The peace process is about to fail – Mali's army will need more than just a European training mission to protect ivilians

Mali urges France to conduct a military intervention against Islamists

In view of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), it is "disastrous and depressing" how little the Malian army is able to do to protect the civilians from violence caused by radical Islamic terrorist groups. "People are losing their confidence in the army, because the terrorists managed to conquer the Konna settlement, which was controlled by the army before," said the STP's expert on questions regarding Africa, Ulrich Delius, in Göttingen on Friday. "Obviously, Mali's army needs more than a European training mission – preferably a complete and competently administered reform."

Clear lines of command are needed just as urgently as better equipment and organization, more personnel and an end to the ethnic and political rivalries within the army's leadership. Above all, the authority of the government and the president must be accepted. The new defeat of the army is a disgrace for putschist leader Captain Amadou Sanogo, who is officially responsible for the reform of the army since last August.

An intervention by the French army – which the Malian government requested on Thursday evening – will not help to stop the further advance of radical Islamic groups in the south for a long time, said Delius. The human rights activist fears that the escalation of violence will cause the peace process to fail. Thus, the planned peace talks in Burkina Faso were postponed from last Thursday to January 21.

"Hope for a fast peace initiative is fading away," said Delius. "But all the conflicting parties should know that a solution for the problems in northern Mali can only be solved by negotiations." The various militias – who are trying to recapture the region from the radical Islamic groups – must break up soon, because they are a serious threat to the safety situation and because their uncoordinated activities will not be enough to resist the growing force of the Islamists.

Until now, France was against getting involved in direct combat operations in Mali. However, eyewitnesses reported that French soldiers who are stationed in Chad landed in Sévaré on Thursday in order to protect the local military airport. The town is located 20 kilometers to the north of the city of Mopti, where Malian troops recently started an offesive to reclaim the north of the country, which was controlled by the Islamists.