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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 1st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

Back at the end of January 2013 we posted – based on an article in “Der Spiegel” – that reached us via the UN Wire – that there was in the making an Islamistan, much more dangerous to the West then the AfPak (Afghanistan & Pakistan) region. This will be a Sahelistan ranging from Mauritania to Somalia, right there as a second southern complete layer to the Mediterranean shore Arab States that stretch from Morocco to Egypt. We call this the SAHELISTAN. Its front line is in Mali, Niger, and Chad.

This layer of Islamism is a combination of conservative Islam used as mortar to bind together locally inspired aspirations to free themselves of the Arab century old imposed rulers and like in the Maghreb States and Libya and Egypt, is supported by the religious leaders out of pure opportunism.

Our old posting is:

Now, in Vienna, I realize further the influence of this newly evolving threat and the reality that Europe is happy to let France, the former Colonial power in that region, shoulder the problem by itself. Further, it is France that running its National energy network on nuclear power, is totally depended on the Uranium they get from those countries, while other Members of the EU have no such dependence.

Further, as we noted last month, at the time of the Vienna Conference of the “Alliance of Civilizations” – as shown by the regional division among the Workshops in that meeting, the Central European States have sort of distanced themselves from the Mediterranean States by showing their economic interest as an extension from Central Europe to Central Asia – that is the Black Sea – Caspian Sea and beyond to the other smaller Muslim States that were part of the former Soviet Union. This leaves the Southern EU States to worry about the Muslim MENA region (Middle East – North Africa) and Turkey – if it has to be.

We also suggested a third tier – the Northern tier – and that is the line that connects the Scandinavian countries – Germany – Poland – with Russia.
That will eventually be the route to bring Russia to the EU when it becomes clear that you must have one billion people at least in order to have a weight in the global economy in just a few years from now.

But that is not where Vienna left this part of the world.

In March I participated further at two wide scope events:

(1)  March 11, 2013, the Austrian Institute for International Politics (OIIP) where Editor Walter Haemmerle of the Wiener Zeitung, was the moderator between three Members of OIIP – all Professors at the University but coming from different areas of interest – Prof. Heinz Gaertner – a political Scientist, Prof. Jan Pospisil for the Arab Space – in particular North Africa, and Prof. Cengiz Guenay, for the Near East/ Middle East Space.

The topic was USA – Near East – Mali – in context of  Changes of International Applications of Power.

(2) March 21, 2013, the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC) – www.VIDC.org – using the space at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialog – dealt with a more limited topic – and therefore could go down to quite some depth – “Mali: Perspectives for the Political Come-Back.”
At this meeting, moderated by Marie-Roger Biloa of Cameroon, Producer and Editor of the Paris-based “Africa International” – and having published Development Magazines in Cameroon and Gabon,  held in place, with a strong will, three very different panelists – that included two different aspects of Mali, and the French Ambassador to Vienna – Mr. Stephane Gompertz.

The two Malians were – Ismaeel Sory Maiega, Director of the study Center of Languages and African Cultures, and the European Representative of the Tuareg-organized Insurgency MNLA – Mouvement National de Liberation de l’AzawadNational Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, Mr. Moussa Assarid.

Ms. Biloa is also the President “Club Millennium” in Paris – an African Think Tank and training place for leadership.

———————————

From the OIIP event:

The issue is the US – it is retrenching from the Reagan – G.W. Bush (the son) days of overextended global involvements – so issues like the insurgency in Mali and other Islamization aspects of North Africa, are to be from now on pure European problems. Even the Middle East will have to take care of itself – the most the US will do is to express encouragement for others to act. Professor Gaertner studied the US elections and his view of the Obama II Administration is very similar to what we wrote on our website. The US is readjusting to the Trans-Pacific Partnership – with China its main focus, so much of what goes on in the Muslim Space will have to be filled in by others. Europeans will have to look across the Mediterranean for their own sake.
This does not mean the US finds of a sudden France – but rather will not interfere if France wants to look for its own interests and put their money where they talk was for quite some time.

