The power of rumour(s) in international interventions: MINUSMA’s management of Mali’s rumour mill

Par Adam Sandor
International Affairs

The work of international interventions, whether grandiose or commonplace in scale, requires credible, verified information. Nevertheless, in settings of armed conflict that interventions aim to transform, information is more often than not improvised, unofficial, fragmented and based on multiple competing imaginaries. Interventions, therefore, are significantly influenced by rumours: the circulation of information and stories based on uncertain accounts of questionable provenance. Research on international intervention has neglected the place and power of rumour. To address this lacuna, this article examines the impact of rumour on the intervention logics and practices of the United Nations Multilateral Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). It argues that rumours evince an epistemological force that generates constitutive effects among different sets of conflict actors in Mali. To address the impacts of rumours, different divisions within the intervention pursue practices of investigation, correction and officialization. Nevertheless, by enacting these practices, political tensions emerge that reveal contradictory intervention logics within MINUSMA, and foster conflictual relations between the intervention and different conflict actors in the country, thereby decreasing how Malians perceive MINUSMA's legitimacy.

15 juillet 2020
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