Tag Archives: ECOWAS

Negotiations Underway in Mali

http://allafrica.com/stories/201208090304.html

Negotiations are underway in Mali, and hopefully hostilities can be averted for as long as possible. Gao is not happy about the occupation by MUJAO, hinting that the hardline groups may not be as powerful as the media portrayed them to be:

MUJAO pushed out the National Movement for Independence and Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a grouping of Tuareg separatist rebels, in late June. Since then, some local youths in Gao have reportedly joined the MUJAO cause as paid mercenaries, but most residents are in stiff opposition to the rigid Sharia law the group has imposed. On 5 August, people in Gao protested in the streets at the planned amputation of the hand of an alleged thief.

It is interesting that ECOWAS and others are calling for Ansar Dine to move away from MUJAO and the other hardline groups. Previously the media had portrayed Ansar Dine as the big bad Islamist in town, though there seem to be more subtleties worth pointing out in this conflict. 

The International Crisis Group has criticized the ECOWAS negotiation tactics as “aggravating existing fault lines in Malian society.”

The now weakened MNLA has indicated that it is open to negotiations with the interim government in Bamako, which took over from the military junta, and has toned down its separatist demands.

It’s my hope (and I’m sure the hope of the ICG) that the MNLA can come to some agreement with Bamako before foreign intervention occurs. Otherwise, all Tuareg will be in the crosshairs of peacekeepers. 

The Libyan invasion by NATO forces last year resulted in a stable government for Libya, but has destabilized Mali in a time of critical environmental crisis. Rising temperatures and drought have caused mass migrations of Malians and terrible hunger for everyone in the country. Ban Ki Moon has called for sanctions against groups he deems extremist, and while I’m sure he thinks that this would be a positive development in Mali’s situation, I don’t see how that helps the hungry, many of whom are supported by the same insurgents that would be sanctioned. 

This seems to be a period of calm for Mali, and it needs to last if the people of Mali are to get any respite from the environmental catastrophe already present in this war torn country. 

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Discussion of Mali Intervention Hits Mainstream While President of Niger Declares Libya Intervention to be a Catalyst

http://www.npr.org/2012/08/02/157713415/a-diplomats-extended-visit-with-al-qaida-in-mali

Renee Montagne covered the Mali rebellions on NPR’s Morning Edition a few days back. She interviewed a Canadian Diplomat who had been captive of AQIM for several months. Judging by his tone of voice and very bleak outlook on the situation, his experience deeply affected him.

However when listening to the interview, one gets the feeling that Montagne was leading him with questions about American interventions. She specifically mentions drone strikes by the American military as an option for the Mali situation, piggybacking on his assertion that AQIM is not able to be negotiated with.

It’s no surprise to hear war mongering from NPR. Montagne is part of a DC media establishment that actively supports American imperialism. I won’t go through Glenn Greenwald’s arguments on this, because he does it much better than I could ever hope to. However Montagne’s credentials speak volumes (from Wikipedia):

Montagne was among the news anchors who attended the traditional off-the-record luncheon held with the U.S. president in advance of Barack Obama‘s 2011 State of the Union Address.

Attendance at an ‘off the record luncheon’ is usually a sign that you are held in high regard by the administration. Responsible reporters like Michael Hastings or even Helen Thomas, would never be invited to such an event. Montagne simply isn’t the type to say, “Malian affairs should be left to the Malians and their immediate neighbors”. Her solution to problems of international scale is to advocate for intervention.

Her guest, Robert Fowler, was simultaneously calling for some kind of Western intervention (though he was very pessemistic about its outcome), but said that the Libyan invasion had created a major heavy weapons problem in the Sahel region. Montagne, who presumably wrote the summary, parses it this way:

Fowler, a career diplomat, says the U.S. and its allies have “massively failed” in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Over the past decade, authoritarian leaders have been ousted in all three countries, but the transitions that have followed have been messy.

“We have caused one of the most unstable regions in the world to become awash in weapons,” he says.

However if you listen to the interview, it’s very clear that the specific place awash with weapons is Libya:

 I believe that what we did in Libya proves the imperative of the law of unintended consequences, and by overthrowing Gadhafi in the way we did – by the way I was perfectly happy to see him overthrown – we have caused one of the most unstable regions in the world to become awash in masses of weaponry.

Montagne glossed over this statement in favor of focusing on AQIM’s variety of extremism that, according to Fowler, renders them unable to be negotiated with.

It’s not wise to gloss over this statement, however. In this interview with Al-Jazeera, Niger’s president, Mahmadou Issoufou, goes on the record as saying that the death of Gaddafi was a huge catalyst in causing the vicious new uprisings in Mali.

“I have to say that what is happening in Mali is the result of the Libyan crisis – that’s what caused a military coup which made things even worse,”
“I don’t believe it was necessary to kill Gaddafi, especially the way he was killed.”

