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The End of the Sahelian Exception: Al-Qaeda and Islamic State Clash in Central Mali


Until the beginning of 2020, the Sahel was something of an exception with respect to international rivalry between jihadists. This came to an end when violent clashes involving supporters of Al-Qaeda and those affiliated with the Islamic State were recorded in central Mali. The violent escalation that has taken place between Katiba Macina and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara in the inner Niger Delta should be framed as a battle between a dominant power whose position has begun to be contested, and a rising challenger trying to exploit the situation. More specifically, the rise of Islamic State appears directly connected to the material and symbolic crisis of the system of governance established by Katiba Macina in the area under its control. As the result of a process that cuts across various developments in the recent history of Mali, the conflict between the two jihadist movements threatens to unlock a new and more violent phase in Mali’s longstanding crisis.
Keywords: Mali, jihadi governance, jihadist insurgency, rebel fragmentation, Big Man networks