Forghab Prince Donald
B.A Peace and Development studies-Protestant University of Central Africa, Global Shaper at Yaoundé Hub(World Economic Forum)
Global Peace Ambassador (Global peace Chain)
From January to April 2012 Mali underwent the fourth Tuareg uprising of post-colonial history, an islamist takeover of all the northern cities and an improvised military coup, with the very first occurring between 1962-1964 barely two years after independence, 1990-1996 the appearance of the second Tuareg Rebellion, 2006-2007 breaking out of the third Tuareg rebellion, and the most famous sewing its seeds on January 2012. This Tuareg takeover was divided into factions and objectives, relatively organized and better united than previous rebellions.
The most notorious of these factions were that of the National Movement of the Liberation of Azawad (MLNA) formed in October of 2011, is primarily fighting for the rights of Mali’s minority Tuareg community, usually left out in development programs. Ansar al-Dine which means “Defenders of Faith” an Islamic Group, accused by the Malian Government of having links with Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb, aims at imposing Sharia law across Mali and the Movement for Oneness and the Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), says its aim is to spread Islamic law, as well as to liberate Malians from French colonial rule Lastly Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb has since evolved to take on a more international islamist agenda- political islamism; just to name a few (BBC news on Malian crisis: Key players, march 12 2013).
The country was once considered by many international observers such the United States as the poster child for democracy in Africa, for its ability to hold fair and transparent elections for two decades (House Hearing, 112 Congress. From the U.S Government publishing House). In their view and that of many, President Amadou Toumani Toure appeared to shoulder the prime responsibility for the 2012 crisis, causing a long standing distrust between different ethnic communities and contributing largely for the economic frustration and political resentment (Grégory Chauzal and Thibault van Damme- CRU report March 2015). With over five rebel groups, government and foreign nations fighting for either the restoration of peace or the political control of the country and its vast mineral reservoirs, including but not limited to the Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb, Mujao, and nations like France and Algeria, whose fighting is primarily in the center and north of the country, with principal regions such as the Kidal, Gao, Timbuktu just to name a few.
While it is without doubt accurate to say that the former leader of Mali contributed in large part to the political degradation and worsening security conditions of the country, the root causes of this geopolitical conflict are to be found elsewhere, predating Amadou Toumani Toure Presidency. When Mali gained independence from France in 1960, the newly formed government had to assert its authority on the very vast territorial Mali, including desert regions of the North were its authority was directly challenged by Tuareg and Arab communities. This task wasn’t any easy with deep resentment from malian state officials with regards to their northern counterparts which they regarded as the prominent obstacle to National unity (Grégory Chauzal and Thibault van Damme- CRU report March 2015), thus pushing southern elites to focus on the useful south while marginalizing the north of the country and imposing military rule on those regions. These eventualities therefore led to a distrust causing four Tuareg and Arab uprisings following independence in 1963, 1991, 2006 and eventually 2012. Nevertheless, the geopolitical dimension of this 50 year’s conflict should not be left out.
The Northern Regions of Mali in general and of Kidal in particular is largely convened by the belligerents, not just because of the political inequalities or wrongs existing there which they aim to correct, but also due to the urge of controlling its rich soil in gold, diamond, uranium and cobalt, all being strategic Mineral resources. The spread of Political Islamism in the Sahel region perpetrated by Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb should not be put aside as well.
The main and direct actors of this conflict such as France with over 5000 soldiers involved in the conflict since 2013, firstly, with operation Serval and later as from 2014 with operation Barkhane, an intervention supposed to last a few weeks is now termed by many as the unending French War. All these, have given a complex nature to the crisis in Mali, leading to what Samir Amin termed “Les guerres du Sahelistan” in his article France-Mali: Enjeux et limites in (Magazine Jeunes Afrique- page 18, 2013), were he poses numerous questions for reflections. Should we be alright with an ex colonial power intervening in a sovereign country attacked by Islamist? Is the sahelian war, a project or a service of whose interest? And one then poses himself the question, French intervention and then what? Although French intervention is backed up with the call for help by the president by interim at the time Dioncounda Troare and supported by Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh leader of the MNLA who promised to help French soldiers in their fight against Islamic groups (Michel Galy in: Le dilemma touareg– Afrique Jeune February 2013). One is however, still faced in a dilemma; did the French intervention and UN peacekeeping mission do more harm or more good?
Nevertheless, inclusive peace talks and agreements have been attempted with the most recent being in 2015. However, the situation remains challenging because the Tuareg, Arab, Songhay or Fulani northern people all got different political agendas, on the one hand, and foreign nations and institutions involved in the conflict apparently haven’t achieved their goals, most probably, that of: restoring occupied regions to the Government, ensure a peace making process with all belligerents to ensure that such rebellion doesn’t recur, or most probably to ensure that the over 275,000 Malian refugees (UNHCR report on refugee situation from Mali – 2019) return home safe and sound. But is that all?
So what perspectives do we propose? To redeem to this problem, one could believe that the withdrawal of foreign belligerents will go a long way to restore peace in Mali, because one fervently advocates and condemns all principles of intervention in countries of the global south, due to its characteristic of appearing as a form of control and domination through capital, ensuring the continuity of center and periphery dominating the international chessboard.
Nonetheless, geopolitical conflict usually doesn’t function that way, and such proposal cannot be taken into consideration. Mali will have to sign strategic partnerships albeit with emerging countries, to help with the security in the Sahara and its opportunity cost. That is to say, countries, movements or institutions which are threats to the security of Mali, will have to be put under the omnipresent surveillance of other nations which have a relatively greater influence on the international scene, and answers best to the needs of the malian central government. A very similar observation could be done with the Central African Republic, who after suffering from unfair treatment from its international allies, during the bloody crisis opposition the Seleka and anti-balaka, requested the help of Russia who has a more powerful military might than those principally engaged in the said crisis. Although this solution is not a 100% gain for african states, it is however a first step towards reducing exploitation, eradicating colonialism and working itself towards a position or an Africa which is influential internationally. Faustin-Archange Touadera president of the Central African Republic will surely agree that such a strategy permits one to move towards a win-win approach.
Secondly, Mali in particular and Africa in general will have to lead a join fight for a true unity and collaboration. The ideological corpus of Consciencism of Kwame Nkrumah and his vivid call in the 1960s for Africa to unite will permit to create a continent which is both politically and economically strong. The urgent call for a United States of Africa so much propagated by Muammar Khadafi will grant Africa the opportunity through its combined economies to be the fifth economy in the world as calculated by Jean Emmanuel Pondi.
What does this mean? Africa will have a stronger political and judiciary system which will make it difficult for factions to emerge, secession wars and most importantly, tough for foreign intervention. A stronger bloc and positive unity will mean that, Africa will become the largest country in the world, thus increasing its international influence on decision making in all political and economic instances. Although such a dream is far to attain, it goes without doubt that, through the multiply efforts brought about such as: the African union (AU), the Africa free continental trade area (AfCFTA), the African International Monetary Fund (AIMF) in progress, a African Central Bank (ACB), and eventually the United States of Africa (USA), we are moving towards such an eventuality where neo-colonialism will be abolished and balance of power installed. Is the problem of Africa a mutation in the nature of conflicts or a problem of neo-colonialism and Imperialism?