Mali: Reform Or Die

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September 1, 2016: The government has not made much progress in dealing with the many economic and social problems that are keeping the tribal and religious unrest going in the north. The unrest is spreading to central and southern Mali. Most people angry that the government has failed to act on the corruption and generally inept performance that caused the rebellion and army mutiny in 2012. This is keeping armed separatist and Islamic groups in business despite the French-led peacekeeping force largely eliminating the Islamic terrorist control of the north. France now has a special task force working to keep the Islamic terrorists on the defensive and unable to establish another base area. But that does not solve the internal problems, especially the corruption, tribalism and mismanagement that characterize so many African governments. While the violence is still most common up north, it is largely between rival Tuareg groups and any Mali soldiers or police who get too involved. Meanwhile the Islamic terrorist activity has moved south. The Fulani tribes of central Mali are producing a growing number of recruits for Islamic terror groups. Other black African tribes further south are showing signs of discontent among unemployed and angry young men.

The government also has to worry about foreign aid groups who also demand something be done about the corruption and mismanagement. This cannot be ignored because major aid donors and investors are increasingly taking action against government that do not clean up corruption and more governance. That action is mainly reducing donations and investments. The lost aid and investment funds are then directed towards nearby nations that have made some progress. While the government on the losing end complain that the loss of the money will hurt their citizens, that plea no longer works to get the money back. Reform or die.

August 27, 2016: In central Mali (near the junction of the Niger and Bani rivers) there was another outbreak of violence involving Fulani and Bambara tribesmen when some Bambara tried to steal some Fulani cattle and were caught. This led to several skirmishes that left five Bambara and Fulani dead and seven wounded. Fighting between Bambara (who tend to be pro-government) and Fulani (who tend to be more rebellious) has left nearly a hundred dead so far this year. The more numerous Bambara live north of the Niger and are about a third of the population. The Fulani are largely from south of the Niger.

August 17, 2016: In central Mali (near the junction of the Niger and Bani rivers) there was another clash between Fulani and Bambara tribesmen when some Bambara tried to steal some Fulani cattle and were caught. This led to several skirmishes that left eight Bambara and one Fulani dead.

August 15, 2016: The government ordered the arrest of a popular radio personality (Mohamed Youssouf Bathily) for broadcasting detailed criticism of corruption and mismanagement in the army. Bathily is articulate and accurate in part because he comes from a prominent family (his father is a government minister) and he has been talking about problems within the military for some time. This resonates with most Malians especially since the government has failed to act on the corruption and generally inept army performance that caused the rebellion and army mutiny in 2012. This is helping keep armed separatists and Islamic terrorists in business despite the French-led peacekeeping force largely eliminating the Islamic terrorist control in the north in 2013. Because of all this there were large and sometimes violent public demonstrations in the capital to protest the arrest of Bathily. The unrest left at least one person dead and over a dozen wounded. On the 18th the government ordered Bathily released pending a trial. The government tried to halt the unrest by shutting down Mali access to Facebook and Twitter but that seemed to make the protestors angrier. The government does not want a trial but Bathily is difficult to deal with because of his family connections and growing popularity.

August 14, 2016: In the northeast, across the border in Algeria (Tamanrasset, 2,000 kilometers south of the Mediterranean) soldiers, acting on information from locals and recently surrendered Islamic terrorists found at least three arms caches near the area where the Niger and Mali borders intersect with Algeria. This has long been a popular area for smugglers and Islamic terrorists moving between the three countries. All three countries, plus a multinational counter-terror force led by France have made this area more difficult, but not impossible, for smugglers to operate in. These days most of the contraband is high value stuff (drugs, weapons) that are worth the higher risk.

August 12, 2016: In the north (Kidal) five days of renewed fighting between the CMA (a former Tuareg rebel group) and pro-government GATIA Tuareg militias has left nearly fifty dead. CMA and GATIA signed a peace treaty in October 2015 and while that stopped the state of war between the two groups it did not eliminate the many disputes (some recent some ancient) that remain unresolved. Working out long-term peace deals between the rival Tuareg groups in the north was long seen as necessary to end the cycle of blood feuds up there that have led to years, if not generations, of killings to avenge past murders. In this round of fighting the pro-government GATIA militia lost the most.

August 10, 2016: In central Mali the bodies of five soldiers reported missing on the 8th were found in the Niger River over the last two days.

August 8, 2016: In central Mali (90 kilometers west of Mopti) the FLM (Macina Liberation Front) Islamic terrorists claim to have ambushed an army supply convoy yesterday which led to a battle that did not end until earlier today. FLM admitted losing one of their own while the army said five of its soldiers were missing and that one truck was destroyed and four others stolen by the attackers. FLM is composed mostly of young Fulani men and is affiliated with the largely Tuareg Ansar Dine Islamic terror group from the north. The Fulani tribes of central Mali are producing a growing number of recruits for Islamic terror groups. FLM openly identifies with the Fulani (Macina are the local branch of the Fulani). This group became active in early 2015 and since then has claimed responsibility for a growing number of attacks. It started out with calls for Fulani people to live according to strict Islamic rules. That in turn led to violence against tribal and village leaders who opposed this. That escalated to attacks on businesses and government facilities. FLM considers Ansar Dine their friend and ally mainly because Ansar Dine was inspired by al Qaeda but was always composed of Mali peoples, mainly Tuareg, northern Arabs and some Fulani. Although most Malians are Moslem few want anything to do with Islamic terrorism. But the Fulani have always seen themselves as a people apart, an attitude common with the nomadic peoples of the Sahel. That makes joining FLM more attractive to young men, especially since the Fulani have also been involved with smuggling for a long time and that is seen as an acceptable profession. Another thing that sets the Fulani apart is that still think of themselves as nomadic and the Fulani don’t really believe in borders.

August 7, 2016: In the northeast (outside Kidal) one peacekeeper was killed and four wounded when their vehicle was attacked by a roadside bomb. Nearby another peacekeeper vehicle was damaged by a roadside bomb but there were no injuries. Ansar Dine took credit for both attacks.

 

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