For over a month now French troops have been hunting down and arresting MNLA members suspected of violent acts against peacekeepers and foreigners in general.
MNLA means (in French) “Liberation Army of Azawad”. That is the Tuareg term for their homeland in northern Mali and until the June 18 agreement its capital was Kidal. The Mali government was upset that MNLA men controlled most of the rural (and very thinly populated) areas in the north for over a year after yet another Tuareg rebellion broke out up there in early 2012. France is having a hard time convincing black African politicians from the more populous southern Mali that it’s worthwhile making concessions to MNLA. The French point out that the Tuareg rebels have been defeating black African troops from the south for generations and there’s no quick fix for that. The more immediate threat are the Islamic terrorists and Tuareg cooperation is essential for dealing with the likes of AQIM, Al Mourabitoun and Ansar Dine. The Islamic terrorists are largely Arab and Tuareg and their goal, for all intents and purposes is to enslave the majority black African population of Mali by imposing a religious dictatorship. Black Africans in general do not want to be ruled by Arabs, who look down on black Africans and have been enslaving and exploiting them for over a thousand years. Many Malians understand what the Arab Islamic terrorists are up to here, but the Mali leadership is distracted by power struggles and getting rich (via corruption). It’s a sad situation with no easy solution. The MNLA is losing patience with the stalled peace talks and the recent MNLA announcement about ending their truce was just a recognition that admission that the MNLA leadership had lost control of many of their members who were willing to resume the fight. France has persuaded the MNLA leadership to continue trying to keep their hotheads in check but the Mali government responded by accusing the French of being MNLA.
France is also pressuring the Mali government to do more to stop its soldiers from abusing (often killing) Maliian Arabs, Tuaregs and non-black foreigners in the north. France is also angry over Mali officials trying to pressure Mali websites based in France to not report on Mali army atrocities in northern Mali. Foreign reports in Mali are also being harassed by Mali security forces and officials.
The Islamic terrorists in northern Mali are suffering from a shortage of leaders and technical people. The ongoing French raids and aircraft using smart bombs on terrorist bases has caused lots of irreplaceable losses. There appears to be no shortage of manpower for Islamic terrorist groups and France is pressuring Mali to make (and keep) a satisfactory peace deal with MNLA so that these Tuareg tribesmen can help in the hunt for Islamic terrorists. The loss of leaders and bomb builders, however, is making the Islamic terrorists less effective.
France is also telling its African allies and former colonies that France will no longer act as policeman for Africa and now expects African nations to take care of most peacekeeping. This new policy can be seen in the way France responded to appeals for peacekeepers from CAR (Central African Republic). France sent about a thousand troops, but mainly to protect French citizens and interests. Solving the political problems there is being left to African peacekeepers.
The December 15th legislative elections gave recently (in September) elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s party 61 of 147 seats. With some close allies, Keita has a 115 seat majority and control of the government. Keita has 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. While the presidential elections brought out 49 percent of voters the two rounds of voting for parliament brought out only 38 and 37 percent. In the north Islamic terrorist threats and inept planning kept a lot of people from voting.
The government is preparing to prosecute the leader of the army coup in early 2012. Last August the government promoted captain Amadou Sanogo, who led the March 2012 coup, to lieutenant-general, and two weeks later the interim government persuaded Sanogo to retire on a general’s pension. This deal was thought to include some guarantees that Sanogo would not be prosecuted for his role in the coup. Earlier (in May) 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 remained an opponent of corruption but was still considered a threat to the wealthy families and prominent politicians he deposed in 2012. The families of those killed by Sanogo’s supporters last year are angry and with Sanogo disarmed and out of uniform the search for bodies of his victims has yielded several mass graves. Sanogo allies are also threatened and if the new government doesn’t do better than the last one there will be another coup, and probably a more brutal one.
December 16, 2013: In the north (Kidal) two mortar shells were fired at a peacekeeper compound but there was no damage or casualties.
December 14, 2013: In the north (Kidal) a suicide car bomber attacked a bank guarded by peacekeepers, killing two of them and wounding seven others.
December 12, 2013: MNLA rebels announced an end to the ceasefire with the government and peacekeepers.
December 9, 2013: In the north (200 kilometers northeast of Timbuktu) a French raid on an al Qaeda base left at least 19 of the Islamic terrorists dead. Much data, weapons and equipment was also seized. This was the largest haul for a single raid so far.
December 7, 2013: The EU training team graduated their third battalion of Mali troops infantry. A fourth battalion will finish training by May, when the EU training agreement runs out. It looks like the agreement will be extended another year.
November 30, 2013: In the north (Menaka) a suicide bomber set off his explosives near a UN peacekeeper base, but the only casualty was the bomber.
November 28, 2013: In the north (Kidal) Mali troops opened fire on Tuareg demonstrators. The hostile, pro-MNLA, crowd demanded that Mali troops and UN peacekeepers leave the north. Five demonstrators were wounded by the gunfire.
November 27, 2013: In the capital 2012 coup leader and recently retired army officer Amadou Sanogo was arrested and charged with murder, kidnapping and torture.
In the north French troops arrested an al Qaeda man who had escaped (in jail break by Nigerian Boko Haram Islamic terrorists) from prison last June. The man was serving 20 years for killing four Saudi Arabian tourists in 2009 and was suspected of killing an American in 2000.
November 23, 2013: In the north (near Gao and the Niger border) fighting between black tribesmen (Peul) and MNLA (Tuareg) rebels left at least a dozen Peul dead over the last few days.