Monthly Archives: March 2012

New Malian Government Attempts to Negotiate with Tuareg Rebels

Very interesting developments in Mali. 

A common criticism of Touré, which went well beyond military dissidents, was his apparent failure to see a rebellion coming. It is still not clear how Touré’s government handled the influx of returnees from Libya.

Reports from northern Mali in late 2011 said two of the returning rebel contingents were seeking accommodation with the authorities and wanted integration into military and civilian structures, while a third wanted no part of this. Critics ask why the threat was not neutralized, and how neighbouring Niger avoided a similar crisis.

The answer is pretty obvious: the Malian government was not prepared at all for this to happen.

This issue is very delicate. It appears that the rebels, now surrounding several cities in the Timbuktu region, are actually a threat to the government and thus in a position to negotiate. The article on allafrica strikes a pretty moderate tone, and after reading it one gets the feeling that there is a possibility of an agreement. The MNLA has been pushing for quite awhile for an agreement. The article goes on to say:

It has become common to portray the arrival of Libya-hardened warriors as the main catalyst for the MNLA’s revolt, emboldening hard-liners and opportunists who would otherwise have confined themselves to marches and manifestos. But there had been mounting pessimism about the prospects for a durable, all-encompassing settlement in the north.

I think characterizing the returning tribesmen as a catalyst isn’t far off. Even if the movement was making noises in 2010, the last paragraphs of the article describe the opinion of Malian officials who met with the MNLA when they began making these moves: they were evidently not impressed. Now that a junta is in charge, it appears they are impressed enough to do something about it. I hope for a ceasefire as soon as possible.

However, the crisis in the Sahel has only just begun. Allafrica delivers again:

More than 15 million people in the Sahel are directly affected by worsening food shortages and malnutrition brought on by the ongoing drought, which has been compounded by conflict and insecurity. Earlier this week, the Security Council expressed serious concern over the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis there, saying that the presence of armed and terrorist groups, as well as the proliferation of weapons in the area, has exacerbated the problem.

An estimated 100,000 refugees fleeing conflict in Mali have sought shelter in neighbouring countries, and tens of thousands of migrant workers have returned from Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, meaning that they can no longer send remittances to their families. A crucial coping mechanism has therefore collapsed for poor communities who depended on the remittances, according to OCHA.

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Libya’s Mess Bleeds Over into Mali

Daniel Larison has an article on the mess in Libya one year later:

But the Libyan war’s worst impact may have occurred outside of Libya. The neighboring country of Mali, which also happens to support U.S. counter-terrorist efforts in western Africa, has been roiled by a new Tuareg insurgency fueled by the influx of men and weapons after Gadhafi’s defeat, providing the Tuareg rebels with much more sophisticated weaponry than they had before. This new upheaval benefits al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), and the Tuareg uprising threatens the territorial integrity of Mali. The rebellion has also displaced nearly 200,000 civilians in a region that is already at risk of famine, and refugees from Mali are beginning to strain local resources in Niger, where most of them have fled. “Success” in Libya is creating a political and humanitarian disaster in Mali and Niger.

The coup has finally gone down, and president Toure is currently in hiding:

Touré’s successor government, the Comité national pour le redressement de la démocratie et la restauration de la démocratie et la restauration de l’état (CNRDRE), led by army captain Amadou Sango, has dissolved state institutions, suspended the constitution, reportedly arrested several ministers, taken over the state broadcaster, and announced a curfew.

CNRDRE says it has brought an end to “an incompetent regime” and singled out Touré’s “incapacity to manage the crisis in the north of the country. and to fight terrorism”.

Some portion of the Malian army overthrew the government and suspended the constitution this morning in response to their government’s inadequate armament of the army in the battles against the Tamashek separatists rebels returning from yep, you guessed it, Libya. The Tuareg coming back from Libya are extremely well armed, very well trained, and have a lot of Gaddafi’s money. They are seeking autonomy for the Azawad region, and have been doing that (peaceably and otherwise) for quite awhile, and this time it looks like they are a serious threat to whatever is left of the Malian government after today. There is no telling where this situation is going. Ban Ki Moon, failure that he is, has already called for everyone to put down their weapons, which is always a good sign.

At the moment there are close to 100,000 refugees of the rebellion straining food stores in surrounding nations, including Senegal and Niger, the former of which has already been facing a constitutional crisis because of their idiotic president. Many of the aid organizations were dismayed by the news from Bamako, for obvious reasons.

Glenn Greenwald on perception of Libya in the US:

Like “Osama bin Laden,” “Libya” now has virtually no meaning in our political discourse other than its use as shorthand by Democrats to prove President Obama’s Toughness and Foreign Policy skill, and its use by advocates of intervention in Syria to establish the nobility of humanitarian wars.

Those feeling that good old White Man’s Burden when it came to African affairs were not interested in the niceties of the Maghreb’s ethnic makeup, and instead patted themselves on the back for the assassination of Gaddafi. There’s a direct line between the fall of the Malian government and NATO’s ill thought out invasion of Libya. I seem to remember another war where we forgot to give the army new jobs after the fall of their government, which resulted in heavily armed rebels doing horrible things. Someone will have to remind me what war that is, there are just so many to remember!

