May 20, 2013–Below are six news articles providing a certain overview of some of the main political developments in Mali over the past several weeks.
My most recent article on Mali, dated May 7, outlines the principle political trends in Mali and the region. The most significant new twist in events is the further evolution of relations in the France/Mali/Tuareg political axis. As I reported on May 7, France is pressing hard for an early, Haiti-style election in Mali, by July (!) if possible. As part of this, it wants some kind of accord with the rebellious people of the north, including the Tuareg. Surprise, the figurehead president of Mali, Dioncounda Traoré, concurs.
This has once again touched off a firestorm on the political left in Mali, including from the SADI party, which is close to the French Communist Party. Recall that the military coup in Mali last year was supported by SADI. The military officers that carried it out demagogically condemned the efforts in the preceding several years of the overthrown government to salvage elements of autonomy accords for the north that date as far back as the 1990s. Then, as now, the government is accused of something akin to treason. This is highly inflammatory language in the context.
Enclosed at the very end of this compilation is a statement, in French, by a commentator voicing the views of SADI. It accuses Dioncounda Traoré of betraying the nation in the face of the ‘secessionist’ MNLA movement of the Tuareg. A similar ‘left’ view is published here in l’Humanité three days ago. The left critique of France presented here is similar to what one heard in Haiti from a wide swath of left voices following the 2004 coup, echoed internationally, which was: The intervention of the U.S./France/Canada in Haiti is fine so long as it is directed at Lavalas-Aristide. Today’s version in Mali is: The France/U.S. intervention is fine, provided the Tuareg are targetted, the autonomy/national rights movement in the north of the country is extinguished, and the national borders of the country (first created by the colonial powers) are preserved. That’s an awfully mistaken political course of action.
Last month, the Hollande government barred Aminata Dramane Traoré of Mali from traveling and speaking in France. She was invited by the NPA and others. She is an independent voice, a career activist in the anti-globalization movement and a harsh critic of the France intervention in Mali. To my knowledge, she has not voiced a view on the historical situation in the north of Mali.
France to keep troops in Mali ‘indefinitely’
By David Blair, The Daily Telegraph, 17 May 2013
FRANCE will keep 1,000 troops in Mali for an “undetermined period” to fight alQaeda, the country’s defence minister said yesterday. During an official visit to London, Jean-Yves Le Drian suggested that France had an open-ended commitment to defend Mali from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
A French expeditionary force was deployed to the country in January to recapture Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal – the three main cities in northern Mali – from AQIM and its allies.
At first, 2,500 soldiers were deployed on Operation Serval and Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, promised on Jan 30 that they would leave the country “quickly”. Since then, the number of French troops in Mali has risen to almost 4,000 and the timetable for their departure has been revised. On current plans, half will leave by the end of July, when Mali holds a presidential election.
But Mr Le Drian said that a combat force would stay to prevent any “revival of terrorism”. He added: “This is the reason why France will remain with roughly 1,000 troops on Malian territory for an undetermined period of time to carry out counter-terrorism operations if necessary.”
Britain has sent transport and surveillance aircraft to help the French in Mali. Mr Le Drian commended the “swiftness” of Britain’s support.
The announcement came as Valérie Trierweiler, the French first lady, began a 48-hour tour of Mali, with a visit to Gao.
France will hand over responsibility for Mali’s security to an African force of up to 11,000 men. Operation Serval has broken AQIM’s grip on the population centres of northern Mali, but the group has resorted to suicide attacks and guerrilla warfare in the central Sahara.
Mali leader says Tuareg rebels ‘ready for talks’
AFP, May 18, 2013
PARIS: Tuareg separatist rebels who held a chunk of Mali’s vast north and still occupy the key town of Kidal are ready for talks to end the west African country’s crisis, President Dioncounda Traore said yesterday.
Traore, who met French counterpart Francois Hollande at the Elysee presidential palace, also pledged that elections would be held on July 28 to replace his interim government. The Malian leader “repeated that the elections will be held on the scheduled date and that is our position as well,” Hollande told journalists.
Traore meanwhile said the demand for the autonomy of the region of Kidal, held by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), was not a real stumbling block. The MNLA has refused to give up its weapons or take part in the July elections until negotiations have taken place with the Mali government.
