Category - Mali

Barack Obama: Two Time Nobelist?

You’ll no doubt recall the hue and cry when Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his stand on nuclear non-proliferation and his attempts to engage the Muslim world. Both the right and left in this country had great sport at this — and here I’ll agree — premature awarding of a prize to a man with few signal accomplishments in foreign policy, apart from being “not Bush”.

Six years later and I think it’s time to give him the Prize for real this time. Think about this past year: for a man who started his administration hoping to hit singles and doubles in foreign policy (consumed as he had to be by the domestic economic crisis), he’s kind of knocked a couple out of the park, provoking admiration from aboard and from mainstream Americans, and consternation from the idiot fringe that will sit on perches and poop all day, parroting “Obama bad, BRAWK!” Read More

Ebola crisis: Mali confirms first infection case

BBC, October 24

The Mali government has confirmed the first case of Ebola in the country.

It said a two-year-old girl had tested positive for the haemorrhagic virus. She recently returned from neighbouring Guinea.

More than 4,800 people have died of Ebola – mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone – since March.

Meanwhile, an international team of scientists has been set up to determine the effectiveness of using the blood of Ebola survivors as a treatment.

It is hoped the antibodies used by the immune system to fight Ebola can be transferred from a survivor to a patient. The study will start in Guinea.

Keita wins Mali election after Cisse concedes

No official results have yet been released following Sunday’s runoff, however, reports had put former PM well ahead.

Al Jazeera, August 13

Mali’s presidential election has been won by Ibrahim Boubacar Keita after his rival conceded defeat in the second round runoff.

Ex-Finance Minister Soumaila Cisse said he had congratulated his rival Keita on winning the vote and wished him good luck, the AFP reported on Monday.

Cisse’s concession, hours after he complained the election had been marred by fraud, will deepen optimism for Mali’s recovery.

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting outside Keita’s headquarters in Bamako, said the news of his win was just filtering in and there seem to be celebrations already taking place as some international observers were seen congratulating Keita.

“The general feeling here is that people are actually happy that this has come to a peaceful end, and that Mali finally has a president,” he said.

Keita, a former prime minister, inherits a broken nation and must still negotiate peace with northern rebels.

Monday moments – from the desert

Since 2009 an interesting phenomenon has been happening around the Saharan desert, discarded cellphones have been collected and the music stored on them has been shared via bluetooth and mp3 trades. “Since then, many speculated that internet would wash over the desert rendering the peer to peer transfers of cellphone exchanges inútil. Instead, a more sinister force of religious of extremists have spelled an end to cellphone music – banning any non-Koranic mp3s on cellphones. Northerners are holding their breath waiting for the sandstorm to pass.”

On the sahel blog many other interesting vignettes are posted. e.g. “The urban Tamashek youth with their multicolored turbans and sharp clothing are from the desert, but not a few have spend their time in the capitals — the more affluent shooting off to Bamako or Tamanrasset for a brief respite from the desert. And while there is always a brief visit to the desert, the nomad existence couldn’t be further from the life of the town.

“In one of our songs, we tell people to come back. To return to the desert,” he explains. “We say, ‘You’ve quit your life in the desert, and come to the city because you think life is easier. But one day you’re going to regret what you’ve left behind.’”

“You want people to return to the nomadic life?” I ask.

“No,” he says, confused. “The desert — to return to Kidal.”

A friend nearby laughs. “He means Kidal. Look around, this is the desert.”

“The nomads are the real Tamashek.” he says. “We’re…bootleg Tamashek.” They laugh.

Now Music from Saharan Cellphones vol 2. has been released.

“It is about time to stop lying to us and treating people like imbeciles.”

Speech by Laurent Louis – Posted by Michael Collins (This is a feel good post;)

“And today, in the name of democracy and the fight against terrorism, our states grant themselves the right to violate the sovereignty of independent countries and to overthrow legitimate leaders.” Laurent Louis, Belgian MP

Tearing Down the Empire Project:  This speech represents a moment of extreme truth for the NATO powers. The United States, Great Britain, France and the lesser powers have been throwing their weight around Asia and Africa without regard to the norms of civilized behavior Their drill includes attacking countries that pose no threat to any NATO member; engaging in ruinious sanctions as a negotiating tool; threatening war; and, engaging in military actions as a matter of routine. Laurent Louis, a Belgian MP and crusader for human rights, spoke to parliament and laid out the truth behind naked aggression and the lies that justify it. Michael Collins
(Originally found at Kenny’s Sideshow)


LAURENT LOUIS, MP: Thank you, Mr President. Dear Ministers, dear Colleagues.

Belgium is indeed the land of surrealism.

This morning we learned from the media that the Belgian army is incapable of fighting some extremist soldiers having radical Islamist beliefs existing within its own ranks but who cannot be dismissed for lack of legal means.

However, at the same time, we decide to help France in its war against “Terror” by providing logistical support for its operation in Mali. What wouldn’t we do in order to fight against terrorism outside our borders? I just hope we took care not to send for this anti-terrorist operation, in Mali, these much talked about Belgian Islamists soldiers!

