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Africa, Governance, Leadership, United States

Senegal and Mali: Intervening Essential for Peace

President Abdoulaye Wade finally acknowledged that his long years of political relevance were concluded, and chose wisely not to contest his overwhelming defeat in Sunday’s run-off election for Senegal’s presidency.  Macky Sall is a worthy winner whose patient victory (without too many threatening histrionics beforehand) maintains Senegal’s democratic legacy. ECOWAS and the African Union doubtless breathed a great sigh of relief; there need be no repeat of the necessary intervention inCote d’Ivoireafter Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to surrender the presidency. Doubtless former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo delivered a clear message on the subject when he visited Wade in February, and we should all thank him for being persuasive.

But now that Senegal’s transition is peaceful, world order, ECOWAS, and the AU all have to focus not only on the very old-fashioned coup d’etat in neighboring Mali, but on reducing the power of the Tuareg rebellion in Mali’s far north.  Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo and the other coup perpetrators of the self-styled National Committee for the Reestablishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State were presumably motivated by the Malian army’s inability to defeat, or even to contain, the much less numerous Tuareg insurgents. They blamed President Amadou Toumani Touré and his government for that failure, and the government’s inability or unwillingness to provide modern equipment and arms sufficient to retaliate against the Tuareg.

Those are understandable, even reasonable complaints – but insufficient justification for a military uprising against Touré just weeks ahead of a national election in which he was not a candidate. What many press reports have so far not noted is that one of the key reasons why the military has been so under-supplied and unready (despite U. assistance) is rampant corruption.  Officials in Touré’s regime and high-level army officers are accused of profiteering, skimming accounts supposedly devoted to strengthening the army in its battle zone. Thus the mutinous soldiers could in their minds rightly blame Touré and his associates for sapping Mali’s military might unforgivably.

Between Touareg warriors and civilians and Malian Africans (the majority Mande-speaking) there is mutual contempt. Tuareg, about 10 percent of the country’s total population, have long resented being ruled by people they regard as inferior; the Malian majority has for decades looked down upon the very un-African-behaving and looking Tuareg.

Intervention in the Malian case by ECOWAS and the AU cannot simply be limited to sending the mutinous soldiers back to their barracks and supervising next month’s scheduled national elections. It must also include a willingness to sanction the use of military force to put down the Tuareg rebellion. ECOMOG helped measurably to limit the spread of warfare in Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 1990s. Either ECOMOG or another African peacekeeping force, possibly with French and American assistance, needs to be directed against the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) that controls several northern Malian towns, much desert, and now has the offensive initiative thanks to Libyan arms and Libyan-experienced legions.

The MNLA seeks autonomy for a Tuareg homeland, or at least greater respect and political relevance for the Tuareg inMali. Unlike neighboring Niger, where Tuareg play a sizable political role and several of its own people are important in the national government, official Mali has always denigrated their Tuareg fellow citizens. Thus, there are many reasons for Tuareg discontent which, after order is restored, need to be addressed by a new government of Mali with AU and ECOWAS assistance.

Creating peace in northern Mali will not be easy. But the Malian military is now in disarray and the path back to democracy and stability in southern, agricultural, tourist- sensitive Mali dewith honor.  Then Mali could begin again to resemble Senegal, politically.pends on joint action against the Tuareg usurpers. Reassuring the regular Malian officers of such outside support ought to help ease them back into the barracks with honor.  Then Mali could begin again to resemble Senegal, politically.



One thought on “Senegal and Mali: Intervening Essential for Peace

  1. Difficult to comment and forget.

    Posted by Ray Ander | March 29, 2012, 7:51 pm

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