Algeria has offered to mediate between Mali's military junta and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in a move that has raised eyebrows in the international community.
Indeed, according to Al-Arab, observers have seen this manoeuvre as a move aimed at gaining political and religious influence in the Sahel, a region that was previously off-limits to Algeria, and thus gaining a stronger foothold vis-à-vis its political rival, Morocco.
As Al-Arab notes, Algeria mediated between Mali and ECOWAS and Algerian leaders have sought to favour Russian expansion in Mali and other sub-Saharan countries through the presence of the Wagner Group, a private Russian military company active in the area. This is also a confrontation with France, a country with a strong historical and political presence in the Sahel, which has also been at odds with the Algerian authorities over issues such as the colonial era prior to Algeria's independence from the French metropolis.
The Algerian regime, which according to several analysts is actually led by the military leadership, the real power in the North African country, supports the military junta that rules Mali, but lacks the international weight to mediate between Mali and ECOWAS, the organisation that imposed sanctions on Mali after the last coup d'état last year and after Russia's entry on the scene, which led to the postponement of the desired elections. The military junta had promised an electoral process soon to bring Mali out of the current post-coup situation, but the postponement of the elections has prompted ECOWAS to act with sanctions measures involving the suspension of borders, the suspension of trade and financial transactions of ECOWAS member states with Mali, and the freezing of Malian assets in the Central Banks of ECOWAS member states.
These sanctions are aimed at forcing Mali's leaders to set an early election date to remedy the situation in a country suffering from economic and supply problems. Mali remains in chaos, and after the failure of recent governments to address the nation's woes, the coup d'état has shaken a country with many problems, including bloody ethnic clashes and jihadist terrorist activity in the region. The military's rise to power had to do with the inability of politicians to steer the nation.
As Al-Arab reports, analysts point out that Algeria is acting in Russia's interest and opening the door for it to consolidate its influence in Mali to challenge France, which could undermine the necessary stabilisation in the country, especially given the support for the ruling military junta in the face of a longed-for path to democracy.
Al-Arab refers here to analysts who suggest that Algeria is seeking to enter West Africa through mediation between Mali and ECOWAS in order to enhance its international presence vis-à-vis its great rival, Morocco.
Algeria has recently been more neglected on the international stage and is seeing how Morocco is establishing many important diplomatic ties with various countries in the African region and important nations in the rest of the world. A great example of this was the United States' support for Morocco in relation to its proposal for broad autonomy for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty to resolve the Sahrawi conflict, in exchange for the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Kingdom and the State of Israel, following in this case the wake of the Abraham Accords, sponsored by the last US administration of Donald Trump, which led to the establishment of relations between Israel and various Arab countries such as the Emirates and Bahrain.
On the other hand, the proposal for a referendum on the Sahara, defended by the Polisario Front, supported by Algeria, has practically no significant support at the international level.
Faced with this supposed isolation, Algeria would seek to make its way, in this case in Mali, by taking advantage of the dispute with ECOWAS and also by trying to improve an international image that is not the best, since even the Algerian regime criticised the Abraham Accords, which were praised worldwide as an important move to pacify the Middle East and normalise relations between Israel and its Arab neighbours.
In addition to the political aspect, the religious aspect is also important because, according to various analysts, Algeria is trying to penetrate further into Mali and the Sahel region to change the situation somewhat, characterised by the strong religious and historical ties of the region and the Alawite kingdom, which is a reference point in the area, especially due to the Sufi character of the nation, and is also seen as a key gateway to sub-Saharan Africa. In this respect, Morocco continues to be seen as a symbol of tradition and stability in Africa and the Arab world, giving it an important regional status.