How many times did I have to say, “I don’t think we understand all the dimensions of this civil war”? Obviously not enough. But Democrat and Republican Imperialists can’t get enough.

As for Libya, it’s going to be a real hot summer. The militias that overthrew Gaddafi are refusing to disarm. 

The most powerful militias in the western cities of Zintan and Misrata have refused the government’s calls to disarm. These militias believe that remaining armed allows them to retain political influence in the new order that they fought to create.

Amnesty International has documentednumerous cases of abuse and torture of detainees by local militias, and there have been many reports of reprisals against civilians living in perceived pro-Gadhafi areas. Militia rule is made possible by the weakness of the NTC, which never had real control over armed rebel forces during the war, and still does not. Plus, the council’s opacity and corruption have been rapidly de-legitimizing it in the eyes of Libyans.

When will we learn?

The Importance of Buying Local

“Sentayehu Teshale is a true craftsman. One of my workshop students, Mulugeta Gebrekidan, came up with the idea to film him at work. Sometimes you can see Sentayehu working in public around Addis Ababa.”

This amazing craftsman captures what is important about work, dignity, and exchange.

The “Feeling” Theory of Democratized Force in Star Wars

Most people familiar with Star Wars knows how many times “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” is said.

This video demonstrates it nicely.

My thought yesterday was that maybe it’s not just a cute one liner. Maybe there’s something more to it.

When Luke is about to use his targeting computer in the trench run in A New Hope, Obi Wan’s voice tells him, “trust your feelings” (here’s a copy of the script of A New Hope**). In Empire, Darth Vader tells Luke to “search” his feelings to see that he is Anakin’s true son. In the same film, Yoda tells Luke to “feel the force”.

It seems to me that all the instances of “I have a bad feeling about this” are experiences of the Force manifesting themselves in people who do and do not have strong Force powers. Usually, when someone says this, they are on to something. Leia says it in the asteroid worm monster’s gut. Han says it in the trash compactor. It could be an accident of scripting, but I am of the opinion that it’s the force being worked into every situation (“it surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”).

Deep, right? Probably not, but it was worth writing down, if just to watch some Star Wars clips to verify it.

** I was watching a clip of the trench run and noticed that the remastered version of it has Obi Wan saying “Trust ME”, instead of “Trust your feelings”. George Lucas has lost his fucking mind.

“You can’t demand purity out of anyone”

My wife said this in reaction to the Chris Hedges piece on “The Cancer in Occupy”. It captures the issue so well, that I shouldn’t have to explain it, but I will. The non violent advocates are demanding that the movement remain pure in action, pure in thought. Purity has its place, but it is an individual effort. Muslims call that effort the greater form of jihad. When purity becomes a matter of evangelicalism, it becomes the lesser form of jihad. I probably can stop there.

The definition of non violence at work in this piece, and more recently, in this piece by Barry Eidlin, is strict. It demands a purity of action. In this practical framework, a violent action certainly covers what Black Bloc does (burning down stores, throwing rocks and bottles, graffiti), but it’s not entirely clear where it ends.

In order to figure this out, let’s start with the premise that breaking windows with thrown rocks is a violent act. The destruction of private property deprives the owner of that property. They cannot get back what was destroyed.

With that in mind, let’s turn to a statement by some Episcopal NY Bishops:

Trinity Church, Wall Street, has provided extensive practical and pastoral support to the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Trinity congregation has decided that the property known as Duarte Park is not appropriate for use by the Occupy movement, and that property remains closed. Other facilities of Trinity continue to be open to support the Occupy movement, for which I give great thanks. It is regrettable that Occupy members feel it necessary to provoke potential legal and police action by attempting to trespass on other parish property. Seekers after justice have more often achieved success through non-violent action, rather than acts of force or arms.  I would urge all concerned to stand down and seek justice in ways that do not further alienate potential allies.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori,
Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church

Here, violence is being defined as the practice of force that provokes legal action. Non violence, I suppose, would be non forceful action that avoids breaking the law. The problem is obvious: private property protection means that mere trespassing is considered a forceful, violent action. The rationale here is that a person who trespasses is forcefully depriving someone else of their property rights. If it’s a privately owned but publicly operated park, the trespasser is depriving the owner of the right to do with that place as they please. That’s why Occupy Philadelphia was trampled by horses despite the fact that there were no Black Blocs operating there, as far as I know. Violence, in the eyes of the laws, extends to all private property, not just things that can be destroyed.

Non-violent thinkers seem to have created a binary opposition, when violence is really a continuum. We should be careful to proceed with these arguments about non violence, because the definition is fuzzier than some would like it to be, particularly when the law is factored in.

Returning to my wife’s thought on this, the demand for purity inherent in Hedge’s working definition of non violent action is in denial of what non violent action has looked like in the past. It was interesting to see Graeber quote the April 6th movement’s assertion that they weren’t acting violent in last year’s revolution because, hey, we weren’t using guns!

Rather than demanding purity out of an entire movement of people who mean well, let’s admit that you cannot have Martin Luther King Jr. without Malcolm X.