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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