With security challenges still looming, Mali is continuing its slow recovery from the crisis triggered by Islamist armed groups’ occupation of the north in 2012. A French-led military offensive in January 2013, the creation in April 2013 of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and peaceful presidential and legislative elections later in the year, brought hope to many of the 353,000 people displaced and still living in dismal conditions. Many started to think of a future beyond their displacement.
By April 2014, just over 137,000 people continued to be internally displaced, roughly half left behind in urban centres in southern Mali. Many have risked the journey north, pushed prematurely by their dire living conditions in the south. Upon their return they face numerous obstacles to securing a durable solution to their displacement. These include destroyed homes, chronic food insecurity, lack of such basic services as health and education and challenges to recovering property and re-establishing sustainable income generating activities. Threats to peace and stability remain, particularly in rural areas where there are guerrilla attacks, banditry, widespread unexploded ordnance and worsening ethnic tensions. This has undermined sustainable returns while causing new and secondary displacement, the scale of which remains unassessed.
The slow process of transition from development to an emergency response in 2012-2013 left many throughout the country without any assistance. Mali now urgently requires a shift to facilitating durable solutions while continuing to address ongoing humanitarian needs. Donor investment, however, in an overall underfunded response, has focused on infrastructure in the north. This risks distracting attention from the early recovery needs of affected populations and to the neglect of psychosocial care, access to justice and comprehensive reconciliation. IDPs are thus at risk of long-term vulnerability.
Mali ratified the Kampala Convention – the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa – in December 2012, but has taken no steps towards implementation and has not specifically designated a state authority to coordinate IDPs’ protection and assistance. This creates a further barrier to durable solutions for IDPs.