Photo: Gao, Mali: France’s first lady Valerie Trierweiler and Malian First Lady Mintou Traore seated during a visit in Gao. Trierweiler began a tour of Mali on Thursday with a visit to Gao, one of several northern cities liberated by a French-led military operation against an Islamist occupation. — AFP
“I am sure that at this moment, the MNLA is ready to enter into a sincere and meaningful dialogue with the rest of Mali,” he said. “The MNLA is made up of Malians, compatriots whom we treat differently than the manner reserved for jihadists and we can talk and discuss with them,” Traore said.
In an interview to Euronews on Thursday, Traore had said he was “ready” to talk to the MNLA but rejected any demands for autonomy. The crisis in Mali began when Tuareg rebels relaunched a rebellion in January 2012 for independence of the vast desert north.
Their insurgency overwhelmed Mali’s troops and led to a coup in Bamako. This opened the way for hardline Islamists to chase out their former Tuareg allies and seize key northern cities.
France intervened in Mali in January and has since pushed the Al-Qaeda-linked militants into desert and mountain hideouts, from where they are staging guerrilla attacks. France has begun withdrawing its 4,500 troops deployed in Mali and handing over the reins to an African force, the International Mission for Support to Mali (MISMA). Paris has said about 1,000 soldiers will remain in Mali beyond this year to back up a UN force that is to replace MISMA.
After crushing Islamists, France pushes deal with Tuaregs
Reuters, May 20, 2013
BAMAKO: After winning adulation across Mali for a five month military offensive that crushed al Qaeda fighters, France is now frustrating some of its allies by pushing for a political settlement with a separate group of Tuareg rebels. A standoff over how to restore Malian government authority to Kidal, the last town in the desert north yet to be brought under central control, is sowing resentment with Paris and could delay planned elections to restore democracy after a coup.
Mali’s army has moved troops towards Kidal, a stronghold of the MNLA Tuareg separatists, but missed a self-imposed deadline this week to retake the Saharan town. France, which has its own forces camped outside, does not want Malian troops to march on the town, fearing ethnic bloodshed if it is taken by force.
“Paris blocks army at the gates of Kidal,” read a headline in Le Matin, a weekly in Mali’s capital Bamako. Elections are planned for July in Mali to finally restore normalcy after a chaotic 18 months that saw Tuaregs launch a revolt, the military carry out a coup, al Qaeda-linked Islamists seize the north and 4,000 French troops arrive to dislodge them. Many in government and on the streets of Bamako blame the January 2012 uprising by the Tuareg MNLA for unleashing the other calamities that nearly dissolved the country. Nationalists now want the army to march into Kidal to disarm the rebels.
France is instead backing secretive talks being held in neighbouring Burkina Faso, designed to allow the July elections to take place, while urging Bamako to address Tuaregs’ long-standing demands for autonomy for their desert homeland. Clashes between Arabs and Tuaregs have shown that ethnic tension remains high.
The former colonial power, France won enthusiastic public support across Mali for its decision to send troops in January to crush the Al-Qaeda-linked fighters. French flags still flutter in parts of the dusty riverside capital, and President Francois Hollande was cheered as a liberator by huge crowds when he visited in February. But goodwill is giving way to frustrations over Kidal, with many Malians questioning why France would not boldly confront the MNLA as it had done the coalition of al Qaeda-linked rebels.
Within the army, whose morale evaporated in a string of defeats last year, anger simmers over foreign interference. “Our men are ready but we have not received the orders to enter the town. It is a political decision,” said a senior Malian officer, who asked not to be named. Mali’s interim President Dioncounda Traore, whom Paris has defended from military pressure, voiced support for dialogue with the MNLA on Friday in Paris ahead of a meeting with Hollande. He said plans for decentralisation should satisfy the MNLA’s demands.
But many in Mali, particularly those close to the army, are hostile towards dialogue. The official Twitter feed for Mali’s presidency refers to the MNLA as terrorists.
Hollande rejects that label, saying the MNLA fought alongside French and African forces against the Islamists, providing intelligence on Islamists’ positions. “We have said we are willing to aid the return of Malian civilian administration to Kidal to organise elections,” Hollande said this week, appearing to rule out a military alternative. “We want a political dialogue, and I think that will happen.” The MNLA stole back into Kidal after France’s air and ground assault scattered the Islamists. The town has since been under awkward joint occupation by the MNLA with French troops and, for a time, their Chadian allies.
Defence Minister Yamoussa Camara promised parliament this month that Mali’s forces would be in the town by May 15. Residents in northern Mali have reported movement towards Kidal for weeks, but the force has yet to arrive.
