Western governments focus heavily on the presence of Islamist extremists in the Sahel, and have provided technical assistance in an attempt to strengthen the capacity of security sector and justice systems in the countries of the region to hold them back.
But the preoccupation with West Africa’s war on terror has meant that the destabilising impact of organised crime has been consistently underestimated, if not ignored altogether. As the rebuilding begins in Mali, all signs point to the same oversight happening again.
Organised crime is not the primary driver of the current conflict, but any effort to stabilise or resolve the conflict should explicitly take into account the presence of organised crime, illicit resource flows and criminal networks.
In this policy brief for the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Mark Shaw and I analyse the role of criminal flows in Mali’s conflict and offer recommendations to governments in there region and engaged international actors.