The violence continues in the north largely because of ancient animosities that are exploited by Islamic terrorist groups. About a third of the population are Bambara but the majority belong to dozens of other tribes, the most prominent being Dogon, Fulani, Malinke, Sarakole, Senufo, ethnic Arabs and Tuareg. Ancient feuds and rivalries are revived using calls to protect Islam from attack or to replace corrupt national leaders. The problem in Africa is that in a multiethnic nation corruption is expected if one tribe takes care of itself at the expense of other tribes. For centuries religion has been used periodically to unite normally antagonistic tribes but that unity never lasts, as was seen in Mali after the 2012 rebellion in the began falling apart within months because blood (ethnic loyalty) was thicker than religion. All this creates a perpetual unrest as ambitious tribal leaders are always ready to use force to unseat the dominant national leaders, or force them to share more of the loot. Arbitration and negotiation works pretty well within a tribe but there are none of those cultural and family connections with other tribes that help make non-violent solutions work.
The Islamic terrorist groups are not making a comeback but they are trying to stay visible. Most of the active Islamic terrorists are from AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), the local Ansar Dine and several new (and quite small) Islamic terror groups in central and southern Mali. In addition to trying to stay in the news the Islamic terrorists are less visibly busy raising cash and seeking recruits to organize and carry out many more large scale attacks, especially in the more populous, and more hostile south.
While only three percent of the population is Christian Islamic terrorists seek out and threaten or attack Christians. Islamic terrorists believe Islamic scripture compels them to convert, kill or expel all non-Moslems they can reach. This has led to most Christians in north driven from their homes. Extending this form of terror to the south is more difficult because the Christians down there have more powerful allies in the form of family or tribesmen who are Moslem and tolerant.
While the tribal and religious violence up north gets most of the headlines, overall Mali is at peace and that has led to economic growth. Food and raw materials production is way up and the GDP is expected to grow by six percent in 2016. That is up from 4.9 percent in 2015 but down from 7.2 percent in 2014. Nearly all that growth is in the south. The thinly populated northern two-thirds of the country has a population of less than two million, out of 16 million for all of Mali. The north was very poor in the best of times, and over a year of Islamic terrorist government halted tourism (a major source of income, especially in the three major cities) and the movement of many goods. The south has always prospered while the north scraped by. But because of the 2012 uprising the north is surviving on charity and continued envy of and anger at the wealthier (and ethnically different) south.
February 19, 2016: In the northeast (Menaka) an army checkpoint near the Niger border was attacked. Two soldiers were killed, one was wounded and two are missing. A car was also stolen. Islamic terrorists are suspected.
February 12, 2016: In the north (outside Timbuktu) Islamic terrorists attacked a checkpoint killing three soldiers. Elsewhere in the north (near Kidal) AQIM Islamic terrorists attacked a military base killing six peacekeepers. This attack involved a suicide truck bomb, rockets and gunmen.