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The standoff between Mali’s government and the armed Islamists who control two-thirds of the country is unlikely to resolve peacefully, and the prospects for a new war in the Sahel appear increasingly probable. In January, a disciplined Tuareg separatist group, the Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), initiated a rebellion that eventually forced Mali’s corrupt and weak military to withdraw from the northern part of the country in April. Militant Islamist groups—Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)—subsequently took over the territory and demonstrated a fierce determination to impose a Taliban-style government on the entire country.
Tensions have risen in northern Mali after al-Qaeda-linked fighters seized control of an area where the Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) recently declared an independent state. But just what does this mean for the region and is a military intervention by regional powers an option? It was already a tenuous truce between the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine group and the Tuareg in northern Mali.
After the coup: a long road back for Mali. Edited by Baz Lecocq and Gregory Mann, from a conversation on 3 April 2012. From dusk till late evening, you can find small groups of young people sitting on street corners, in front of houses, or in courtyards across West Africa. There will inevitably be a little radio, playing music and broadcasting news. The ‘junior’ of the group is busy brewing and passing round small glasses of tea, while the others hang out, play cards, and discuss the news they hear, whether it comes from Radio France Internationale or sidewalk radio. In Mali, such a group is called a grin.
Islamist militancy in Northern Mali
The dispatching of French soldiers to beat back rapidly advancing Salafi militants in northern Mali represents the convergence of multiple circles of blowback from two centuries of French policies in Africa. Some date back to the beginning of the 19th century, others to policies put in place during the last few years. Together, they spell potential disaster for France and the United States (the two primary external Western actors in Mali today), and even more so for Mali and the surrounding countries. Only two outcomes, together, can prevent the nightmare scenario of a huge failed state in the heart of Africa spreading violence across the continent.
Whew, Mali. French air raids against Islamist positions in Mali began Thursday night, and the dust hasn’t settled yet. The news is changing fast, but, three things emerge from the haze.
(Bamako) – Separatist Tuareg rebels, Islamist armed groups, and Arab militias who seized control of northern Mali in April 2012 have committed numerous war crimes, including rape, use of child soldiers, and pillaging of hospitals, schools, aid agencies, and government buildings, Human Rights Watch said today. An Islamist armed group has summarily executed two men, amputated the hand of at least one other, carried out public floggings, and threatened women and Christians. Human Rights Watch also received credible information that Malian army soldiers have arbitrarily detained and, in some instances, summarily executed ethnic Tuareg members of the security services and civilians. “Armed groups in northern Mali in recent weeks have terrorized civilians by committing abductions and looting hospitals,” said Corinne Dufka , senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Food is distributed in Northern Mali. While all eyes are on the ongoing political stalemate in Bamako, and the growing radicalism of groups such as Ansar Dine, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and MUJAO (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa) in the north of Mali, it’s easy to forget that 1.3 million Malians are facing drastic food shortages this year. It’s a silent crisis, mostly because the legions of humanitarian workers and journalists – who have worked hard to highlight the terrible effects of hunger and increased market prices of food in neighbouring countries such as Niger and Chad – are struggling to even get to northern Mali. Since the take-over of the north by the rebel Tuareg MNLA group, and the subsequent rise of the Islamist groups, approximately half of the country’s territory has become off-limits.
In examining the political crises which have gripped Mali in recent months, it is important not to fall into simplistic analyses of dysfunctional or “failed” African states. Indeed, the Malian people have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to mobilize civil society and build stable democratic governance despite a history of enormous poverty, ethnic divisions, and foreign intervention. In 1991, more than two decades prior to similar pro-democracy uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Malians engaged in a massive nonviolent resistance campaign that brought down the dictatorship of Mousa Traoré. A broad mobilization of trade unionists, peasants, students, teachers, and others – supported by griots (traditional singing storytellers) who would sing allegorical songs regarding historical freedom struggles – created a mass movement throughout the country.
I realize that most Americans or Europeans wouldn't be able to pick out Mali on a map. But it's still a shame that recent events in that West African country have been getting so little attention. Until recently, Mali was one of Africa's big success stories.
Mali is so obscure to the Western world that if you google the name of its president, Amadou Toumani Touré, you only get 202,000 entries, about the same as a mid-level well known American. The country has been afflicted by a civil war for long stretches of the past few decades, most notably from 1990 to 1996, but no one in the US has much noticed. Coverage of the political situation is particularly lacking. So I have been reading Roger Kaplan’s dispatches from Mali for the Weekly Standard , most notably a feature in the current issue, with great attention. As a French speaker with long experience in Africa, Kaplan comes with some credentials. And my knowledge of Mali is fragmentary and way out of date—I was first and last there in 1989.
Mali - curators...
Mali is Africa's third largest gold producer after South Africa and Ghana. Mali produced 53,7 t of gold in 2009. The Sadiola Hill Gold mine (41% Iamgold, 41% AngloGold Ashanti, Government of Mail 18%) is situated in the geologically favourable Kenieba/Kedegou window where the Mali-Senegal shear zone is host to the deposit. Sadiola produced 135,000 oz of gold in 2009. A mere 35km to the north of Sadiola, lies the Yatela Gold mine (AngloGold 40%, Iamgold 40% and the Mali Government 20%) which began production in mid 2001. Yatela produced 89,000 oz of gold in 2009.