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Under the gun. Resource conflicts and embattled traditional authorities in central Mali

In the Mopti region of Mali, the livelihoods of most people depend on agriculture and pastoralism. Here, a variety of socio-professional groups – such as herders, farmers and fishers – coexist amidst the great natural richness of the inner Delta of the river Niger. Over recent years, poor resource management and subsequent conflict over access to these resources has threatened the livelihoods of virtually every community in central Mali.

Formal and traditional justice mechanisms have each often proven incapable of mediating conflicts effectively and bringing justice to the victims and disputants. Moreover, the increase in communal conflicts in central Mali has created a fertile breeding ground for radical, armed groups. These groups have become actively involved in the regulation of access to natural resources, as well as in the mediation of related conflicts, to help create local legitimacy for their rule.

That these groups could exploit conflicts to consolidate their power demonstrates that fighting them will not be enough to stop destabilisation in the Mopti region. Only solutions that address the underlying drivers of instability will enable sustainable peace to emerge. This report explores the lack of governance as a structural driver of resource conflict in the region and identifies a mix of short- and long-term measures to increase the legitimacy of the Malian state.