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Author Lacher, Wolfram

Title Organized crime and conflict in the Sahel-Sahara region / Wolfram Lacher
Published Washington, DC : Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2012


Description 1 online resource (25 pages) : map
Series Carnegie papers
Working papers (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
Contents Summary -- The growing impact of organized crime -- The rise of organized crime in the Sahel -- The impact of organized crime : collusion, corruption, and competition -- The state-organized crime-conflict nexus in Mali -- State complicity with AQIM -- Organized crime and current conflict dynamics in Mali -- Policy conclusions
Summary For the past decade, increasing instability in the Sahel and Sahara region has been a source of growing concern in Europe and the United States. Western governments have worried that the weakness of state control in the area would allow al-Qaeda in the Islamist Maghreb (AQIM) and other jihadist organizations to expand their influence and establish safe havens in areas outside government control. Such fears appear to have been vindicated by the recent takeover of northern Mali by AQIM and organizations closely associated with it. Western governments have focused heavily on AQIM's presence, providing technical assistance in an attempt to strengthen the capacity of the security sectors and justice systems to combat the group. But Western governments have underestimated, if not ignored, the destabilizing impact of organized crime in the region. AQIM itself is in part a criminal network, kidnapping Western nationals with the double aim of extorting ransoms and freeing the group's imprisoned members. And up until Mali's military coup of March 2012, state complicity with organized crime was the main factor enabling AQIM's growth and a driver of conflict in the north of the country. Actors involved in organized crime currently wield decisive political and military influence in northern Mali. As they have in the past, Sahel governments will be tempted to use organized crime as a political resource by allowing their allies to benefit from criminal activities -- which has clear implications for policy. Concentrating on capacity building in the judicial and security sector is the right approach only if governments stand behind efforts to combat criminal networks. Donors should thus focus more on political engagement, encouraging strategies that make the political accommodation of influential players contingent upon their disengagement from the illicit economy and commitment to containing drug and weapons smuggling. This will be especially difficult in Mali, where the government will have to strike deals with local forces, including temporary alliances with at least some of the north's criminal networks, to gain back control of the territory. The challenge is ensuring that a settlement of the conflict there does not consolidate the power of criminal networks and expand their ability to operate. But with few alternative sources of income in the region and none that can rival the gains to be made from criminal activity, taking strong steps to break up criminal networks could do more harm than good. The best external actors can do is to help incrementally weaken the networks in Mali's north by developing a coherent international approach to limiting ransom payments, one of AQIM's main sources of funding, and to help strengthen regional cooperation
Notes "September 2012."
Bibliography Includes bibliographical references (pages 21-23)
Notes Online resource; title from PDF title page (Carnegie, viewed September 24, 2012)
Subject Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Organized crime -- Sahel
Organized crime -- Sahara
Organized crime -- Mali
Conflict management -- Sahel
Conflict management -- Sahara
Conflict management -- Mali
Conflict management.
Organized crime.
Africa -- Sahel.
Form Electronic book
Author Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.