Dr. Jan Pospisil did his PhD thesis on US-German military cooperation and then looked at East Africa and Sri-Lanka. Like Prof. Gaertner he sees in Syria the biggest problem for the topic of human rights and both think that this is an area that Austria will pay attention as well. With this background it becomes interesting to note that the Austrian participation in Mali is with 9 people.

Dr. Cengiz Guenay wrote his PhD thesis on “Islam as a political factor in Turkey” and found Libya, Egypt, and now Syria as his main fields of interest and he is called in quite often to explain the situation to the media.

————————

The two main points I marked myself from this discussion were:

A. that Turkey is now a TRADING STATE and will do whatever Mr. Erdogan finds opportune for the literal moment.

B. The World – Instead of Multi-polarity – now it will be MULTI-PARTNERSHIPS.

———————-

 

Then at the VIDC/Bruno Kreisky Forum event we got to know Mr. Assarid a full blooded Tuareg, dressed to prove it,  who speaks about the Azawad State they want to carve out from the Northern half of Mali – the five towns – Timbuktu, Lere, Hombori, Gao, and Kidal. His bio says he is a writer, journalist and comedian – living in Paris since 1999. He has appeared on TV in several series as actor. He was saying that the Tuaregs have a National movement that is secular. They are not part of an Islamic uprising and their problem is rather that the other side – the present government in Bamako – that took over from an elected government by military coup – is the one that may help the North Africa Al-Qaeda – not the Tuaregs.

Listening to him, and to his opponent, Professor. Maiega, who is an intellectual – head of a Bamako Institute to promote indigenous languages and African Civilizations,  it seems that in effect both of them are more interested in traditional African culture then in Islam, and in effect it is France’s interest in holding on to its previous Colony that is the most problematic aspect of this entanglement. Is it all because of the Uranium, coal, and other natural resources found in Mali? Will this move on to Niger and Chad? What would happen if Mali is allowed to split amicably into two States? Could this be worse then seeing it unravel in fighting that allows other groups to mix the boiling pot?

The French say they want to bring down their fighting troops from 4,000 to 1,000 by the end of April, and have by that time trained the Mali government troops, and the West African troops, that offered to help. I say – Do not hold your breath – I say.
It is easy to get in – it is much more difficult to get out –  and the French Ambassador did not impress us that he really thinks France wants to get out from Mali. Though let me add immediately that Ambassador Gompertz is Professor for classic literature and has a degree in Germanistic – this while in the French Foreign Ministry he was head of the sections on Africa and the Indian Ocean (2009-2012) when he was appointed to Vienna. Before 2008 he was Ambassador to Ethiopia, and with the North Africa and Middle East sections in the ministry – so he is well into the Mediterranean region.

The problem with the desert people maybe much more complicated then what was presented. There is money to be made from those natural resources, and from kidnapping people for ransom. The desert is big and people rather unemployed – so the few can muster the rest, and bamboozle with religion cooked up with social, ethnic, tribal arguments to boot – this works in a world that thinks very little of terrorism, as an accepted tool for those that feel downtroden, and the passage to the world here-after as a move to step up an imagined personalized ladder.

———

Recent History as reported today – April 1, 2013: The fighting reflected the difficulty of securing Mali after a French intervention in January that pushed the rebels out of their northern strongholds.

“Things are quiet this morning. The markets are open, traffic is on the streets, and people are out of their houses,” Timbuktu resident Garba Maiga said by telephone.

Malian military sources said soldiers were sweeping parts of the town to ensure there were no remaining rebel fighters.

At least one Malian soldier was killed in the clashes, along with more than 20 insurgents, according to a government statement on Sunday night. Residents said at least five civilians were killed in the crossfire.

An army spokesman said that groups of rebels had entered the town after setting off a suicide car bomb at a checkpoint, diverting the military’s attention.

Paris is keen to reduce its current 4,000-strong troop presence to 1,000 by the end of the year as it hands over its mission to a regional African force.

========================================================================================================

 

By coincidence – the following arrived in our Inbox and I find this relevant as it stresses US-Senegal relations. Senegal is a Muslim State.

04/01/2013 03:58 PM EDT

 

Remarks at Luncheon in Honor of Four African Democratic Partners.

