Three months have passed since last I wrote about the crisis in Mali, events of monumental proportions had occurred in this landlocked West-African Nation. If you have been following this story from the very beginning, you will remember that I described the situation on the ground and the possible impact this conflict will have on regional and global security. The world managed to ignore our cries and our rightful premonitions, the mainstream media was totally unconcerned; once again some Executives decided that broadcasting baseball games is more important than showing you the battle for the soul of Mali, a nation abandoned by the Western World in her hour of need. As if we have not learned anything from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Mali’s allies watch with indifference as half of the nation’s territory is sacked, plundered and occupied by two criminal elements (one using a separatist colouration and one adopting a religious façade, we know both to be lawless bands of thugs because cruelty is their hallmark) . When MNLA, MOJUA and Ansar Al- Deen first blitz-krieged through Gao, Kidal and the ancient city of Timbuktu, despite the fact that there numbers were few and their logistics capability was limited, ECOWAS, AU, UNSC provided no meaningful support to the Malian army in its fight against secessionists Rebels and AQIM; the result of this inaction is a disaster with ramifications we are yet to fully understand.
Both the Constitutional crises that truncated Malian Democracy and the Rebellion in the North are by-product of Western Imperialism, a fall-out of NATO’s not so righteous intervention in Libya- the single most destabilising act in the continent since the end of the Cold War. Under the guise of a hastily sanctioned No-Fly Zone, the old Colonial powers and their friend from across the Atlantic launched massive air strikes on a sovereign nation, the Libyan uprising is believed by many to be a covert CIA operation manufactured in Langley. As we begin to count the cost of this aggression, Responsibility to Protect (R2P)- the idea invoked to justify this regime change is as ridiculous as it is self-contradictory; the motivations for it are as old as war itself, Human Rights and all the other lies are as always, less important than the barrels of oil on which the New World Order depends.
Those of us who understand what is at stake, are flabbergasted at how the International press is now reporting the disconcerting events taking place in Northern Mali, only now that almost half of Timbuktu’s heritage has been destroyed do they write about the city’s great significance and its invaluable contribution to our civilization. The way it is presented, one is made to believe what happened was an unfortunate tragedy more like a natural disaster, but the truth of the matter is that this is not only hypocritical, it is quite insulting; What else do they expect? Ninety days ago, we who are truly concerned with the fate of a region that was once a beacon of knowledge and stable democracy, wrote comprehensively and through a careful analysis of all available data, are able to accurately predict much of what is happening now and what may soon follow.
THE BAMAKO DEBACLE
Mali’s Interim President (formerly the Speaker of its Parliament) was attacked by a mob and was physically assaulted. This shameful act could not have been possible without the tacit say-so of the Military Junta that supposedly handed power in an E.C.O.W.A.S brokered agreement which restored Constitutional Authority while at the same time granting amnesty to the coup plotters. This breakthrough brought us closer than anticipated to resolving the crises, but all our optimism was suddenly betrayed; Mali’s Presidential guard stood by and watched as their Head of State was humiliated with disgraceful savagery and brutality. On 22nd May, the interim President Dioncounda Traore fled the country for medical treatment in France, he has so far refused to leave Paris and return to exercise the power he did not really have. The political scene in Bamako remains as chaotic and unpredictable as ever.
A few kilometres to the north of Bamako, deep in the Sahara sands where the heart of this conflict lies, the Taureg separatist movement (MNLA) finds its interests more and more opposed to that of its ester-while ally; The Islamists. Even though they had fought and defeated the Malian Army together, their incompatible visions of the future made violent confrontation inevitable. The Islamists, who possesed military superiority over the rebels did not hesitate to put it to good use by ceasing all three strategic cities in the region (GAO, Kidal, Timbukutu). The Islamist coalition (composed of AQIM, MOJUA, Ansar Al Deen et al) then begin to stamp their authority on the territory they now control, this they accomplished by putting in place an administration with intense totalitarian repression as its foundation. In Timbuktu, under the guise of Hudud, they began demolishing the tombs of revered Sufi Saints- the same people who five hundred years ago brought and spread the Islamic faith to the length and breadth of West Africa. These Mousoleums (listed as a UN Heritage Site) are the last remaining traces of Timbuktu’s glorious past, among a few living reminders of a time most scholars consider to be the golden age of not only Mali, but the entire Negro Race. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. In the light of which, one is forced to ask: how could any one justify the destruction of this priceless fountain of our history? By what ignorance? What inhumanity and which madness?
Nigeria, the continental powerhouse and perhaps the only country in West Africa with the resources and the military capability to ensure stability in the region, is now due to its many domestic concerns, in no position to engage in any such adventurism. Gone were the days when under a military dictatorship herself, Nigeria surprised international observers by almost single-handedly ending the decades-old civil war in Liberia and Sierra Leone and leading these two scarred nations into a new era of democracy. These extraordinary achievements were successfully exploited when the country was returned to civil rule; the government of the Third Republic while reviewing the focus of Nigeria’s foreign policy, adopted the “entrenchment of democracy, the security and territorial integrity” of its neighbours as one of the most fundamental ethos that govern its diplomacy. These words continue to shape its evolving strategy in the arena of international relations. However, Nigeria as the de-facto leader of the regional bloc E.C.O.W.A.S was slow to confront the dangers unleashed by the chaos in Northern Mali, the current administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan clearly did not have the fore-sight to realise the threats posed by the crisis to Nigeria’s long-term socio-political and economic interests, nor does the administration possess the necessary political will to counter these emerging perils.
The Nigeria championed by Professor Ali Mazrui in his 1979 BBC Lectures The African Condition is now more or less shying away from its responsibilities, reluctant to awaken and fulfil its manifest-destiny. The 3000 Peace-Keeping troops mustered under the aegis of E.C.O.W.A.S are yet to be deployed to Mali, Nigeria is now delegating the task of lobying the United Nations Security Council for a resolution to lesser figures like the President of the Republic of Niger and Benin, putting its security and that of her immediate neighbours in the hands of our former colonial masters, those who choose to close their ears to the agony of those in Africa’s unfortunate trouble-spots.
As West African Militaries continue to plan for the eventual intervention in Mali, many important questions remain unanswered; what would the relationship between ECOWAS and the separatist rebel group be now that they find themselves marginalised by the forces they once called friends? What are the risks of the Malian Army vis the Junta becoming hostile to the presence of the Peace-Keeping Forces? Could intervention once again lead us into a deadly situation where ECOWAS troops have to fight on two fronts, against Ansar & MNLA in the north while at the same time confronting the Junta in the South? Such worst-case scenarios must be put into consideration for the mission to have any chance of success, this is the bitter lesson that the Nigerian Armed Forces learned during the second battle for Free Town. In retrospect, if ECOWAS is to ally itself with the now weakened MNLA by offering quasi-Autonomy to the Azawad in return for their support in the effort to liberate and secure the North, the peace-keeping forces could win the Hearts & Minds of the local Tuareg population (an invaluable asset in any counter-insurgency).
Many unresolved dilemmas still remain, these are the riddles in the sand.
To be Continued.