His excellency, Sekou Berthé, the Malian ambassador to the United States presented on security challenges in the region in Leonard Hall.

His excellency, Malian Ambassador to the United States, Sekou Berthé held a presentation in Leonard Hall on Tuesday night. Berthé spoke about ongoing conflicts in West Africa as well as on the importance of cooperation between Africa, Europe and the United States in combatting terrorist organizations in the area.

Berthé has only been in the role of ambassador since June of 2022 and is known to “wear many hats,” according to Dr. David Ferguson, the Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities.

Berthé informed everyone that Mali is a part of Northwest Africa and covers approximately 479,245 square miles. It homes a multi-ethnic community of approximately 22 million. Mali gained its independence from France on Sep. 22, 1960.

Security in the region is complex because of the interplay between states and armed rebellions and terrorism.

“This is directly linked to the destabilization of Libya by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military actions that took place in 2011. This has been a major factor of spreading large quantities of weapons in the region which has caused an emergence of terrorist groups in the Sahel region,” said Berthé.

The Sahel is the region between the Sahara Desert and Africa’s tropical region. It is a thin and shifting region that cuts right through the center of Mali.

In June of 2015, a peace agreement was signed in Bamako, Mali between Mali and their African and European allies to support the country in its current crisis of terrorism and internal instability. The agreement was to support Mali militarily and financially in their handling of the crisis.

Berthé explained the importance of this cooperation in saying, “… people’s lives, families, women, children and military alike, were being taken and cut short for no reason.”

In 1992, Mali transitioned from a one-party democracy to a multi-party democracy. The nation experienced two military coups with one in 2020 and another in 2021. The nation’s nascent democracy was replaced with a military junta promising to return to democracy as soon as 2024. The current government is led by the military, but civilians are present.

Commenting on Mali’s current military government, Berthé instilled that, “Military and security operations, political reforms to transition to democracy and economic reforms and growth are all key parts in transitioning into a democracy and helping to fight the terrorism that exists in Mali.”

“Most people are working hard to reclaim sovereignty through sustainable security, political, institutional and economic stability,” Berthé said.

Mali wishes to obtain free and fair elections, reduced poverty through economic growth, “… and we expect from the United States that our goals of peace and economic development, promotions of a stable democracy, promotions of regional security and creating sustainable livelihoods and reducing vulnerability and help protecting Malian borders will be respected, understood and backed-up by our partners,” Berthé added.

Since the most recent coup, Mali’s relations with France and other Western partners have deteriorated. Russia, Mali’s preferred military partner now, sent military equipment and an advisor to teach Malians how to use this equipment.  

“We could not keep waiting. We were watching innocent people die every day. Something had to be done to put a stop to terrorism and take back what was overrun by terrorism,” concluded Berthé.

Berthé believes that the United States must take responsibility for its part in the destabilization of Libya, which destabilized the region and empowered extremist organizations. Libya was authoritarian, but it also kept the region stable and safe from rebellion.

“We lack a strong institution, we do not lack strong people,” Berthé said.

The event was sponsored by the Pan-African Studies Program. More information about the program can be found on IUP’s website.

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