Remarks

William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Martin Van Buren Dining Room
Washington, DC
March 29, 2013

 


 

Good afternoon. It is truly an honor to be here today with all of you. I want to thank Assistant Secretary Carson for hosting this luncheon. As you know, despite our best efforts to change his mind, Johnnie is leaving the State Department after a nearly four decades of exemplary public service. We are all deeply indebted to Johnnie for his leadership and stewardship of the U.S.-Africa relationship.

I would like to welcome President Banda of Malawi, Prime Minister Neves of Cape Verde, Foreign Minister Ndiaye of Senegal, and Foreign Minister Kamara of Sierra Leone. It is a pleasure to host you here at the Department of State.

Like Johnnie, I am an Africa optimist. I am an optimist because the tide of wars and civil strife is receding. I am an optimist because the continent continues to make steady progress in political reform — more than half of the countries in Africa have embraced democratic, multiparty rule and elections and term limits are now widely accepted norms. And I am an optimist because Africa’s growth rate will soon surpass Asia’s and seven of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are African.

The credit for this transformation belongs to leaders like you and courageous citizens across the continent. Looking back over the past two decades, the United States is proud of its modest contribution and steady support.

President Clinton worked with Congress to pass the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region. President George W. Bush created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, programs that saved millions of lives and brought hundreds of thousands of Africans out of poverty. Over the last four years, President Obama has built on this foundation by forming partnerships based on mutual respect and responsibility with governments, entrepreneurs, youth, women, and the private sector to strengthen democratic institutions, spur economic growth, promote opportunity and development, and advance peace and security.

Each of you illustrates the potential of these partnerships.

President Banda – in one year, you led Malawi out of a deep abyss, moving swiftly to stabilize the economy and elevate human rights. And as you did, the United States was pleased to restore its partnership with your government, including lifting the suspension of our $350 million MCC Compact. We look forward to continuing to work together further to strengthen Malawi democracy, address hunger and improve food security.

Prime Minister Neves – under your leadership, Cape Verde reached middle-income country status, joined the WTO, attracted significant foreign investment, and solidified its social safety net. We value our cooperation on maritime security and in countering narcotrafficking and are pleased to launch a second five-year MCC compact to accelerate economic growth.

Senegal is one of the United States’ strongest partners and a leading democracy in Africa. We applaud the Senegalese government’s commitment to improve governance, regional security, and bilateral cooperation. We deeply appreciate President Sall’s efforts for peace in the Casamance and his leadership on peacekeeping and regional security.

Last year, Sierra Leone held fair, free, and credible elections. We thank President Koroma and his government for their commitment to strengthening Sierra Leone’s democratic institutions. Predictably, the economy responded to your efforts, expanding by 30% in 2012. Let me also note our deep appreciation for your government’s troop contribution to the Somalia peacekeeping force.

There is no doubt that we face many challenges in the coming years – from the Horn to the Great Lakes, and the Sahel. This is why our partnership has never been more important. Fortunately, it has never been stronger.

Thank you very much.

 

====================================================================================================

File:Mali regions map.png

 

According to the Scottish explorer and scientist Robert Brown, Azawad is an Arabic corruption of the Berber word Azawagh, referring to a dry river basin that covers western Niger, northeastern Mali, and southern Algeria.[16] The name translates to “land of transhumance“.[17]

Flag of Azawad  the flag of AZAWAG

On 6 April 2012, in a statement posted to its website, the MNLA declared the independence of Azawad from Mali. In this Azawad Declaration of Independence, the name Independent State of Azawad was used[18] (French: État indépendant de l’Azawad,[18] ArabicDawlat Azaw?d al-Mustaqillah).

On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine – an Islamist group linked to Al-Qaeda – announced a pact in which they would merge to form an Islamist state; according to the media the new long name of Azawad was used in this pact. But this new name is not clear – sources list few variants of it: the Islamic Republic of Azawad[20] (French: République islamique de l’Azawad),[21] the Islamic State of Azawad (French: État islamique de l’Azawad[22]), the Republic of Azawad.[23] Azawad authorities did not officially confirm any change of name.

