Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War
April 18, 2012: Today a civilian president (Western educated technocrat Dioncounda Traore) took temporary control of the government, until elections can be held within 40 days. Captain Sanogo and his fellow mutineers have kept their weapons and are trying to hold onto some power. In the last three days rebellious soldiers arrested, on uncertain authority, two senior politicians, including one who had been released (along with eleven others) last week in the wake of the agreement by the mutinous officers to restore civilian government. The mutineers also oppose the use of ECOWAS troops to oust the rebels in the north. In effect, the mutineers have just stepped back, not surrendered.
For the last week the army has been sending more troops to the central Mali city of Mopti (which is at the junction of the Niger and Bani rivers). This will apparently be the base for efforts to retake control of the north or keep the rebels from moving south (where most of the people, water and national wealth are). To the north of Mopti the terrain becomes drier and, after a hundred kilometers or so, desert. The city is also the destination of many of the 200,000 northerners who fled their homes to escape the violence. The army is still in a state of disorder, with many senior officers uncertain of the loyalty of subordinate officers. The leader of the recent rebellion was a low ranking captain but was able to motivate a lot of dissatisfied (by corruption and mismanagement in the military) officers and troops to rebel. The army is in no shape to do much of anything, even maintain control of the government.
In the north the Islamic radicals of Ansar Dine are gaining popular support by using their armed men (and recruiting more) to maintain law and order. This is causing friction with many Tuareg rebels, who have been doing some looting and raping. At the same time the Islamic radicals are stirring up popular anger with their enforcement of lifestyle rules. The way this usually works (especially in Africa), Ansar Dine will soon be ruling through hatred and fear and generating resentment that will evolve into armed resistance. But in the meantime, this religious dictatorship provides a sanctuary for Islamic radical groups that are raising money through drug smuggling and kidnapping Westerners. Several Westerners have already been taken in the north. At the same time, Western aid groups seek to continue providing needed supplies (like food and fuel) which aids the rebels as well as the population at large. It's going to get messy before it gets better. It's already messy for anyone from neighboring countries (especially diplomats and businessmen). There has been lots of looting and seizing of people (for eventual execution, ransom, or as part of negotiations).
April 15, 2012: All southern leaders (mutinous troops and elected officials) have called for negotiations with the Tuareg rebels in the north. The Tuareg will negotiate anything but the independence of their new Taureg state in the north. The Islamic radicals are on a mission from God and will only negotiate the surrender of their opponents.
April 13, 2012: ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) has agreed to prepare a military force to suppress the rebels in northern Mali, if negotiations fail. Such talks could take a while, and in the meantime many will suffer as the rebels take revenge and strive to rearrange political and economic structures. It's going to get nasty up there.