Mali (Dis-)Engagement and Re-Integration related to Terrorism (MERIT)
The MERIT project is a multi-year project, spearheaded by ICCT and funded by the Danish Embassy in Bamako under the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This project is part of a broader effort to prevent and counter violent extremism in Mali, and aims to facilitate the rehabilitation and reintegration of released Violent Extremist Offenders (VEOs) and reduce the risk of radicalisation among Malian youth.
From 21 to 26 October, ICCT and UNICRI visited Bamako on a joint MERIT mission to Mali to kick off the project and meet with (potential) project partners. After a visit to the donor of the MERIT project, the Royal Danish Embassy, the project team met with DNAPES and MINUSMA and paid a visit to Maison Central d’Arret to prepare the risk assessment training. For the part of the program focusing on youth, meetings were held with Imadel, Think Peace Mali, CNDH (see picture), FAMOC, SNV, Human Security Collective, Studio Tamani and International Alert. Finally, meetings with the broader network in Bamako were organized including meetings with the Ministry of Administration Reform and Transparency in Public Life, UNDSS, INL and the Dutch and French Embassies.
Based on the meetings, the first plans were drafted for the training of MCA and Koulikouro prison staff – together with DNAPES – in February 2019 as well as for a first coordination meeting with youth partners in Mali, also projected to take place in February 2019. The coming weeks will focus on further liaising with project partners and preparing these activities.
Top: Liesbeth van der Heide and Peter Knoope (ICCT) at the Commission Nationale des Droits de l’Homme
Bottom: Elise Vermeersch (UNICRI) and Liesbeth van der Heide (ICCT) with a DNAPES-representative
What’s new in Mali
- The accelerated process of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) was officially launched on the 6th of November in Gao. As part of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation, combatants of the Mécanisme Opérationel de Coordination (MOC) are reintegrated in society. Sahelien or MINUSMA news.
- The strike of the magistrates has ended after three months. The magistrates demanded better security and better pay; demands that have been partially met. Sahelien.
- On the 27 October, two MINUSMA camps were attacked by combatants: the base Ber in Tombouctou and the base Konna in the Mopti region. In the attacks, 2 peacekeepers were killed and multiple others injured. MINUSMA News
- Due to a rising number of attacks recently, armed forces of Burkina Faso have called in the help of the French forces from operation Barkhane. Although the French operation is focused on Mali, it has the intention to offer support to the other G5 Sahel countries. Le Monde.
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Since the Tuareg rebellion in 2012, violence in Mali between the North and the South has resurged. Soon after the start of the rebellion, Islamist groups took over the rebellion from nationalist Tuareg groups, imposing Sharia law in the northern region. In March 2012, President Touré was deposed after a coup d’état by the military. In 2013, an international intervention was launched by French, UN and ECOWAS forces, which halted the Tuareg advance. Despite several peace accords, the fighting continues: attacks from terrorist groups are launched on civilians and (inter)national armed forces. The conflict has created a breeding ground for violent extremism and criminal activities, and has resulted in forms of collaboration between terrorist organisations and criminal groups. Local and regional terrorist organisations have engaged in various forms of illicit activities, especially in smuggling and drug trafficking, while criminal groups have been active alongside terror groups in the northern part of the country through trafficking of drugs, weapons and migrants to the Mediterranean.
As part of the implementation of the Rehabilitation & Reintegration programme, ICCT identified several areas of work to enhance efforts in preventing and countering violent extremism in Mali (Action Agenda). To do so, the MERIT project targets both the prison environment as well as communities outside prison to facilitate effective reintegration and to reduce the risk of radicalisation in the larger population, especially among youth.
Young people play a key role, as they represent a majority of the Malian population (almost 70% are 24 years or younger) and therefore the future of the country. Their engagement in promoting alternatives to violence is therefore crucial for any counter-terrorism initiative to succeed.
The MERIT project, which runs from August 2018 till October 2020, has two main objectives. The first objective is to improve Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Malian VEOs in and after prison. The second objective is to prevent Violent extremism outside the prison context, by promoting alternatives to violence. These objectives are further operationalized across several modules, that each have one of the two main objectives as point of focus. The first phase of the project will focus on Rehabilitation and Reintegration, while the following phases will focus on promoting alternatives to violence and youth engagement. The findings of the programme will be analysed in a research paper that will study the impact of terrorist groups on young people in Mali and the wider region.
ICCT will implement the MERIT programme in close collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Faith, the Malian National Prison Administration (DNAPES), United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and a number of local partners and implementers.
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