Later reports indicated the MNLA had decided to withdraw from the pact with Ansar Dine. In a new statement, dated on 9 June, MNLA uses the name State of Azawad (French: État de l’Azawad).[24]

The MNLA has unveiled the list of 28 members of the Transitional Council of the State of Azawad (Conseil de Transition de l’Etat de l’Azawad, CTEA) serving as a provisional government with President Bilal Ag Acherif to manage the new State of Azawad.

The Economic Community of West African States, which refused to recognise Azawad and called the declaration of its independence “null and void”, has said it may send troops into the disputed region in support of the Malian claim.[7][8]

Ansar Dine later declared that they rejected the idea of Azawad independence.[12] The MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash,[13] culminating in the Battle of Gao on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of the city, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of all the cities of northern Mali.[14]

On 14 February 2013 the MNLA renounced their claim of independence for Azawad; it asked the Malian government to start negotiations on its future status.[15]

All of this points at a very confusing situation that in effect backs what we heard at the meeting of March 21, 2013 here in Vienna.

File:Azawad in context.JPG

Above map suggests that the presence of Tuaregs which were nomads, is not limited to the north of Mali alone, but they are found in neighboring States as well. The history of the region involved wars that extended to Algeria and to larger Morocco. The area was part of empires that existed in Timbuktu and Gao.

Under French rule

Portal icon Azawad portal

After European powers formalized the scramble for Africa in the Berlin Conference, the French assumed control of the land between the 14th meridian and Miltou, South-West Chad, bounded in the south by a line running from Say, Niger to Baroua. Although the Azawad region was French in name, the principle of effectivity required France to hold power in those areas assigned, e.g. by signing agreements with local chiefs, setting up a government, and making use of the area economically, before the claim would be definitive. On 15 December 1893, Timbuktu, by then long past its prime, was annexed by a small group of French soldiers, led by Lieutenant Gaston Boiteux.[41] The region became part of French Sudan (Soudan Français), a colony of France. The colony was reorganised and the name changed several times during the French colonial period. In 1899 the French Sudan was subdivided and the Azawad became part of Upper Senegal and Middle Niger (Haut-Sénégal et Moyen Niger). In 1902 it was renamed as Senegambia and Niger (Sénégambie et Niger), and in 1904 this was changed again to Upper Senegal and Niger (Haut-Sénégal et Niger). This name was used until 1920 when it became French Sudan again.[42]

French Sudan became the autonomous state of Mali within the French Community in 1958, and Mali became independent from France in 1960. Four major Tuareg rebellions took place against Malian rule: the First Tuareg Rebellion (1962–64), the rebellion of 1990–1995, the rebellion of 2007–2009, and a 2012 rebellion. This alone should tell the world that the situation is not stable and that it can be adjusted only if autonomy is granted the Tuareg region.

In the early twenty-first century, the region became notorious for banditry and drug smuggling.[43] The area has been reported to contain great potential mineral wealth, including petroleum and uranium.[44]

On 17 January 2012, the MNLA announced the start of an insurrection in Azawad against the government of Mali, declaring that it “will continue so long as Bamako does not recognise this territory as a separate entity”.[45]On 24 January, the MNLA won control of the town of Aguelhok, killing around 160 Malian soldiers and capturing dozens of heavy weapons and military vehicles. In March 2012, the MNLA and Ansar Dine took control of the regional capitals of Kidal[46] and Gao[47] along with their military bases. On 1 April, Timbuktu was captured.[48] After the seizure of Timbuktu on 1 April, the MNLA gained effective control of most of the territory they claim for an independent Azawad. In a statement released on the occasion, the MNLA invited all Azawadis abroad to return home and join in constructing institutions in the new state.[49]

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) declared Azawad an independent state on 6 April 2012 and pledged to draft a constitution establishing it as a democracy. Their statement acknowledged the United Nations charter and said the new state would uphold its principles.[5][50]

In an interview with France 24, an MNLA spokesman declared the independence of Azawad:

Mali is an anarchic state. Therefore we have gathered a national liberation movement to put in an army capable of securing our land and an executive office capable of forming democratic institutions. We declare the independence of Azawad from this day on.
Moussa Ag Assarid, MLNA spokesman, 6 April 2012[51]

