Wednesday, June 13, 2012

African Nations Calling For Intervention in Mali

In case you were wondering where the world's next armed conflict will be, the West African nation of Mali is looking like a good candidate. 

Members of ECOWAS, the Economic Community Of West African States, is building support for a resolution they will present to the United Nations Security Council requesting an armed force be deployed to the northern part of Mali to combat a growing Islamist movement that ECOWAS says could destabilize the entire region.

Map of Mali
“It is not just a threat for the region, but the world,” said President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger and the man leading the charge on ECOWAS' appeal to the UN.  Issoufou called Mali a potential “West African Afghanistan”, alleging that terror groups from Afghanistan and Pakistan are recuriting among young Islamic militiamen in northern Mali, adding that: “it is an international threat that needs an international response so this is why we have decided to take this to the Security Council.”

Mali, once held up as a model of stability in Africa, has suffered a bizarre and sudden collapse in recent months.  Mali's problems were kicked off in March when a group of army officers overthrew the government of democratically-elected President Amadou Toumani Toure over, what the army guys thought, was Toure's mishandling of an ongoing uprising by Tuareg tribesmen in the north of the country.  The Tuaregs were once the favored mercinaries of Libya's Moammar Gadhafi.  When the Gadhafi regime fell, thousands of well-trained, well-armed Tuaregs flooded back into their native Mali and began causing trouble.  The coup plotters claimed that Pres. Toure was not giving them the material and support they needed to effectively fight the Tuaregs.

But it quickly became clear that the coup plotters had no grand plan for governing and Mali fell into chaos, which, ironically, allowed the Tuaregs to launch a major offensive and seize half of Mali.  A power-sharing agreement ended the coup crisis, but the problems with the newly empowered Tuaregs remains; now they are pushing for the creation of an Islamic state carved out of northern Mali.

This is too much for ECOWAS, which claims that the only way to stop the Tuaregs and their Islamist supporters now would be through an international military force.  ECOWAS hopes that the bulk of the support for any UNSC-mandated mission will come from the United States and France.  French President Francois Hollande has stated that France would be ready to support such a mission if it receives the Security Council's blessing.  No word from the US about their possible support for the ECOWAS proposal.
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