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Mali in state of confusion!

Interesting Article: "Did Libya's revolution topple Mali into crisis?" by Dan Murphy / Mali published Friday, April 6th, 2012

An interesting article mentioned that this year, Mali's restive Tuareg minority has erupted into rebellion after four years of relative quiet, the army has mutinied and seized control of the capital city of Bamako, and today Tuareg separatists declared an independent republic in the country's vast north. Is this all NATO's fault? Not exactly. But the law of unintended consequences is (as usual) rearing its head. In this case, the successful popular uprising against Muammar Qaddafi's regime in Libya, which was substantially aided by the air power of NATO members, has sent Mali tumbling back into chaos, something that neither France nor the US (two of the major backers of the war to oust Qaddafi) are happy about. Far from it. Would you like to know more?

The traditionally nomadic Tuareg and their independence aspirations were championed off and on by Qaddafi for decades. During his desperate and bloody war to hang on to power, Tuaregs that had settled in Libya fought on his side. And there are claims that even more Tuaregs were recruited to come to Libya and fight as mercenaries on his behalf. With Qaddafi's defeat and the seething rage of the Libyan victors against the "African mercenaries" who fought against them – a rage which has also been vented on multiple occasions on people simply guilty of being "in Libya while black" – armed and trained Tuaregs returned home. A renewed insurgency in the north followed. The first domino to fall in Mali was a coup by a young army captain, Amadou Sanogo. The new ruling junta's initial complaint was that the government wasn't spending enough money and manpower in the fight against the Tuaregs.  But the result of the coup has been to throw the military – trained extensively by the United States and France in recent years, largely because of fears of Islamist militants in the region – into disarray.  This in turn has created more space for the Tuaregs' National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and today's independence declaration. ("Azawad" is a territorial term whose precise meaning is unclear, but includes much of the desert region where Tuareg live.)

The fact is Mali's Tuareg rebels, who have seized control of the country's distant north in the chaotic aftermath of a military coup in the capital, declared independence Friday of their Azawad nation.

The military chiefs of 13 of Mali's neighbors met Thursday in Ivory Coast to hash out plans for a military intervention to push back the rebels in the north, as well as to restore constitutional rule after disgruntled soldiers last month stormed the presidential palace and sent the democratically elected leader into hiding. The confusion in the capital created an opening for the rebels in the north, who have been attempting to claim independence for more than 50 years. The traditionally nomadic Tuareg people have been fighting for independence for the northern half of Mali since at least 1958, when Tuareg elders wrote a letter addressed to the French president asking their colonial rulers to carve out a separate homeland called "Azawad" in their language. Instead the north, where the lighter-skinned Tuareg people live, was made part of the same country as the south, where the dark-skinned ethnic groups controlled the capital and the nation's finances.

The Tuaregs accuse the southerners of marginalizing the north and of concentrating development, including lucrative aid projects, in the south. They fought numerous rebellions attempting to wrestle the north free, but it wasn't until a March 21 coup in Bamako toppled the nation's elected government that the fighters were able to make significant gains. In a three-day period last week they seized the three largest cities in the north as soldiers dumped their uniforms and retreated. Their independence declaration cited 50 years of misrule by the country's southern-based administration and was issued by the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, or NMLA, whose army is led by a Tuareg senior commander who fought in the late Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi's military.

Staff were today being withdrawn from the British Embassy in troubled Mali in the wake of the military coup. The Foreign Office said the temporary measure would limit the UK's ability to help Britons who chose to remain in the Saharan state against official advice.
As British nationals fled the desert nation. A spokesman said: 'Given the unstable and unpredictable situation in Mali and the continuing lack of constitutional rule, the UK has decided to temporarily withdraw its staff from its embassy in Bamako and temporarily suspend all in country services immediately, including consular assistance.

West African leaders are taking a strong and principled stand on restoring legitimate government to their neighbor Mali, where a group of military officers last month seized power and sent President Amadou Toumani Toure into hiding. The United States commended the ongoing leadership of the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union to resolve the Mali crisis, and echoed their call to the military junta to return power to civilian leadership consistent with the country’s constitution.

As civilian leadership is restored, the U.S also urged all armed rebels to engage in dialogue with civilian leaders in the capital, Bamako, to find a non-violent path toward national elections and a peaceful coexistence.



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