In the same interview, Assarid promised that Azawad would respect the colonial frontiers that separate Azawad from its neighbours; he insisted that Azawad’s declaration of independence had international legality.[51]

No foreign entity recognised Azawad. The MNLA’s declaration was immediately rejected by the African Union, who declared it “null and no value whatsoever”. The French Foreign Ministry said it would not recognise the unilateral partition of Mali, but it called for negotiations between the two entities to address “the demands of the northern Tuareg population [which] are old and for too long had not received adequate and necessary responses”. The United States also rejected the declaration of independence.[52]

The MNLA is estimated to have up to 3,000 soldiers. ECOWAS declared Azawad “null and void”, and said that Mali is “one and [an] indivisible entity”. ECOWAS has said that it would use force, if necessary, to put down the rebellion.[53] The French government indicated it could provide logistical support.[52]

On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine announced a pact to merge to form an Islamist state.[9] Later reports indicated the MNLA withdrew from the pact, distancing itself from Ansar Dine.[10][11] MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash,[54] culminating in the Battle of Gao and Timbuktu on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of Gao, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of Timbuktu and Kidal, the three biggest cities of northern Mali.[55] Ansar Dine continued its offensive against MNLA positions and overran all remaining MNLA held towns by 12 July with the fall of Ansogo.[56]

In December 2012, the MNLA agreed on Mali’s national unity and territorial integrity in talks with both the central government and Ansar Dine.[57]

Religion

Most are Muslims, of the Sunni or Sufi orientations.[citation needed] Most popular in the Tuareg movement and northern Mali as a whole is the Maliki branch of Sunnism, in which traditional opinions and analogical reasoning by later Muslim scholars are often used instead of a strict reliance on ?adith (coming directly from the Mohammed’s life and utterances) as a basis for legal judgment.[79]

Ansar Dine follows the Salafi branch of Sunni Islam, which rejects the existence of Islamic holy men (other than Mohammed) and their teachings. They strongly object to praying around the graves of Malikite ‘holymen’, and burned down an ancient Sufi shrine in Timbuktu, which had been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[80]

Most of the 300 Christians who formerly lived in Timbuktu have fled to the South since the rebels captured the town on 2 April 2012.[81][dead link]

Humanitarian situation

The people living in the central and northern Sahelian and Sahelo-Saharan areas of Mali are the country’s poorest, according to an International Fund for Agricultural Development report. Most are pastoralists and farmers practicing subsistence agriculture on dry land with poor and increasingly degraded soils.[82] The northern part of Mali suffers from a critical shortage of food and lack of health care. Starvation has prompted about 200,000 inhabitants to leave the region.[83]

Refugees in the 92,000-person refugee camp at Mbera, Mauritania, describe the Islamists as “intent on imposing an Islam of lash and gun on Malian Muslims.” The Islamists in Timbuktu have destroyed about a half-dozen historic above-ground tombs of revered holy men, proclaiming the tombs contrary to Shariah. One refugee in the camp spoke of encountering Afghans, Pakistanis and Nigerians among the invading forces.[84]

History of Azawad
MNLA flag.svg
Gao Empire
Songhai Empire
Pashalik of Timbuktu
French Sudan
Tuareg rebellion (1962–1964)
Tuareg rebellion (1990–1995)
Tuareg rebellion (2007–2009)
Tuareg rebellion (2012)
Independent State of Azawad

 

National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad

from the MNLA point of view:

Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad
Participant in Tuareg rebellions
MNLA emblem.png
Active October 2011 – present
Ideology Secular nationalism[1]
Autonomy
Leaders Bilal Ag Acherif[2] (General Secretary)
Mahmoud Ag Aghaly (President of the political bureau)
Ag Mohamed Najem (head of military operations)
Moussa Ag Acharatoumane
Ibrahim Ag Bahanga
Area of
operations
Azawad/northern Mali
Strength 9000-10000 (MNLA sources)[3]
Part of  Azawad
Allies  Libya (under Jamahiriya)
 Libya (under NTC)
Opponents  Mali (2012)
 Algeria
Ansar Dine (since June 2012)
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa
Battles/wars 2012–present Northern Mali conflict

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