I seem to be joking, but what is going on in the world today does not make me laugh at all. It doesn’t make me laugh, because without any doubt, the leaders of our Western countries are taking the people for imbeciles with the help and support of the Media which are nothing more today than an organ of propaganda of the ruling powers. Read More

Mali plans July elections as it makes gains in battle against militants

CNN, By Antonia Mortensen

The Malian president announced plans to hold elections by July as French-led troops battled Islamists in the last major northern town under militant control.

A battle is under way to secure Kidal, the last major town in the sweep to flush out militants in the north.

The French military said it seized the airport in Kidal on Tuesday night, thus gaining control of a major point of access.

French forces are focusing on recapturing airports while Malian forces take over the cities, French army spokesman Col. Thierry Burkhard said.

More at the link


Malian Troops Stand And Watch Ethnic Looting In Timbuktu

No-one could have guessed this would happen

Simmering ethnic tensions boiled over in Mali on Tuesday as the army hunted down suspected Islamist fighters and residents took revenge on shops belonging to the country’s Tuareg and Arab minorities.

Reports from the Saharan town of Timbuktu said that dozens of residents had attacked property owned by Tuareg and Arab traders whom they suspected of collaborating with the rebels. The al-Qaida-allied fighters evacuated the town last week as French and Malian forces closed in.

There were fears that the Tuareg civilians could now be caught up in a bloody backlash, both from angry neighbours and from the army.

Mali soldiers were deployed in Timbuktu on Tuesday but made little effort to stop widespread ethnic-based looting.

…”They are traitors,” Amadu Traore, an English teacher from the town of Youwarou, near Timbuktu, said on Tuesday, when asked what he thought of the Tuareg. He added: “They are also racists. They have lighter skins than us. They look down on us black Africans.”

The French are looking to take a back seat in this, and in the final push into the North.

The French military – which took Timbuktu over the weekend and Gao late last week – has indicated it is unlikely to push up to Kidal, a remote desert area many hundreds of miles from its current position.

Instead the job will probably be left to troops from Chad, part of a poorly-equipped African force supporting the Mali army. It remains to be seen what welcome they will get. France has signalled it wants to hand longer term security operations to African soldiers, now the major phase of its operation is over.

This will not end well. The potential for mission creep and spillover is illustrated by this map:


In that context, contemplate this:


Britain “Keen” To Send “Sizeable Amount” Of Troops To Mali – Downing Street


The Guardian reports that Cameron is ready to send troops into Afrighanistan, but not in a combat role – although that latter bit entirely depends on a cheating definition of “combat role” already used by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Britain is prepared to take the risk of sending a “sizeable amount” of troops, to Mali and neighbouring West African countries as David Cameron offers strong support to France in its operation to drive Islamist militants from its former colony.

As news emerged that insurgents retreating from Timbuktu had set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless historic manuscripts, Downing Street said the prime minister told François Hollande on Sunday night Britain was “keen” to provide further military assistance to France.

Cameron despatched Sir Kim Darroch, his national security adviser, to Paris on Monday to discuss what help Britain could provide. Government sources said decisions on troop deployments were expected to be made in the coming days as France confirms its exact requirements. One source said that Britain could easily dispatch 200 troops if France requested such a number.

Britain is prepared to provide hundreds of troops to help the operation and is considering a few options:

• Forming part of an EU military training mission in Mali. The British contribution to this would be in the “tens”, according to Downing Street.

• Training troops from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) in neighbouring countries for possible operations on Mali. This is likely to be the main focus of Britain’s contribution because Ecowas members include many countries with strong links to Britain. British troops could be used to train Nigerian forces.

• Providing “force protection” for the trainers. This would be armed protection but would not amount to a combat role.

Downing Street is adamant that British troops will play no part in combat. A spokesman said: “We have the capability and capacity to do that. We have the ability to contribute a sizeable amount if required.”

Personally, I’m of the opinion that if you’re carrying a gun and wearing a uniform in an occupied country, with the intention of shooting back if you or others get shot at, then that’s a “combat role”. US servicement have died in both Iraq and Afghanistan while in exatcly those circumstances, however, with successive administrations – and the mainstream media – being able to ignore those deaths because of a very specific definition of “combat”. The UK now seems intent on deploying that definition in Mali – I wonder what the British people will say if any of these squaddies come back in body bags though.

French, Malian Troops Take Timbuktu Without A Fight


French and Malian forces have retaken the towns of Timbuktu and Gao in the nation’s North over the weekend, in both cases without meeting resistance, leaving just one major town in rebel hands. Their forces have been bolstered by the first Chadian and Nigerian troops out of an expected total of 7,700 from the ECOWAS organisation.

McClatchy reports that the Islamist opposition are fleeing in large numbers well in advance of the French-led advance – and that rebel fighters aren’t the only ones fleeing.

The Islamists, who have controlled northern Mali since last spring, have melted away in the past week under French air strikes and special forces operations after initially advancing in the first days of France’s intervention in Mali, which began Jan. 10.

