The potential and limits of peace agreements: Colombia and Mali

Written by

Bård Drange

Former employee


In most cases, political solutions to armed conflicts are professed by a plethora of local, regional and international actors. In practice, however, durable political solutions – typically symbolised through peace agreements – are scarce. While peace agreements may be signed, political willingness, as well as the ability to implement them, is often in short supply. Hence, many peace agreements remain words on paper, not actions in the field. This is also the case in Africa, where many conflict areas see peace agreements being signed, violated and forgotten.

This article examines the 2015 peace agreement in Mali and the case of the 2016 peace agreement in Colombia. The 2015 Bamako Agreement for Mali – despite hopes to end armed violence and provide a framework for peace – has had little impact on the ground and serves to illustrate some of the limitations of peace agreements. Does the commonly considered successful case of Colombia shed light on the struggling Malian peace process? This article suggests that the Colombian peace process does provide useful insights into the challenges in Mali. This is discussed in the context of what, with whom and when to negotiate. Following this analysis, some lessons learnt are identified, along with concluding remarks on how these two cases illustrate both the potential and limits of peace agreements.