Potential Hot Spots: Mali Mess Mutates



Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War 

April 10, 2012: The coup leader (Captain Amadou Sanogo) warned that foreign troops would not be welcome as the Mali armed forces prepared to take back the sparsely populated northern part of the country, which is now under the control of Tuareg rebels. Sanogo has a serious problem in that many of his army followers do not agree with his decision to return the elected government to power. But Sanogo had little choice, as the AU (African Union) and ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) was preparing to invade and had already imposed economic sanctions on land-locked Mali. Moreover, most Malians do not back the army mutineers. Sanogo believed that his actions and those of the several thousand troops that followed him would lead to broad popular support. That did not happen, and now he is being blamed for the northern half of the country being lost to Tuareg rebels (who have proclaimed their independence). The AU, and most other foreign government, refuses to recognize the new Tuareg government in northern Mali.

There are at least three separate armed forces in the north. The main one is the MNLA (Liberation Army of Azawad) which represents the most militant and heavily armed Tuareg rebels. A smaller, less well equipped ally is Ansar Dine, an Islamic radical group containing many former (or current) al Qaeda members and technically an ally of MNLA. Then there is the FLNA (Azawad National Liberation Front), a group of armed Arab residents of Timbuktu which seeks to defend member interests as the Tuareg (who are not Arabs) take control of Timbuktu. The AU and the Mali army hope to exploit the differences between these northern rebel groups. Currently, there are often tense relations between MNLA and Ansar Dine members. The Ansar Dine considers themselves morally superior to the MNLA (which contains a lot of mercenaries and thugs who are in it for the money and freedom from those non-Tuareg southerners). MNLA men have looted and raped in towns they have captured, and this has sometimes resulted in violent confrontations with Ansar Dine men. Militias like the FLNA oppose both the Tuareg and the largely foreign Islamic radicals. This is already causing some unrest inside Timbuktu, a city long run by Arabs but one that Ansar Dine is now trying to impose Islamic law on. This could get nasty. Meanwhile there is still a drought and food shortage in the north. The Tuareg uprising has halted aid shipments (especially food) because of the increased criminality up there. If things don't settle down up there in the next month people are going to begin dying of starvation.

The rebellious Mali soldiers have been moving to the central Mali city of Mopti (which is at the junction of the Niger and Bani rivers) and preparing to retake control of the north. To the north of Mopti the terrain becomes drier and, after a hundred kilometers or so, desert. The city is also the destination of many of the 200,000 northerners who fled their homes to escape the violence. ECOWAS and the AU are raising a force of 3,000 troops to assist in putting down the Tuareg rebels up north. Captain Sanogo and his fellow mutineers still have their weapons and may yet try to hold onto their power.

April 8, 2012: President Amadou Toumani Touré resigned as part of a deal with the army rebels to return to civilian rule. The president of the legislature will now be sworn in as the new president of the country.

April 6, 2012: The military junta made a deal with ECOWAS to step down and allow the civilian government to resume control of the country. The army mutineers will receive amnesty, the current president will resign and be replaced by someone from the legislature. The exact timing of the turnover was not spelled out. Sanogo and his fellow mutineers were forced to make this deal when, earlier in the week, they found that no existing Mali political parties or groups would deal with the mutineers.

In the north the MNLA declared that all of Mali north of the narrow center of the country was now the new, Tuareg dominated, country of Azawad. Neighboring promptly refused to recognize this claim of independence.


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