France since has taken advantage of the rebels’ apparent preference for flight instead of fight when faced with the superior military power. The Islamists mostly have disappeared before French forces arrive, avoiding inch-for-inch street battles for population centers.

For example, by Monday, Islamist forces had deserted the town of Gossi, on the road between Sevare – the base of French and Malian operations – and Gao, according to two village residents, including the district chief.

“After hearing of the withdrawal from Douentza, the armed rebels fled,” said local chief Mohammed Sidiya Maiga.

On Monday, about 30 vehicles had sped through the town from the southwest in retreat.

Most of the town’s Arab residents also had fled to nearby Bourkina Faso, fearing retribution at the hands of the Malian military, most of whom are black Africans, Maiga said.

That fear is not an irrational one, although there’s little doubt the Islamist rebels have committed atrocities, there have been reports of several crimes by Malian troops too.

So is France’s intervention a roaring success, over in days against the expectations of many? Hardly.  Reuters, via The Guardian, notes:

The rebels appeared to be withdrawing further north into the trackless wilderness of the Sahara, from where some military experts fear they could wage a guerrilla war.

This is simply where the parallels to Afghanistan really start to bite, and possibly spread into neighboring nations – with the only real way to ending the war being a political solution.

What Happens If France Asks For Western Ground Troops In Mali?


There’s a real thought-provoker buried in The French Mess In Mali and Libya by Prof. Rajan Menon today – the entire piece about the chances France may find itself in a quagmire in Mali is worth a read but this caught my eye:

France could find itself in just the pickle it wants to avoid. And the United States and Britain, who have said they’ll limit themselves to providing France and the African troops indirect support (logistical and intelligence), may have to decide whether to let France twist in the wind. Doing so would hardly be good for NATO solidarity.

The French exit-strategy from Mali is not well defined: stated objectives include a return to democratic governance and preventing the state becoming a potential launchpad for Islamist terror attacks, but it is very unclear whether local African allies can stand up and do the jobs they’ll need to, while France’s current force of 2,500 is woefully inadequate to do nation-building in a state larger than all of France itself. Still, those troops are probably enough to prevent the Tuaregs or Islamist extremist forces in the North from taking the South (given they are inclined to do so) and to keep the capital safe. The chances of an extended occupation, utilizing local poorly-trained proxies as cannon-fodder a-la-Afghanistan, seem pretty high to me. It’s worth wondering how such a protracted occupation will affect NATO alliance members and their own grand plans.

Well, there’s this from the London Times three days ago:

British forces are on alert for an emergency deployment to Mali as David Cameron commits the UK to a fully-fledged battle against al-Qaeda in northern Africa.

The Times understands that units from the Army, Royal Navy and RAF are on “high readiness” to deploy if requested in support of France, which is attempting to repel Islamist extremists from the north of the country.

At the end of the day, I think France has Britain over a barrel, and that in turn makes a U.S. refusal to get more heavily involved too unlikely. If France insists that it is a case of  Britain sending ground troops to assist or be seen as breaching the spirit of the 2010  “Entente Frugale”, then I don’t think Cameron will hesitate.  Ending that defense agreement would have two immediate effects – ending the UK nuclear deterrent force, and ending the British navy’s procurement of two new aircraft carriers – which would see Cameron swept from office by a vote of no confidence and a popular nationalist reaction the very next day. The U.S. baseline foreign policy consensus is also heavily committed to Britain keeping its nukes and flat-tops, and Cameron would be frantically calling Obama and asking for assistance. Obama would agree as well – he’d have to – even if he prefers a Reagan Doctrine stance personally.

From there. other NATO members would fall into line – especially the Germans, who are already leaning off the fence about getting involved:

having let down its allies by staying out of Libya, Germany is eager to demonstrate its dependability and readiness to take on responsibility again, as evidenced by its deployment of Patriot missile defense systems and 170 soldiers as part of a NATO mission to Turkey. But Mali is arguably different. Moving beyond logistical and humanitarian support to become directly involved in fighting might lead to an intervention fraught with risk that many Germans fear, for good reason. A lasting defeat of the Islamist extremists and the establishment of long-term stability in Mali will require a lengthy and demanding operation. Hardly anyone believes in the initial French promise of an early troop withdrawal.

Yet Berlin also has good reasons to assume a more active role in the conflict. For one, Germany cannot stand on the sidelines while its neighbor, fellow NATO ally and EU partner France defends African and European security alone. Moreover, an extended conflict in Mali risks destabilizing the Arab Spring transition in North Africa and could result in growing refugee flows to the north, which would affect Germany as much as France. Finally, any German reservations about developments within the mission will carry much more weight if Germany articulates them from the position of a central partner rather than as an external observer.

…Several influential politicians have demanded that Germany act more forcefully in Mali — among them the leader of the Green opposition party Jürgen Trittin, the president of the German parliament Norbert Lammert and the chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs Ruprecht Polenz, the last two both members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union.

With France perhaps still in the lead, we’d then have the U.S. and Europe’s big three all committed to yet another decade-long occupation to build a nation that may not even be buildable and with far more opportunity for mission-creeping into other nations than Afghanistan ever did.