Monday, January 21, 2013
Intervention in Mali: Between necessity and exploitation (Part 1)
In order to offer our readers an insight on the current crisis originating in Mali, we are launching a 2 parts essay analysis that will help clarify the underlying motives for the Tuareg revolution in Mali, Al-Qaeda's influence in the region and the role of the international players in sculpting the outcome of the conflict.
The first essay, titled "THE INTRICACIES OF A MALIAN ‘AZAWADSTAN’ ; A RALLYING CALL FOR IMMIDIATE INTERVENTION", is a guest post by Samson Faboye from Nigeria.
The second essay, by Mohamed Amine Belarbi, will focus on the opportunities the crisis in Mali offers for regional and international players, as well as the way they ought to be exploited.
THE INTRICASIES OF A MALIAN ‘AZAWADSTAN’ ; A RALLYING CALL FOR IMMIDIATE INTERVENTION
"Everyone knew this situation was coming; everyone knew that AQIM was present in the region; everyone knew that the Tuareg rebellion from 2008 in Mali had not been decapitated. And yet the Malians did not act."....... Bazoum Mohammed, Niger's foreign minister.
The situation in Northern Mali, where a rebellion by Tuaregs and Islamic Militants declaring a ‘liberated Azawad’ in the North of Mali and then pushing to the government controlled South, has alarmed the international community, particularly France. From the dust raised in the recent clash between the Malian Military and extremist Islamic Militant groups; top of which is the ‘Ansar Dine and Mujao’ , both are thought be part of an extensive network of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)- though having different ideologies as against the Tuareg rebels of Northern Mali, the rebellious forces united for a cause---‘shaking off Northern Mali or Azawad from Malian control’.
The vast arid North of Mali (an area the size of France) is covered by the Sahara and is populated by the Tuaregs (a normadic people who live in Mali, Algeria, Libya, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger). Seen as light skinned (though they are called the ‘blue people’) they’ve complained of marginalization in their respective countries of residence. As such the Tuaregs have fought several rebellious wars against the government of Niger, Algeria and Mali.
Despite the separatist intrigues of the Tuaregs in the Sahara, their rebellions have been quelled by force and negotiations over the years by respective governments they rebelled against. However, a statement made by the foreign minister of Niger at the recent Bamako summit in October 2012 hosted to resolve the Malian crises, shows that all is not well with Mali, especially the city that hosts tomb of 333 saints (Timbuktu)! And even her neighbours are alarmed by this dawning gruelling fact.
The rebel held Azawad or Northern Mali is already at a phase of derelict lawlessness and there are fears that it may become Africa’s Afghanistan or Pakistan’s Swat valley…hence the name ‘Azawadstan’!
Among the issues calling for action in Northern Mali are:
The clash between Tuareg separatist rebels (MNLA) and Islamist militants. Though having variant ideologies, these groups united to kick out the Malian army from Azawad.
The destruction of ‘mausoleums’ and tombs of Islamic scholars in Timbuktu—regarded as a world heritage site by the UN.
The unhindered operation of Islamic militant groups especially (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) who are turning Northern Mali to a base or training facility for launching attacks in neighbouring states.
Most concerned is the Nigerien government, who fear that the Malian instability might just precipitate in their country and serve a distillery for instability in the West African Sub-region.
The recent capture of Diabaly and the attack on Konna by the Islamist militants, thus puting Bamako (the Malian capital) and the remaining government controlled areas at risk of being united under one ‘Azawadstan’
Intriguingly, the Malian crises does have some foriegn undertones. It is believed to be heightened by the influx of Tuareg fighters from Libya who fought on the side of the defeated Gaddafi loyalist forces during the 2011 Libyan revolution. Surely, the Libyan conflict did not end cheap. With proliferation of weapons during the conflict, it must have added to the lethal force of the Tuareg and Islamic separatist forces.
With hard lessons still being learnt from the Pakistani and Afghanistan situation, there’s a concern for the Malian case not to fall in that line.
There have been calls for an Ecowas military intervention force to liberate Northern Mali as any attempt to allow for an ‘Azawadstan’ may spark Tuareg separatist conflicts in other neighbouring countries and most the most chilling terrorist attacks in the West African subregion and even Europe!. Bearing in mind that Al-Queda linked groups hold sway in the territory, there’s an onus to restore sanity to the rebellious territory.
The Malian North which is a vast expanse of Sahara may not be familiar territory for any Ecowas intervention force. Moreover, there will be need for logistical air support from western powers—a cause which France is spearheading. With the Islamist militants now pushing towards Bamako, the French President has acceded to demands by the Malian Prime minister for help in the face of the ignominious defeat suffered by the Malian army in the hands of the rebels. The swift response of the French has thus encouraged a mobilization of WestAfrican forces to counter the activities of the Malian Islamists.
With the international scene wary of foreign intervention in crises ridden countries, whilst consention cannot be agreed on Syria, the world cannot afford to watch a helpless and hopeless Malian regime turn an Azawadstan!