Anne-Katrin Niemeier works for the German Development agency GIZ in the West African state of Mali, where she heads a project that supports the peace process. The project encompasses activities such as information campaigns, training manuals on the peace agreement, and coming to terms with civil war crimes with the help of truth commissions. GIZ interviewed Niemeier about the successes and challenges of her work in the country, which continues to be unstable.
Ms Niemeier, Mali is an extremely unstable country. How does that affect your work?
GIZ staff cannot travel to all parts of the country because of security considerations. We work with local partners, small NGOs and representatives of civil society. Committees that bring together different ethnic groups exist in the various regions. They decide what their local community needs. We then get this information and provide assistance. ‘Remote management’ of this sort is very complex, and you need stamina.
What other challenges are there?
The central government still has no presence in some regions. Even in areas where state structures are in place, there are groups working to undermine their ability to act. Our efforts target precisely these regions. Together with local partners, we try to lay the groundwork for the return of state order. A good example of this is the Kidal region in the north. Representatives from state authorities did not set foot in this region for nearly three years, but a new governor was able to take office in August 2017.
Can you see success stories already?
There are a lot of small steps. We have managed to get former rebels and government representatives, i.e. the former adversaries, to agree on the content matter of our training manual about the peace agreement. At various events this information is made available to all Malians in a variety of local languages. Here not everybody can read a newspaper or find out about the peace agreement on the internet. The level of interest is high. The Truth Commission has already opened five regional offices. It sends teams out into isolated regions to investigate human rights violations.