Since the putsch of March 2012, Mali has been sinking in what seems to be an uncurable political crisis: While the coup was orchestrated by a mutiny, unexpected groups of brutal jihadists have taken the control of unsupervised lands in the north of the country. This somalian situation scares the international community that sees no other solution but to strike back with the force.
Marc Fonbaustier, a French diplomat who works at the crisis management department of the French ministry of foreign affairs as head of the “situation center”, has been closely following and analysing the Malian situation. According to Marc Fonbaustier’s analysis, the country has been facing the risk of a coup for quite a while when considering the following:
For decades now, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, a group of rebel Tuaregs, has been disputing the north of the country. Since 1962, the group has been fighting for the establishment of a Tuareg state in the northern part of the country. Now this situation has only gotten worth.
Since recently, Mali has also been facing a security crisis, with the Al Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb settling base in the desertic regions of Sahel after the fall of the Lybian regime. The Sahel belt goes right through Mali. The international community has been working hard to dismantle AQIM’s bases and hide-outs, but controlling the Sahara desert is not an easy task.
For the past years, Mali has been dealing with lesser food supplies and agricultural resources, thus heavily relying on external aids to survive. Many regions have gone through chronic starvation, thousands of people have been displaced, refugee camps have been setup… This instability has led to a weak political power that lost control when the attacks hit the country.
The newspapers Jeune Afrique has published an article “Who can save the Mali?” (in french) which explains how the Economic Community of Western African States, which is in charge of supervising Mali’s crisis, is asking the UN for larger means to cure the problem, ie the authorization (through a mandate) to send military troops in northern Mali (about 5000 soliders). Four neighboring countries to Mali could get involved: Niger, Mauritania, Nigeria and Algeria. The latter offered to send its air force under two conditions, one being to keep the French out of this battle. Algeria has also been criticized for being too mellow in this crisis, and accused of assisting AQIM in its military offensive.
A military intervention could break the jihadist control of northern Mali into pieces. However, what would remain is a Mali where the transitional government has shredded into pieces, and where northern Malians will still be asking for some form of independence. In other words, a war would probably kick the AQIM out of Mali, but it won’t cure its deeper ethno-political illness.