

The peacekeeping mission now has something going for it that it did not before: a credible, legitimate leader in Bamako. This is crucial in the short term as logistics of the peacekeeping mission are being worked out. Over the long term the UN’s exit strategy for these kinds of missions is to build the capacity of the state to take over the functions — including security — that the UN is temporarily filling.

It will still be a tough road ahead, but the international community can now have some confidence that their plans may succeed. One of the preconditions for success is finally place.