It’s interesting to see Mali’s close neighbor, Niger, publicly express dissatisfaction not only with the method with which Gaddafi was killed, but the fact that he was killed at all. On the other hand, we see Western diplomats thousands of miles away going out of their way to make sure that they are on the record saying that they are glad Gaddafi is dead, but similarly explaining that they think the consequences are very real.

This distinction isn’t picked up by the media at all. NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has been reporting on the people of Mali, which is a much needed facet of this story, and has made mention of factions that are controlling the northern territories in Mali. She’s probably the only responsible reporter the NPR employs when it comes to African affairs. Hell, I’d have her interviewing Fowler over Montagne, who sounds downright eager to hear about the prospect of intervention.

Jeremy Keenan has said that the MNLA is militarily superior to the forces of Ansar Dine. Western media reports that Ansar Dine and the MUJAO forces have “taken over” the territory, but they should be more specific in saying that MUJAO has taken some major urban centers and forced the MNLA out. The MNLA maintains that it still controls 90% of the Azawad proper.

Ansar Dine has said that they do not see their struggle as being part of the independent Azawad. Their struggle is for sharia law implementation. Their exact words were:

“We have handed (regional mediator) Blaise Compaore a letter by Iyad Ag Ghaly,” said a source close to the Ansar Dine delegation which has been holding talks with the Burkina Faso president in Ouagadougou.

“All we want is the implementation of sharia” in Mali, he said. “We are against independence.

I still hold out hope that the powers that be will see the internal rifts between the Tuareg and will use that to make sure that sharia is not implemented.

The western media needs to be more responsible in its reporting on this conflict. The issues are far deeper than NPR has generally made them out to be in its prime time reporting. It scares the hell out of me, because the last thing anyone in Mali needs is robot bombers flying around their skies.

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Tuareg Offer Help Against Terrorism

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2012/07/2012715192710362142.html

It’s interesting to see the MNLA’s new strategy: adopt the terrorism language of their nation state counterparts. It’s hard to say how this will turn out for them, but it makes for intriguing news nonetheless:

“The MNLA is not physically in every city in the Azawad, but that doesn’t mean we don’t exist … Azawad is a very large territory,” he said.

“We’re open to any collaboration against terrorism … we’re listening to the international community and are available for possible dialogue with Mali via mediator countries,” he said. But for now we haven’t seen will from Mali to sit at the negotiating table.”

“We’re currently working on a new military strategy to fight against terrorism in Azawad,” he added.

The AJE article characterizes the MNLA as having less military capability than Ansar Dine, but this goes in the face of Jeremy Keenan’s statements about the Tuareg insurgencies. It is clear, however, that Ansar Dine is the louder, more troublesome rebellion, and this may account for AJE’s characterization. 

The ICG distributed a statement on the crisis, warning ECOWAS to not aggravate the “deep fault lines” in Malian society. This is good advice: the war has an ethnic dimension, but still remains a territorial and political dispute over autonomy. It is possible, though not certain, that foreign intervention could turn this into something else. 

ECOWAS countries willing to send troops do not appear to fully grasp the complex social situation in northern Mali, and underestimate the high risk of inter-tribal settling of scores that would result from external military intervention. Such an intervention would turn Mali into a new front of the war on terror at the expense of longstanding political demands in the north and rule out any chance of peaceful coexistence between the different communities.

It’s useful to remember that the MNLA blocked out Ansar Dine’s leader prior to the start of hostilities, though ICG, in their recommendations, lumps them together in a single statement:

To the Leaders of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad and Ansar Dine:

12. Formulate publicly clear agendas and commit to:

a) respecting human rights and the principles of democratic and pluralist governance, especially with regard to religion, in the areas under their control;

b) guaranteeing security and equal access of the population to basic public services and facilitating the access of humanitarian organisations to the population;

c) helping to establish the facts regarding the atrocities at Aguelhoc as well as all other atrocities perpetrated during the military conquest of the north;

d) combatting the criminal trafficking activities that thrive in the territory they control;

e) joining immediately the fight against AQIM and its armed offshoots; and

f) exploring with the Malian government how to reach a rapprochement to avoid a lasting partition of the country and an internecine war.

Though they don’t mention it, I think recent news and the MNLA’s statements regarding combating terrorism may be reason for another recommendation to the parties invovled in the fate of the Azawad:

Make efforts to move the MNLA further from Ansar Dine and their goals

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Rumors of Afghan jihadist activity in Mali

The US Department of State seems to be encouraging rumors that Afghans and Pakistanis are going to Mali to support some kind of jihadist insurrection. 

http://allafrica.com/stories/201206111449.html

Question: I’m wondering if the U.S. has any concerns or evidence that there is this sort of jihadi Afghan-Pakistan connection going on in northern Mali and what you think the current situation there might mean for international – the international community. I mean, does the UN have to get involved now?

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m going to take the part about Afghans and others from far afield ending up in Mali. You know how strongly we feel that the instability in Mali is endangering the security and providing an opportunity for all kinds of nefarious actors to exploit the territory of the country. 

The UN is probably prepping a “peacekeeping force” at this very minute. 

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