Mali: Feuds, Fanatics And The Phantom Peace

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September 9, 2015: While the peacekeepers and Mali security forces have made the north inhospitable for Islamic terrorists (who have moved south or to neighboring countries) there is still a lot of lawlessness from bandits and feuding militias. There are still a few Islamic terrorists operating in the north and these are mainly a threat. All this unrest has made it difficult to get trade going or, in too many cases, just deliver food and other aid. As a result extreme poverty is still common in the north and over a million people are short of food on a regular basis. The June peace deal was supposed to settle things down in the north but there are still some groups unhappy with the peace terms and refusing to back down from using violence to get their way.  

A major part of the problem is the historical tensions between the various Tuareg tribes (or clans, as they are often called) in the north. The 2012 Islamic terrorist led rebellion in the north was not backed by all the clans and after the 2013 French led operation defeated the rebels the “pro-government” Tuareg clan militias expected some changes in the power relationships up north. The rebel clans don’t agree with that and this has led to violent disputes. There is much to fight over. Some of the clans made a lot of money smuggling and now they are fighting loyalist clans for control of prime smuggling routes. There are also disputes over land and political influence in towns and cities. The year of Islamic terrorist rule in the north upset a fragile structure of agreements and traditions that had kept the peace. Putting all this back together is taking longer, and involves more violence, than anyone expected.

Some of the disputes involve control of the more than a billion dollars of foreign aid that will arrive as terms of the June peace deal are met. It is taken for granted that whoever gets control of that aid will manage to steal some of it. Another source of disorder is the continued bad behavior of the security forces, especially soldiers from the black African tribes of the south. Traditionally the lighter skinned Arabs and Tuareg of the north raided the tribes in the south, but could not conquer them because the southern tribes had far more people and could handle a major invasion. The raids (for loot and slaves) were another matter and were only halted when the European colonial governments arrived in the 19th century. The tensions between north and south remain and soldiers from the south are generally not welcome. The soldiers tend to respond harshly, using their firepower and numbers to intimidate and torment the northerners. This creates hostility in the north that makes it easier for rebel or Islamic terrorist groups to get recruits and justify violence against southerners.

Yet another problem is the movement of Islamic terrorists from Mali to nearby Sahel (the semi-desert area just below the Sahara) nations like Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso. The Sahel nations are cooperating to deal with this growing threat. This mainly consists of quickly sharing information about criminals in general and suspected Islamic terrorists in particular. France and the United States (via AFRICOM, the U.S. combined military command that specializes in Africa) are helping to make this happen with advice and technology. The Americans have more money and people available but the French have been operating in this region for over a century and have maintained a lot of useful social, political and commercial relationships.

September 7, 2015: In the capital (Bamako) police revealed that over the weekend they had arrested three men considered the leaders and primary organizers of the Islamic terrorist group that had carried out several attacks in the capital in the last month. The three were also responsible for the recent Internet based announcement that Islamic terrorists would kill all foreign journalists in the capital. Two were southern Moslems from Mali while the third was from the Ivory Coast.

September 6, 2015: In the north (95 kilometers southwest of Kidal) a pro-government militia began withdrawing from the town of Anefis. Both groups are supposed to stay out of the town in accordance with a June peace deal. Fighting over the town in the last month has caused over a hundred casualties.

September 1, 2015: In the north (Timbuktu) someone attacked an army checkpoint outside the city, killing two soldiers. An army vehicle was stolen during the night attack.

August 25, 2015:  In the last three days Algerian troops on the Mali and Niger borders have killed or arrested over 120 smugglers and seized large quantities of weapons, ammunition and other goods. So far this month there have been several similar seizures along the Mali border, which has always been the scene of smuggling. The smugglers are usually from Tuareg tribes in Mali.

August 24, 2015: The last group of Tuareg rebels (CMA or Coordination des Mouvements de l'Azawad) to sign the June peace deal threatened to pull out of the deal if the UN and the government could not get everyone to abide by the terms. CMA is especially angry about the fighting around the town of Anefis.

August 22, 2015: In the north (Gao) two peacekeepers were wounded when their vehicle hit a mine. The peacekeepers were escorting a supply convoy.

August 18, 2015:  In the north (Kidal) a pro-government militia seized the town of Anefis, which is also claimed by Tuareg separatists. The pro-government militia feared that a local Tuareg separatist group would seize the town. UN officials, who are supervising implementation of the June peace deal, demanded that the militia withdraw.

August 13, 2015: In central Mali a popular Moslem cleric was killed by Islamic terrorists. The victim has spoken out against Islamic terrorism and death threats did not silence him. There are several pro-Islamic terrorism Islamic clerics in the area and the government is under pressure to shut down these guys because they encourage young men to join radical groups. This problem is particularly acute among the Fulani people in central Mali. There are some twenty million Fulani living in the Sahel, and some of those in northern Nigeria have become involved in Islamic terrorism (via the local Boko Haram).  

August 12, 2015: Gunmen fired on police guarding the main bus station in the capital. Two policemen died and a large scale search for the shooters did not find the culprits. Islamic terrorists are suspected.

 

 

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