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A military coup of doubtful success

April 2nd, 2012 (04:56 am)

Captain Amadou Senogo deposed President Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali earlier this week, apparently with the aim of securing the territorial integrity of Mali by providing stronger strategic leadership and (somehow) more (or better-deployed) army personnel in the war against the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). The MNLA seek to establish an autonomous or independent (depending on the source) Tuareg-dominated polity in the desert north of the country. The war has been enabled by the fall of the Gaddafi regime; the colonel managed Tuareg nationalism almost as a wholly-owned subsidiary, sometimes supporting Tuareg insurgency with practical aid of arms and money, but more often relying on Tuareg leaders to help his repression at home in Libya. The fall of Gaddafi saw the superficially semi-comic but more seriously deeply alarming procession of small vehicles laden with weaponry across the desert as the Tuareg took their share of the king of kings of Africa's arsenal.

Senogo's coup was in its origin little more than an attempt by an officer to take advantage of rioting soldiers; he had no evident plan and invited economic sanctions from the ECOWAS bloc of west African states. The coup seems to have accelerated the process of Mali's disintegration, as the MNLA, who a few weeks ago seemed to have done well in taking two towns, appear now to be effective masters of the thinly-populated (relative to the rest of the country) northern provinces, now 'liberated', though no government of Azawad nor explicit claim to sovereignty seems to have been made. It is certainly too early to add Azawad to the list of unrecognised but functioning states. Depending on whom one reads, the MNLA are allied, or not, with Islamist fighters connected to al-Qaeda. Some sources argue that the Malian government has exaggerated the links of the MNLA to Islamists. Whoever they are, the Azawadi forces appear to have encountered little resistance from the Malian army in the last few days, and in Timbuktu the militia of local Arabs thought to favour the central government seems to have thrown in its lot with the Tuaregs of the MNLA.

There have been worse conflicts in the fissiparious post-colonial states of Africa. Loss of life could have been far greater. There have been no reports of damage to the historic libraries in Timbuktu. The Economist report that the MNLA have been studying the successful efforts to win independence for Eritrea and South Sudan, but at present Azawad is a long way from being even a Somaliland. How Mali's neighbours, so far concentrating on the coup, react to a Tuareg state given the sizeable Tuareg-populated areas of Algeria and Niger in particular is another matter.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/499474.html.


Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2012 01:10 pm (UTC)

Thank you for posting this. I have been inattentive to the news of late and, while I had heard of the coup, I was unaware of the background and implications.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2012 08:17 pm (UTC)

The MNLA committee include one woman, with the education portfolio, which perhaps boosts their non-Islamist credentials. They now have a spokesman, and insist that they have no intention of proceeding to Bamako, and instead want to secure Azawad. At the moment they say the largest non-Tuareg ethnic group in the north, the Hassaniya Arabs or 'Moors', are with them. How far this is true is another matter.