After more than a week of “continuous improvisation” by Malian military insurgents, many Africans and other observers are declaring that the March 22nd coup that overthrew democratically elected President Amadou Toumani Touré helps no one except the rebels and terrorists who seek to establish strong roots in northern Mali.
Even worse, the Malian coup has had a significantly negative impact on the country’s national unity. Mali is already undermined by the Touareg rebellion of Azaouad, supported by heavily armed men returning from Libya, as well as armed Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). This rebellion took advantage of the coup, and declared immediately after the fall of President Toumani Touré that it would not interrupt its fight. Consequently, the young leaders of the coup are left to struggle with the chaos caused by their actions and deal with the international community.
These leaders are as yet unable to contain the rebels and restore calm, and Mali is breaking down. The Touareg aspect of this rebellion does not bode well for Mali’s future.
This is all the more true because this rebellion that was initially triggered by the MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azaouad) now includes – among others – the Islamist group Ansar-Eddine, led by the Touareg leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which is a division of AQIM run by Malians and Mauritanians.
Mali’s vast north, reputed to be uncontrolled and uncontrollable, has long been home to drug dealers and AQIM fighters where the proliferation of small arms further fuels chaos.
The defeat of the Malian army, and the stranglehold of the rebels backed by Islamist groups who publicly show their desire to establish an Islamic emirate in the Malian desert, are factors that will further complicate the fight against terrorism for Sahel countries and their European and American partners.
If the Touareg rebels are left to deal with northern Mali, which is under their control thanks to support from AQIM and affiliated groups, there is no guarantee that they will be able to impose their authority over the territory.
AQIM had already managed to carve out a base in northern Mali, from which it began to spread its branches in the region, and extend its connections with groups like Boko Haram, carrying out kidnappings and other attacks.
Connecting with Touareg rebels will only strengthen the existing family and social ties between the two parties, since AQIM leaders are already established in the region with the consent of its people.
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