Photo: “Al-Qaida rejoint par ses militants du Maghreb au Mali,” by Magharebia licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic. Hue is modified from the original.
Thurston, Alexander. “Illiberalism and post-conflict settlements with jihadists: a Malian case study.” Third World Quarterly (2022): 1-17.
This paper draws on recent research in peace studies in order to analyse peacebuilding efforts with jihadists in central Mali. The paper explores two main streams of data: first, an exchange of messages between a Malian jihadist leader, Amadou Kouffa, and a Malian Muslim cleric; and, second, survey data on Malians’ attitudes towards politics and Islamic law. The paper also discusses what is known about a pattern of fragile, temporary, localised ceasefires with Malian jihadists. These different data sources highlight the poor fit between Western liberal peacemaking frameworks and some local conflict realities and aspirations, even amid a supposed ‘local turn’ in peacebuilding. Whereas liberal frameworks tend to assume that democracy, human rights, reconciliation, and secularism should be part of any peace settlement, some Malian elites and citizens appear open to illiberal solutions. These findings indicate substantial conceptual and practical challenges for the incorporation of local voices into peacebuilding agendas. The findings also add to an emerging literature on ‘illiberal peace’, which so far has focused mostly on top-down authoritarian models rather than civil society-driven illiberal compromise efforts.