The Kidal region is home to just 0.5 percent of Mali’s population – by far its least populated area – but the authorities say the national vote cannot take place without it. “Kidal will vote like the rest of the country … That’s what Malians want,” said Gamer Dicko, spokesman for the territorial administration ministry, tasked with organising elections. “Not holding an election there would be a de facto split of the country.” Diplomats say talks are quietly underway in Burkina Faso to find a way of allowing the elections to proceed in Kidal, as a stepping stone to political talks with the MNLA and other armed groups once a permanent, elected government is in place.
“It is about finding a gentleman’s agreement so the elections can take place in Kidal,” a West African diplomat said, asking not to be named. “The transitional government will not find a definitive solution to the problem.” President Traore has named a former minister, Tiebile Drame, as special envoy to coordinate talks with northern groups. Traore wrote in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that Drame had been named so that “Mali can keep control of the process”, an apparent sign of frustration with the role played by a panoply of UN and African mediators. Another diplomat said recent discussions in Bamako had revealed divisions between the Western position that more regional autonomy was needed to resolve the conflict and African nations’ support for a tougher line on the rebels.
International donors pledge US$4 bn to rebuild Mali
Borneo Post, May 17, 2013
BRUSSELS: International donors made pledged to mobilise 3.25 billion euro (US$ 4.18 billion) to support Mali’s reconstruction, the European Commission said Wednesday [May 15]. “Donors have made public financial commitments on the basis of the Plan for the Sustainable Recovery of Mali 2013-2014 (PRED) presented by the Malian government,” said a statement issued after an international donor conference on Mali held in Brussels.
“Of the 4.34 billion euro (US$ 5.59 billion) budget needed to implement the PRED, financial pledges for 3.25 billion euros have been announced by donors,” the statement said. The conference was organised by the European Union (EU) in coordination with France and Mali.
“It is crucial that Mali’s social and economic development and the consolidation of a stable state built on solid democratic foundations go hand in hand with efforts to stabilise the country,” said European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.
French President Francois Hollande said: “Mali is recovering its territorial integrity and is actively preparing for presidential elections in July and with the donor conference in Brussels, is making progress in its development.”
Mali’s interim President Dioncounda Traore said the European Union will provide training for its defense and security forces through the European Union Training Mission (EUTM).
Nations united in funding reconstruction of Mali
Associated Press, May 17, 2013
A plan to turn Mali into a stable democracy rather than a terrorist haven drew massive support Wednesday as various nations and organisations pledged € 3.25 billion (Dh15.36 billion) to help reconstruct the conflict- ridden West African nation.
The objective of the donors’ conference in Brussels had been to raise € 2 billion to support an ambitious € 4.3 billion plan drafted by Malian officials aimed at helping what many observers now view as a failed state re- emerge as a stable and secure democracy. By Wednesday evening, the pledges far exceeded that goal.
“This conference was a total success,” Mali’s interim president, Dioncounda Traore, said, as he expressed unreserved thanks to the international community. Traore admitted he would have been pleased with € 1.6 billion. The fact the conference raised twice that much showed just how serious a threat the international community sees in an ungoverned Mali.
A list of the pledges was not immediately released. But French President Francois Hollande said his country would contribute € 280 million. Germany committed € 100 million to the project, to be paid out through 2014 provided Mali’s planned elections take place.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the Obama administration would ask congress for $ 180 million in funding for Mali in 2014, after the elections. And a British official said the UK would pledge £ 128 million to help make Mali and the broader Sahel region more secure, but it was unclear how much of that was for Mali.
The day before the conference, the European Union had announced it would give € 520 million over the next two years — more than one- quarter of the amount sought.
Mali fell into crisis in 2012 as disparate rebel groups took over the north and a military coup ousted the government, which is based in the south. Many international officials feared that Mali’s vast ungoverned northern area was giving terrorist groups free reign to hatch plots targeting other nations.
A plan to rebuild Mali from ground up
Adam Nossiter, International Herald Tribune, May 18, 2013
The outpouring of support may be more a sign of nervousness than altruism. At an international conference in Brussels this past week, donors pledged $4.2 billion for Mali on a range of fronts, including roads, energy and business development, hoping to help rebuild a nation that alarmed governments around the world when much of it collapsed and fell to Islamist militants last year.
Beyond the money, the United Nations plans to deploy 12,600 peacekeepers this summer to make sure the militants do not return, while a host of outside powers, with France and the United States in the lead, are keeping a watchful eye on preparations for elections the Malians have promised for July.
