Mali: Incorrigibly Corrupt

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November 5, 2021: The current military government is the third one in the last decade and like the others is considered temporary and the current one is supposed to be replaced by elections in early 2022. The five colonels who run the military government want to remain in power, despite threats by the UN and major foreign donors to withdraw assistance. Mali has long been one of the most corrupt nations in Africa and now proving itself the most resistant to changing that. The new temporary government has not yet agreed to a date for elections and is insisting they cannot reach a decision until sometime in December.

The Malian military has staged three government takeovers since 2012. The last one, in May 2021, was an internal dispute within the military. Since the May coup foreign donors have warned that most of the foreign aid will stop coming if Mali does not carry out a significant reduction in corruption, government ineffectiveness and overall instability. None of these three military takeovers were about corruption, but rather anger at the corrupt politicians stealing money meant to finance operations against Islamic terrorist and separatist minorities in the north. The unrest up there had been getting worse for several years before the 2012 coup. An increase in unrest in the north was not unexpected but the intensity of the violence up there was. By 2011, the fighting in the north was more than the army could handle. Mali never needed much of a military and that was reflected in how decades of corrupt rulers treated it as another source of jobs for supporters. Many of the officers were professionals who thought otherwise and argued for more realistic treatment of the military and the threats it was facing up north. That was ignored because the corrupt politicians feared being replaced by corruptible military officers.

Foreign aid donors agreed with the minority of Mali officers who called for more professionalism. The most popular, in the army, officers were both professional and corrupt and that’s how we got a military government that staged a coup in 2020 and another in 2021. That may turn out to be a coup too far. France decided that the Mali leaders were incorrigibly corrupt; the expensive French counterterror operations in the north were no longer worth the effort. Neighboring nations were willing to cooperate in suppressing Islamic terrorism and France was reducing and redeploying it 5,100 counterterrorism troops to assist less-corrupt neighbors serious about reducing the terrorism. This involves reducing the French force by 2,000 personnel and those reductions are most visible in northern Mali, where some French bases are being shut as the troops depart.

The May coup was not well received by foreign aid donors. This includes France, which pays for its 5,100 counterterrorism troops who operate throughout the region. The military was not happy with foreign donor demands that they cooperate with political factions that made possible the 2020 coup. These groups and the coup leaders formed the interim (and foreign donor approved) CNT (National Transitional Council) government. The foreign donors insisted that a civilian lead the CNT with one of the military coup leaders as his deputy. The army and civilian members of the CNT did not get along. The main disagreement that triggered the May coup was about efforts to negotiate with Islamic terror groups and ineffective measures to prosecute corrupt politicians.

The May coup was led by the army colonel who was appointed deputy head of the CNT, and he replaced the civilian who originally held that job. The May coup promptly replaced many CNT officials with army officers or civilians known to be pro-military. When foreign donors, including France, criticized this, the army threatened to seek financial aid elsewhere. There was no elsewhere for the Mali coup leaders. The Mali officers’ threats said a lot about their motives, which was mainly about maintaining their power and helping themselves to a portion of foreign aid. The coup leaders did have one source of wealth, the Mali gold mines.

November 2, 2021: There are over 300,000 people displaced by fighting and terrorism. That’s more than triple the number forced from their homes a year ago. Most of the newly displaced are in central Mali, where tribal and Islamic terrorist violence has been growing for several years. The army coup earlier in 2021 was another cause of unrest.

November 1, 2021: Three Chinese captured by Islamic terrorists on July 17th escaped their captors and were able to contact some soldiers today. The three men were kidnapped in southwest Mali, near the border with Guinea, by armed men who attacked a road construction site and kidnapped three Chinese and two Mauritanian employees of the Chinese firm that is building the road. The raiders destroyed heavy equipment and stole five pickup trucks to carry their captives and loot. The largest Islamic terror group in Mali is JNIM (Jamâ’ah Nusrah al Islâm wal Muslimîn, or Group for the support of Islam and Moslems) which later took credit for the attack and released videos of the captives to obtain a large ransom. Ransoms are less likely to be paid for foreign captives because it just encourages more kidnapping. China was pressuring Mali to find and free the captives even though ransom negotiations were still underway.

October 31, 2021: In the northeast, within the three-borders (Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso) area (south of Gao) there was another Islamic terrorist attack across the border in Burkina Faso that left five policemen dead. The three borders area has been a terrorist hotspot for over three years because Islamic terror groups can just cross the border to escape heavy counterterrorism efforts.

October 30, 2021: In Central Mali (200 kilometers north of the capital) two separate attacks on army patrols left seven soldiers dead and six wounded. Roadside bombs were involved in both attacks and some of the perpetrators were caught and arrested.

