World Watch

by / August 6, 2012

Salient dives head first into the tumultuous politics of Western Africa.

If things keep going the way they are for the West African country of Mali, it might just join the club of failed states. Malians have recently endured several coups and, as if that wasn’t enough bad luck already, half the country has been lost to an Islamist insurgency. Someone needs to give these guys a break.

The situation began escalating in March, when Captain Amadou Sanogo and a few army buddies decided the government was doing a terrible job of dealing with rebels in the north. Convinced they knew how to do things better, they booted then-President Amadou Toumani Toure out of office.

But things took an embarrassing turn for the worse, when in the ensuing confusion typical of a coup, the rebels captured half of the country and three of Mali’s biggest cities. Now that’s a little awkward for Sanogo, to say the least.

The military junta begrudgingly handed the reigns of power over to an interim government, led by President Traore. However they immediately seized power back when they heard through the African grapevine that ex-president Toure was planning a coup of his own.

Meanwhile, the rebels were up to some mischief themselves. Originally indigenous Tuareg, and historically a nomadic Berber people hailing from the north of the country, the rebels have long been pushing for greater land and cultural rights. They also accuse the government of discriminating against them because of their lighter skin tone.

Traore has just returned to town from Paris, where he was recovering from a beating he received from an angry mob of military supporters who stormed his office, carrying a coffin with his name on it—literally!

So while all of this to-ing and fro-ing with Sanogo and Traore was going down, the rebels declared northern Mali the Independent state of Azawad! Who said politics was boring?

Islamist extremist group Ansar Dine also threw in with the Tuareg, seeing a good opportunity to fulfill their dream of introducing Sharia law across largely secular Mali. They invited their fellow jihadists from al Qaeda’s African franchise to join them. These jihadists had just been in Libya fighting for Muammar al Qaddafi and returned with some serious weaponry.

After utterly destroying Mali’s national army, the Tuareg movement for independence was hijacked by the extremist groups who told the Tuareg to STFU while the Islamists set about creating a fundamentalist mini-state.

So what is the international community doing about all this? Absolutely nothing. The situation would have to reach the United Nations’ traditional threshold of being absolutely ridiculous before anything is done.

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