May 8, 2015:
The UN sponsored peace talks hosted by Algeria have produced a peace deal that is supposed to be signed on May 15
. But not all those who are supposed to sign are still willing to do so. The UN is now proposing that those willing to sign go ahead and do so on the 15
and negotiations will continue with those who are not satisfied. The holdouts are radical factions of the rebel alliance that insist on more autonomy than the government is willing to provide. If nothing can be worked out with these factions everyone else can agree to outlaw them. Some of these dissident factions are believed responsible for the recent upsurge in violence in the north. The negotiators on both sides managed to work out an agreement that was satisfactory to most factions but not for many of the armed and still angry young Tuareg men. The UN has already threatened the holdout factions with sanctions but that had no impact. So now more negotiations, followed by peace or armed conflict are on offer. Between these holdouts and the active Islamic terrorists in the north it is obvious that for a significant minority of northerners the war for independence (or global Islamic conquest) is not yet over. Some of these separatists are seeking a religious dictatorship. This is definitely not wanted by the majority of northerners. Most of the holdouts want more autonomy and money, which is more popular up north but unacceptable to the 90 percent of Malians that live in the south.
This quagmire is so typical of hotspots that peacekeepers have been sent to. A lack of fighting is interpreted as peace to keep when in reality it was just a pause in the violence as the local adversaries prepared for another round of armed struggle. The Tuareg and Arab majority in the sparsely populated north still don’t, after thousands of years, get along with the black African majority in the south. In hindsight the north should never have been made a part of Mali. The north is too poor and sparsely populated to be independent but would be better off as a province of Algeria. That will never happen.
While the situation in the north is dangerous, what most Malians (at least in the south) are distracted by at the moment is a report that former (removed by an army coup in March 2012 as a result of the successful Tuareg uprising in the north) leader Amadou Toumani Toure managed to steal or waste $261 million in the two years before his departure. The high level of corruption in the Toure government was one reason why he was overthrown by the military, who knew that he and his cronies had stolen a lot of money intended for the troops in the north. Toure had been in power since the 1990s and was long known for being extremely corrupt. While the new government is technically opposed to corruption the economy and much of the government is still seen as controlled by the wealthy families and prominent politicians who were “deposed” from power in 2012. Many Malians believe that the core problem is the endemic corruption that never seems to go away. Toure along with his predecessors and successors openly pledged to do something about the corruption. Toure actually did and was much more effective than his very corrupt and brutal predecessors. But in absolute terms Toure was corrupt, because he believed that was how you got things done in Mali. Many prominent Malians still believe that.
May 5, 2015: In central Mali twelve vehicles carrying armed men entered the town of Tenenkou and were confronted by police and soldiers. The men spoke Taureg and were eventually defeated with at least ten dead and several more wounded. One soldier was killed and three wounded. A Tuareg separatist group (CMA or Coordination des Mouvements de l'Azawad) took credit for this attack and said it was payback for CMA being driven out of the northern town near Gao by pro-government militia on April 27th. There have been more attacks lately by separatists and Islamic terrorists from the north. This is partly because the northern rebels and separatists want to terrorize the north into signing a pro-separatist peace deal and partly because there is less to steal in the north and the French and peacekeeper troops are quick to go after anyone who goes raiding. Looking for loot is safer in the south, at least on average. Groups like CMA want more Tuareg autonomy and especially want control over the growing mining operations in the north and the cash they generate. The majority in the south and central government is definitely not willing to do that.
May 3, 2015: In central Mali Islamic terrorists came at night and damaged the mausoleum of famous Islamic preacher Cheick Amadou. He lived in the 1800s and was responsible for converting to Islam many people living in central Mali. His mausoleum is revered by many Moslems but groups like ISIL (a local branch of which took credit for this attack) consider this idolatry and destroy such sites. Most senior Islamic scholars disagree with ISIL on this point.
May 2, 2015: In the north, near the Mauritanian border, CMA separatist rebels attacked a town and were repulsed leaving behind two dead and five captured.
April 30, 2015: Elsewhere in the north, near Gao, a truck carrying lots of passengers hit a mine and the explosion killed four and wounded 28. Some rebels and Islamic terrorists assume any truck that comes along belongs to the military and can be attacked. This is often incorrect and a lot of trucks carrying foreign aid or commercial cargoes are attacked.
April 29, 2015: In the north, west of Timbuktu, CMA separatist rebels attacked a town and killed nine soldiers before fleeing after losing ten dead. Elsewhere near Timbuktu another attack left two soldiers and a civilian dead.
April 28, 2015: In the north, outside Timbuktu, Tuareg rebels fired on some UN peacekeepers. No one was hurt. Before driving off the rebels apologized as they thought the UN troops were Mali soldiers.
April 27, 2015: In the north (east of Gao) pro-government militias drove separatists from CMA out of a town CMA and MNLA had long controlled. This was actually part of a feud between the groups involved.
April 22, 2015: A major Tuareg separatist group, CMA, confirmed that it would not sign the peace deal with everyone else on May 15th. Elsewhere in the north police arrested three men for possessing landmines. These, along with roadside bombs and similar weapons have killed 325 people (many of them civilians) since early 2013.
April 20, 2015: In the north (outside Gao) an aid convoy was attacked. One driver was killed and one truck destroyed.
April 19, 2015: In Gao police arrested 29 people for possessing illegal weapons.
April 18, 2015: In the north (outside Gao) an aid convoy was attacked. Two drivers were killed and three trucks destroyed.
April 17, 2015: In the north, just across the border, an Algerian army patrol found a weapons cache containing three rifles, two rockets and ammunition. Elsewhere in the north (outside Gao) gunmen attacked a peacekeeper supply convoy, killing one driver and destroying one truck.
April 15, 2015: In the north an Islamic terrorist suicide bomber tried to get into a peacekeeper base but was stopped at the gate. His explosive vest went off killing three civilians and wounding several more as well as nine peacekeepers from Niger. Islamic terrorist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar took credit for this attack. Belmokhtar also took credit for a March 8th attack in the capital (that killed five people) which he described as payback for the killing (by French troops) of a Belmokhtar lieutenant in December 2014. Belmokhtar is a well-known North African Islamic terrorist leader who is now believed to be based in southern Libya. Since mid-2014 there have been more attacks in the north, usually around Kidal and Al Mourabitoun, not local groups, were suspected. In early 2013 Belmokhtar had released a statement on the Internet announcing his return to al Qaeda (after leaving in late 2012). Al Mourabitoun was formed in August 2013 when two Islamic terrorist factions merged. This new group was detected operating in northern Mali and Niger (where it had carried out several daring attacks, including a prison break in June and twin bombings in May 2013). Belmokhtar had a reputation for always escaping the many efforts to kill or capture him. Belmokhtar had been number two or three in AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) but formed his own splinter group in late 2012. The French and American pressure in the Sahel has left Belmokhtar short of cash and prospects, so returning to al Qaeda is a way to remedy those problems. Al Qaeda has always had access to more cash and other resources than most other terrorist organizations and that’s why it remains such a visible player among Islamic terrorists.