The coup staged by the military junta in Mali last week has already disturbed the course of democratic processes in that West African state and increased the possibility of a civil war there.
Tuareg militants in the north of the country have taken advantage of the coup and increased their pressure on the governmental army, thus expanding the zone of the military conflict. The Tuareg leaders do not hide their plans to split Mali and to establish a new independent state called Azavad in the Sahara. They also have territorial claims on parts Niger, Algeria and Libya. Now it looks like Tuareg militants have forces and allies who can help them to do this. Among their allies are al-Qaeda clout in Maghreb countries and also the Ansar Dine (Islam defenders) group, which has recently emerged.
According to our correspondent in Mali, Igor Yazov the coup there threatens to turn into major war to the entire Sahel region of Africa. Jean Pierre Dozon, a leading expert in Africa issues at the Paris School of Social Sciences (L’Ecole des Etudes des Sciences Sociales) also think so. Here is what he told our radio station in a phone interview from Paris.
“I completely agree with the opinion that there is a real threat war there. The problem of the Tuaregs has a long history and the fact that they have asserted themselves again is not new for Mali and Niger. What is new is that now they are well-armed and have direct links with al-Qaeda with clout in the Maghreb countries as well as with drug smugglers and arms dealers. They have really grown into a threatening force, which is proved by the success they have had in clashes with the Mali army, which is not the strongest in the region and has become even weaker after the coup. The coup played into the Tuaregs’ hands. The Mali troops are retreating before the Tuaregs’ offensive. There have been reports about soldiers killed and deserters. By the way, the junta which staged the coup said it had done it in protest against the government’s failure to tackle a Tuareg rebellion in the country’s north.”
The Tuaregs are pushing the governmental army back southward while making loud statements about their separatist ambitions and the establishment of their own state in the north of Mali. These intentions pose a real danger to the neighboring states, first of all to Niger, and to some extend to Mauritania.
How do you see the solution of this problem?
The economic community of West African states should take the situation in Mali very seriously. It is also necessary that other countries, including France, should do something for Mali. Although it is not the best period in relations between Mali and France now – France, in particular, is against illegal migration from Mali. The EU also should play its role in the settlement of the Mali issue. And finally the UN Security Council should take the coup much more seriously. Something must be done by the US and Russia. Of course, it can’t be done in one day. But first of all it is necessary to make those renegade Malian soldiers, who staged the coup, go back to their barracks and to restore the constitutional order in the country.