Recently cited as a model of democracy in sub-Saharan Africa, Mali today is experiencing one of the most serious security, political, social and institutional crises of its history.

Text: Moussa Diarra, Malian Cultural Actor 

The Tuareg rebellion is undoubtedly the taste of water that broke the camel. In front of this insurgency caused by the Libyan crisis, Malian authorities were unable to find appropriate solutions… there was a communication gap, famished army without equipment or morale, national opinion had not the right information. This situation continued until the massacre of Malian soldiers in Aguelhok (northern part) last January. This macabre revelation, relayed by international media, has generated a series of protest that led to the coup and the impasse the country experienced…

This coup is the result of several exogenous and endogenous factors: erosion of the social fabric, widespread corruption, social discomfort, rising living costs, drought, Tuareg insurgency in the northern part, Libyan crisis, and discomfort in the army…

The Tuareg rebellion or the “Privileged minority”
We must recognize that for some time, discomfort was felt in Malian society. The Tuareg
rebellion goes back to the 60s, however, it never managed to get a definitive solution, despite numerous attempts with the help of neighboring countries, which proved to be unsuccessful over the years; a crisis mismanaged always come back….

It is true that the Tuareg population has greatly suffered from economic underdevelopment, due to climatic conditions in the area (the desert), the mismanagement of investment funds allocated to the north by successive Malian governments. It is also true that there is a Tuareg cultural specificity (something that is true for all other ethnic groups in Mali, which all have their particularities), however, many efforts have been done in time and space to better integrate this population who felt marginalized, so it enjoys full rights of Malian citizenship.

The Tuareg, thanks to the various agreements, have enjoyed the privileges as well as all Malian citizens…We attend the same universities with some of current MNLA and Ansar Dine members, they occupied the highest positions in government, the army, in all layers of Malian society (statistics are the attest), often to the detriment of the majority populations of the northern part of the country. Voices were often raised to denounce the so-called “privileged minority”, that’ is to say the Tuareg who appeared to be privileged everywhere. So, it’s not fair to think that the cause of these repeated rebellions are the marginalization of any segment of Mali population; the truth is that Mali is a poor and underdeveloped country from the south to the north...and like most African countries, it struggles to stabilize its institutions and ensure economic development for its people, something comprehensible considering that it’s only been about 20 years since democracy began in many part of this continent. While in Europe it is more than one hundred years that people vote…

Also, we must note that the northern Mali is populated by several communities different from Tuareg. In northern Mali, we have Sonraï (majority), Arab, Fulani, Moors, etc. who do not identify with the claims of secessionists…knowing that the Tuareg fighting for independence are only about 15% of the Tuareg in northern Mali. It is true that some Tuareg group has legitimate claims as the right to development, education, health, but the fact remains that there is not a real Tuareg problem, different from that of other Malian communities, as they want us to believe. Mr. Daha Bâ, Director of the African Institute of Enterprise, based in Albi (France) and Bamako, said as follows in one of his stories on the crisis in Mali: “The current problem is not a Tuareg problem. The Tuareg are considered and they are present in the government. Mali, which is a model of decentralization in Africa, gave full responsibility to its regional representatives. The MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) claims to be Tuareg, but it doesn’t represent them”.

The discomfort in the northern part of the country has its root causes, dictated by the geostrategic issues, the basement of this area… We must dig in the economic and geopolitical issues of this situation to fully understand what’s happening in Mali.

 Geopolitical Issues
This territory claimed by the MNLA represents approximately two thirds of the national
territory. A very difficult area that generates a lot of greed since always due to the basement, the Sahara is a major issue for Western transnational mining companies (Areva in Niger, for example), and oil (an Australian oil exploration in northern Mali in recent years)... This northern part of Mali is characterized by complex geopolitical issues. If we don’t understand them no solution is possible.

The recent resurgence of the Tuareg rebellion in the north and the political crisis in the south are the direct result of the Libyan crisis which has been strongly supported by the West, because of the strategic interests of involved countries. This is above all an ideal sanctuary for AQMI (Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb) because of the nature of the desert, difficult to control, therefore fertile ground for terrorist bandits. This part is also the transit point for drug leaders from around the world. The area is considered to have a very rich basement (oil, etc.) and to be one of the best vantage points of the earth because of the meridian passing through Tessalit and Taoudéni in the north.

This is a global geopolitical issue…that hides extra interests of certain powerful countries at the expense of former colonies, developing countries. What is happening in northern Mali is just a power struggle that reminds us we are in a world where it is the fittest that imposes its rules to the weakest. The problem in the northern part of Mali is an outright manipulation orchestrated by powerful and “invisible” hands, time will tell…

The Institutional Crisis in the South
Today, we must hail the involvement of all stakeholders through the agreement, which
certainly has weaknesses but which allowed to have an interim president, a prime minister and his government. This government is struggling to run the state institutions; the parliament is working again. Certainly, there are always uncertainties but learning democracy goes through these various tests. Indeed, there was a cacophony in the aftermath of the coup…between the pro-coup and those who are against the coup. Each party believed firmly that its convictions were the best. There was a sense that neither party really cared about the interests of the nation. Political parties, leaders of associations of civil society, military, etc. … that was the class struggle, everyone wanted to position himself, taking advantage of the institutional crisis that was installed by the force of circumstances. After the interim period of forty days proscribed by the Malian constitution, hopefully with the help of ECOWAS, organs of the transition are now working for the best interests of the nation; it will take at least a year for everything to return to normal, this is a big change…it’s slow but it’s going in the right direction.

The problem in this northern part is so complex that Mali alone cannot solve it; there are
exogenous and endogenous factors. For a sustainable and effective resolution of the crisis, joint efforts from all stakeholders are imperative. We must first open collaboration between the core countries (Algeria, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina)…Those countries, that are directly or indirectly affected by the collateral effects of this unpleasant situation, must join forces to fight against all forms of trafficking, armed bandits and malicious factions that rage in the area at the expense of honest citizens.

We must also use our traditional values of dialogue and consensus by organizing national consultations including all stakeholders without exclusion to jointly seek a negotiated, concerted and sustainable solution to this situation that lasted too long. Any use of force prematurely will only create future Tuareg children or frustrated Southerners who will try to avenge later…Only when this fails completely through dialogue we can explore other ways.

For lasting peace, the strong support of the international community is essential through the continental institutions and sub-regional organizations such as the African Union and ECOWAS, because the desert is vast and unmanageable by a single country. The scourge of terrorism affects the whole world. It is clear the authorities of the transition are working on this way, which allows a better perspective and a hope for the future. We hope that the rebirth of a new Mali is on.

 Moussa Diarra
Malian Cultural Actor


AuthorCato Litangen