September 11, 2013:
Now that the newly elected government has taken over, the U.S. has restored $97 million in economic aid that was halted last year because of the army coup. Before the coup the U.S. was giving about $140 million a year. The new government needs all the money it can get because it has a 60 day deadline to negotiate a peace deal with the Tuareg rebels (the MNLA) in the north. This was part of the deal the MNLA made when they turned against the Islamic terrorist groups in the north as the French-led invasion of the north began last January. MNLA cooperation is now crucial in eliminating the al Qaeda presence in the far north. Here, along the Algerian border, al Qaeda has had bases and local relationships for over a decade. There are still many Islamic terrorists up there, hunkered down in remote villages, waiting for the French troops to go home. The French, and local allies like the MNLA, continue to find and arrest (or kill, if there is resistance) Islamic terrorists who are trying to remain hidden and rebuild the terrorist organization in Mali. The French know how crucial MNLA cooperation is because these Tuareg rebels have contacts in the north that can lead to well hidden Islamic terrorists and caches of weapons, ammo, explosives, and other useful gear. Over the last few months the search operation in the north has continued to show results, but only because of cooperation from local Tuareg tribesmen. For the black majority in southern Mali, the MNLA and other troublesome Tuareg should be punished, not negotiated with. The newly installed Mali government contains a lot of politicians who understand the need for some kind of deal up north and maintaining good relations with the MNLA. But many of those southern politicians are tempted to grab some popular support by adopting an anti-Tuareg line. France and other Western donors have made it known that such grandstanding will not be appreciated. But as the old saying goes, “all politics is local.”
September 4, 2013: President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita took office after winning last months’ elections. He promised law and order, less corruption, and more economic activity. But they all do that, and Malians are waiting to see proof. Mali remains one of the most corrupt places on the planet, and that will not change quickly or easily.
August 30, 2013: France, Italy, Britain, Spain, the Netherlands, and Germany have joined with most North African and Sahel (the semi-desert region below the Sahara Desert that stretches from the Atlantic to the Red Sea) in an agreement to share information on Islamic terrorists operating in northern Africa and the Sahel. The European countries will offer military and economic assistance in fighting Islamic terrorism in the region, especially to nations down there that cooperate.
August 29, 2013: In the north fifty rogue Tuareg MNLA fighters moved and attacked a group of armed Arab traders, 1 attacker was killed and 15 wounded. This took place outside Kidal, and Senegalese peacekeepers intervened to drive off the MNLA men, who have turned to banditry to survive. A June 18th peace deal had the MNLA leave Kidal, their last stronghold. The MNLA had controlled Kidal since March 2012, as they tried to establish a role in governing the largely Tuareg north. MNLA had been forced out of Kidal by Islamic terrorists for nine months and regained control in January 2013. French and Chadian troops had been in Kidal for over six months and have been joined by some other African peacekeepers. The hundreds of MNLA rebels were supposed to return to their homes, but some stayed around Kidal and many turned to crime to survive.
August 28, 2013: Two weeks after promoting captain Amadou Sanogo, who led the March 2012 coup, to lieutenant-general, the interim government has persuaded Sanogo to retire on a general’s pension. Apparently this deal included some guarantees that Sanogo would not be prosecuted for his role in the coup. Three months ago Sanogo apologized for his actions and promised to help repair the damage. After the French invasion last January, Sanogo and his fellow mutineers kept their weapons and managed to hold onto some power. The mutineers also quickly agreed to restore civilian government. This past February Sanogo was appointed head of a military reform committee. Many mutineers opposed the use of ECOWAS troops to oust the rebels in the north but did nothing to interfere, largely because of help from Sanogo. In effect, the mutineers have just stepped back and never surrendered. For his good behavior and decision to make himself useful, Sanogo was promoted. Sanogo remains an opponent of corruption and if he stays clean he will always have some allies at the top.