October 29, 2021: The UN is pressuring Mali to act against the hereditary slavery that still exists in some parts of the country. Recent violence against some of these slaves, which left several slaves dead and many people injured. Hereditary slavery has been around for thousands of years and was reinforced in parts of Africa that became Moslem, because Islamic scripture encourages and justifies the enslavement of non-Moslems who refuse to convert. In 1905 France outlawed slavery in Mali, but the practice survived in rural areas. Neighboring Mauritania was the last African country to outlaw slavery in 1981. Many Moslem-majority nations outlawed but continued to tolerate slavery after World War II and the establishment of the UN, which has long had an active anti-slavery program. Pressuring Mali to eliminate slavery is a far different from asking Mali to pass more laws against slavery. The problem is that too many Malians see slavery as part of their culture and religion and will not submit to pressure from infidels (non-Moslems) in the West or UN.

Britain spent most of the 19th century trying to suppress the practice of slavery in Africa. Colonial Nigeria, which supplied about 30 percent of the slaves sent to the United States, did not see slavery legally eliminated until about 1900 and for decades after that the practice continued in rural areas. There was a similar problem throughout the region and in countries like Mauritania and Sudan, where slavery is technically illegal, some groups get away with quietly trading and keeping slaves anyway. Islamic fundamentalists are particularly enthusiastic about this because Islamic scripture does have a lot to say about enslaving non-Moslems, or Moslems you consider heretics.

October 28, 2021: In the far north Islamic terror groups have learned that it is in their interest to disrupt cell phone use by regularly bombing the network of cellphone towers that connect cell phone users in the sparsely populated north. The large towers up there cost nearly $200,000 each to build and $2,000 a month to maintain. The Islamic terrorists realized that cellphone use was more of a danger to them than an asset. Locals calling in reports of Islamic terrorist presence was a major problem. Cellphone towers have become a major target, even if some of the key ones are guarded. Attacks often just damage the towers and disrupt or halt service in a large area for a few hours or days. Destruction of a tower can keep thousands of users offline for over a week. The additional costs of repairing or replacing towers has increased the fees charged to users, who become dependent on cell phones for more than just communications. Most personal banking is done via cellphone as are a lot of government transactions. The cellphone network attacks have made the Islamic terrorists even more unpopular but that is not important for groups that face extinction because of the tips provided by cellphone users.

October 26, 2021: The government expelled an ECOWAS (Economic Community of 15 West African States) official who was pressuring the military government to set an early date to carry out elections. ECOWAS suspended cooperation with Mali after the May coup and has not lifted the suspension yet. While ECOWAS does not supply as much foreign aid as non-African donors, they are more aware of what is wrong and thus more unwelcome by the current transitional government.

October 25, 2021: The FATF (Financial Action Task Force) has put Mali on the gray list. This means that a nation is tolerating money laundering or financial support of terrorist activity. If changes are not made Mali would be put on the blacklist. Currently only Iran and North Korea are on the blacklist and that means they have no access to the international banking system and are unable to obtain loans or sell bonds on international markets. FATF has been around since 2000 and its founding members were major industrial nations that, between them, are the international banking system. The gray list and blacklist were established as sanctions for nations found to be tolerating criminal organizations, including Islamic terrorists, using their financial systems to finance illegal activities. Banned activities were money laundering and raising money for criminal activities. Over the last two decades the existence of FATF has played an increasingly effective role in crippling illegal banking activities.

October 24, 2021: A UN delegation visited Mali to examine firsthand the situation and especially the attitudes of the current “temporary military transitional government” and concluded that the current transitional government seemed to be in no hurry to transition.

October 20, 2021: In the northeast, within the three-borders (Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso) area (south of Gao) several British troops on patrol were ambushed by some Islamic terrorist gunmen. There was a brief gun battle and the two attackers were killed. There were no British casualties. This was the first time British troops came under fire since 2014, when British troops were still in Afghanistan. This time there are 300 British troops serving with the UN peacekeeping force in Mali. Some are special operations troops of the LRRG (Long Range Reconnaissance Group) who conducted extended patrols in the three-borders area where ISGS (Islamic State in Greater Sahara), one of the two ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) groups in the region operate. Since they showed up in 2018, ISGS operates mainly in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, especially the area where the three borders meet. LRRG operate as small units that avoid detection and seek to detect and attack enemy forces unaware that LRRG is in the area. This worked during the 17-day September operation, capturing several ISGS members and seizing weapons, vehicles, and other equipment.

October 17, 2021: In the north (outside Timbuktu) Islamic terrorists attacked a small army outpost and were repulsed, leaving four of their dead behind. One soldier was killed.

October 15, 2021: In the northeast, within the three-borders (Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso) area (south of Gao) a French UAV used a missile to destroy a vehicle carrying Nasser Al Tergui, a senior al Qaeda leader and four of his associates. All five were killed. It took nearly a week to confirm that one of the bodies in the vehicle was Tergui

October 6, 2021: In central Mali (Mopti) an army patrol was attacked with a roadside bomb, killing sixteen soldiers and wounding nine.

 

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