This op-ed originally appeared on RealClearWorld.
France's military intervention in Mali, its former colony, to root out an Islamist militant rebel group in the country's north has been compelling, capturing headlines around the world. But what has happened in Mali in recent years is common to conflicts across the African continent.
The same sad pattern is replicated in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, and Sudan. Rebel groups, which often have external support, find fertile ground in situations of poor to non-existent governance, poverty, and a lack of effective representation of all of a country's people. This has led to violent conflicts in which civilians pay the heaviest price.
These conflicts are characterized by mass atrocities such as widespread and systematic killing, displacement, and rape. So, while the French intervention seems to have achieved success in the short-run, longer-term stability and peace in Mali will be determined by factors that have little to do with military operations.[view whole blog post ]