The Forces of Internationalism Put Mali To Seige In Its Hour of Need.


Sometimes the world really does not make sense.

Tonight on CNN I saw a report on Mali. It mentioned how international aid had been cut to Mali in light of the coup, and how ECOWAS was facing up to the crisis by suffocating the country, still reeling form the MNLA capture of Timbuktu the day before, by starving it of currency.


After this report there were commercials and then a CNN appeal for #SAHEL NOW calling for donations to one of the world’s latest disasters, to help the starving children and families of the sahel in its impending famine. We are told “made worse by regional conflict”.

The irony would be comic if it was not such a deeply horrifying example of the true state of affairs of the politics of aid and corruption and international patronage of African affairs.

Mali is on its knees. The MNLA rebellion has taken control of the north. What remains of the Malian military protects the junta in the south. The south worries about the MNLA pushing on to Mopti, Segou even Bamako.

Across the Sahel drought is moving into famine, exacerbated by the problems in Mali.

What does the world do? Cuts aid.

What do ECOWAS do? They close the border, cut supplies of money.

What does the international world want? Total implosion? Total chaos? Mass movements of people out of Mali? Food shortages in parets of the sahel where there is no drought and famine? Riots in Bamako?

Captain Amadou Sanogo, the coup leader, has restored the constitution. He has begun discussions with civil society about moving towards elections. The guy needs help to stabilize the situation in Mali. ECOWAS should be focusing on stabilizing Mali, getting in there to support the rump of the Malian military to portect the line while the north and south of Mali negotiate their future. The more the outside world tries to influence what now happens in Mali, the less the final outcome will be lastingly secure.

Mali has always been two countries historically, culturally, politically and economically. It was forced together as another European de-colonization folly. Since its inception as a state in the 1960s Mali has suffered four north/south rebellions. Whether you are a Malian from the north or the south, it is time for the country to face its future head on. It must take this opportunity. If it is given the chance, Mali could end up out of this a better balanced  and more stable country than it was before.

But the international world’s – and we cant just blame Africa, the US and EU are working on Mali through ECOWAS –  total inability to come up with any sort of progressive, imaginative, peace keeping solution to Mali’s snowballing problems is very worrying.

As worrying is the pervading language of “strangulation”, “sanctions”,” cutting off”. For what purpose?

In the north the in-creep of “islamicising” of the Tuareg cause has begun. For the MNLA Tuareg rebels, the propaganda war has begun. News channels, reportage, facebook groups all from outside and with no verification, talk of the MNLA being linked up with Ansar Dine, a small Tuareg off shoot of AQMI,  and of them hoisting their flag and establishing sharia law. There is no confirmation of this but already it is talked of as fact. Expect much more of this in the coming weeks. It is the only way we can look at turbanned heads, the only language we know when describing the desert, and the assumption that our politics and our media want us to make.

News from Timbuktu itself is that MNLA are in control. AQMI leaders may be there, but they are not in control and are moving back out at the behest of the MNLA/. the MNLA are at pains, and always have been, to insist they have no islamist links or ideology, and I believe them. Ilyad Ag Agali, the Tuareg leader of Ansar dine, has even spoken out and said he is not for sharia law as has been reported.

I’m not sying it’s not there. But it is blown out of proportion for its significance on events at the moment. The Tuareg are looking at their first, best and perhaps only ever opportunity of a homeland. They wont scupper it now for some islamisim that Mali has always tried to throw at them, that they have always avoided and which has caused them so many problems.

It wouold not make sense for the Tuareg to link up with AQMI.  Part of their reason for rebelling now has been the insecurity that they have had to live with over the past few years and it going unchallenged.

Throughout the history of Tuareg rebellions they have never adopted anything like an islamist agenda. Islamism has nothing to key into in Tuareg culture. Now of course for the past few years Al Qaeda have been living alongside the Tuareg, not out of Tuareg choice. So inevitably, with tourism to the region cut off and Al Qaeda dishing out money, some Tuareg youth will have been taken in. But to compare it in size or influence or power to the MNLA is preposterous. AQMI is pretty much accepted to be a  smal force of about 300 guys lightly armed. According to the MNLA they have 4000 vehicles surrounding Timbuktu. What need do they have of AQMI?

The hard work begins now, for all Malians. But first they have to survive the assault from outside before they will be allowed to even begin negotiating within.