In his war against his own people during the February revolution, Moamer Kadhafi fell back on the Touaregs that he trained and supported. To influence the region, Kadhafi had formed battalions from the Touaregs, such as the Maghawir division in Ubari.
The remaining fighters escaped to Mali, armed with all kinds of weapons that Kadhafi once provided them with in order to control and intervene in the internal affairs of his African neighbours, sow chaos, impose his agenda, and exert pressure on other parties.
For their part, the Touaregs were demanding independence and the formation of their own state in southern Libya, northern Niger and Mali. The desert region is not controlled by any government and represents a hotspot for illegal trade and smuggling operations for drugs, weapons and stolen cars.
Soon after Kadhafi’s fall, the Touaregs fled with their weapons and became a threat to their countries. They started a conflict to express their suffering from marginalisation, oppression, poverty, ignorance, lack of water, drought and hardship.
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azaouad (MNLA) took over city after city in northern Mali, signalling the death knell for President Amadou Toumani Toure’s government. Toure always tried to address issues through non-violent means, seeking understanding and dialogue.
Many people blamed the country’s instability and insecurity on the president, arguing that he was inefficient in managing the crisis and ineffective in stopping the insurgents. Consequently, a group of angry young officers overthrew the president on March 21st, although presidential elections were scheduled for April 29th.
Therefore, Mali turned into an unstable country threatening the security of southern Libya, where unrest prevails and the extended presence of Touareg and Toubou tribes could affect the demographics of the south. There are no Libyan soldiers or border guards in the region; there are only some rebels with limited means and no training in border control and protection.
This region became a crossroads for illegal immigration due to wars, conflicts, instability, poverty, famine, unemployment, and hard living conditions. Southern Libya is at the mercy of smuggling and armed gangs, as well as extremists affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
The Malian coup plotters could strongly respond to the rebels in the north to make them escape to Libya, and then support Touareg and Toubou separatists for their own interests, especially since Libya is no longer their ally. To earn a living, they will have to resort to theft, smuggling, guerrilla warfare and conquests.
On March 28th, Libyan government spokesman Nasser al-Manaa said the country was “faced with the challenge of securing a wide, uninhabited desert area sharing borders with many countries. Libya is a corridor of illegal immigration.” Al-Manaa also asked for equipment to help secure the borders.
Libya’s stability depends particularly on that of Mali and Chad. Kadhafi used that interdependence to spread influence in the other direction, especially after he had a firm grip on security in Libya. He even played this card against southern Sudan, contributed to its separation, and fuelled its instability; and he did the same with the Sahel-Saharan states.
But now, things have changed under a transitional government that has no power or control over its borders, and a transitional council that does not deal firmly with the breach of security in the country. This is due to the conflict that left behind old issues, and strong, experienced groups with foreign agendas and support.
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