The evolution of “new” political-religious actors and the interplay of international and internal factors: The case of Mali.

  • Beatriz Mesa García Universidad Gaston Berger de Saint Louis
Keywords: Political Islam, Mali, Sahel, sufism, wahhabism, social mobilization


For the last years, contemporary North Africa has been an ideal vantage point from which to observe international and regional influences at play in the processes of regimen change, transitions and in the evolution of political actors. However, not enough academic literature has been produced about the Sahel as a new space to observe the domestic and international arenas in the field of political Islam. The study of the evolution of religious actors in the Sahel region needs to take the form of a historical retrospective of the Maghreb due to the cultural interaction of both geographies (North Africa and Sahel) that begins with the spread of Islam through commercial exchanges in both directions before the Middle Ages. In this paper, we will see the significant effect of the international dimension in the evolution of political-religious actors in the Malian landscape. Indeed, a rivalry between traditional brotherhoods, Wahhabism (reformist tendency) and Shiism has engendered a political emergency among the religious actors that has permitted a new debate about the future pattern of Political Islam. The three leaders, above all, the representative of the Wahhabi current, have found a new window of opportunity to attain more power level and be more influential. This window was flung wide open after the 2012 outbreak of the crisis in northern Mali, once more following the degradation of the security in the centre of the country in 2016 and more recently, on the heels of a coup d’état against the president, Ibrahim Boubakar Keita in August of 2020.