Folke Bernadotte Academy – Swedish agency for peace, security and development

Johan Fredborn Larsson

Political adviser in Mali

Johan Fredborn Larsson is on secondment from the FBA to EUCAP Sahel Mali, a civilian EU mission tasked with supporting reforms of the Malian security sector through training and advice. He is stationed in the capital city of Bamako.

In early 2012, Tuareg rebels and radical Islamist groups seized control of northern Mali. A peace agreement between rebels and the government was signed in 2015, but the security situation remains volatile, the conflict has spread throughout the country, and more actors have been getting involved.

In order for the national security forces of Mali, among them the police, to be able to better foster peace and protect civilians, reforms are needed. The government of Mali invited the EU to establish a mission in the country, to assist in the efforts for increased efficiency in the security sector.

Johan, what does your role as political adviser in EUCAP Sahel Mali entail?

– As the only political adviser in the mission, I have various duties, but my main task is to support the mission leadership by providing political analysis. I closely follow the political development in Mali and the broader Sahel region, and also in Brussels and the UN. I stay in touch with Malian counterparts, as well as the EU headquarters in Brussels and the EU member states. A lot of coordination, to put it short.

How would you describe the situation in Mali?

– Mali is afflicted by several ongoing conflicts, and unfortunately, the situation is not getting better. The implementation of the 2015 peace agreement, regarding the northern parts of the country, is moving slowly. At the same time, the central regions have recently been plagued by both violent extremists and growing tensions between different ethnic groups, and in the capital city of Bamako the political situation is very fragile. Mali is one of the world’s poorest countries, characterized by high unemployment and rapid population growth. However, despite the difficult context most people are going on with their everyday lives.

What did you do prior to your deployment to Mali?

– I have been working with international relations for various employers in various places. For example, I have worked for the EU in Latin America, and for the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Stockholm. I have also been on secondment from the FBA once before, to Afghanistan.

You started your current position in the spring of 2019. How did you find moving to Bamako?

– I previously worked with issues related to Mali at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and had the opportunity to visit Mali a few times. I liked the country very much and it was no coincidence that I applied for this position via the FBA. Mali is fantastic and Bamako is a nice city, even though it is so different from Stockholm. I go out jogging a few times per week, and by doing so I have gotten to know my neighbourhood and neighbours better. It is really sad that the Malians are so deeply affected by conflict. However, I feel that I have an interesting job and I have fantastic colleagues. It is exciting to work with people from so many different countries and different professional backgrounds.

Photo: Private, Flickr

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