What is unclear is whether these efforts will be enough to remake the nation, more than three times the size of Japan, after its civilian and military institutions have fallen, leaving a vacuum for the militants to exploit. Skeptics question whether money and oversight will suffice in a country with an army in tatters, accused of serious and so far unpunished human rights violations, and a political class that is mostly discredited.
The military junta that seized power last year, accelerating the country’s collapse, hovers in the background, with its tight connections to leading candidates in the July elections and an influential ally, Defense Minister Yamoussa Camara, in the cabinet of the so-called transition government.
Signs of the junta’s influence persist: The editorial director of the country’s leading newspaper, Le Républicain, was arrested in March by state security agents and jailed for 27 days for publishing a letter critical of the pay being given to the coup leader, Capt. Amadou Sanogo.
For now, the Islamist militants who held sway for more than nine months in the country’s north have been largely chased out, defeated in a rapid French and Chadian military campaign in January and February. Hundreds of Islamists were killed; many have regrouped in lawless southern Libya, say regional officials, including the foreign minister of Niger. But the separatist nomadic rebels whose 2012 uprising precipitated the takeover by Islamist extremists remain in control of the country’s far north, refusing to budge from their stronghold in Kidal in spite of saber-rattling in the capital, Bamako.
Mali, which played little role in the defeat of the militants on its own turf, remains vulnerable, incapable of defending or reconstructing itself, Western officials say. The militants have fled the principal towns of northern Mali — Gao and Timbuktu — but some remain in the region’s villages, as evidenced by attempted suicide bombings in recent days and brief armed incursions into urbanized areas, which were repulsed after gun battles with French and Malian forces.
Outside governments are eager to forestall a repeat of the chaos last year, and two large-scale multinational efforts now under way, led by France and shepherded by the United Nations and the European Union, would effectively make this impoverished West African nation a ward of the international community.
At the international donors’ conference in Brussels on Wednesday, Mali received most of what it was seeking in a broad reconstruction plan. ‘‘We need money,’’ the Malian foreign minister, Tieman Coulibaly, bluntly declared.
The needs are immense. The Malians told donors that government ‘‘resources’’ decreased 30 percent after the coup. Nearly half a million people have fled their homes in the north, tens of thousands are still in refugee camps, most schools and health centers in that region remain closed, and well over a million people are considered at risk of going hungry.
‘‘Everyone understands that the future of the subregion and beyond depends on Mali’s stabilization and development,’’ the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said at the Brussels conference.
Outside supporters 9sic0 are insisting that Mali replace the current coup-born government with a democratically elected one.
The Malians themselves, in their 48-page reconstruction plan, note the ‘‘fragility of the republic’s institutions’’ and the ‘‘poor governance and corruption riddling every area of national life.’’
There is little disagreement that one of the most pressing needs is the country’s ineffectual military, which retreated in the face of the rebel advance last year. The Malian report speaks of the ‘‘extreme weakness of the army,’’ and the United Nations is effectively proposing to step in as a substitute with what will be its third-largest peacekeeping force. Meanwhile, E.U. military trainers are at work in Mali trying to overhaul the army.
The core of the U.N. force is expected to be the 6,000 regional African troops already deployed, though a Pentagon official called them ‘‘completely incapable’’ in remarks to Congress in April.
Négociations avec le MNLA : La honteuse capitulation de Dioncounda
Issa Fakaba Sissoko, dans l’Indicateur du Renouveau, 20 mail 2013
En décidant, contre la volonté du peuple souverain malien, d’engager des négociations avec les bandits armés du MNLA sous le prétexte méprisable qu’ « il s’agit de Maliens comme tout le monde », le président de la République par intérim fait preuve de son ignorance manifeste de tout le processus qui a abouti à la création de la République du Mali en 1960, et s’engage dans une aventure périlleuse face à l’Histoire.
Comme un mépris vis-à-vis des familles victimes du massacre d’Aguelhok et des exactions commises ces derniers mois au nord, un ballet diplomatique se renforce entre Paris et Bamako. De retour de Bruxelles, Dioncounda Traoré fait escale à Paris. Objectif : informer le président français de la nomination de Tiébilé Dramé comme « conseiller spécial chargé des négociations avec les MNLA ».
En clair, tout comme la France, les autorités de la transition malienne semblent choisir l’option du dialogue avec les bandits armés, responsables des viols, des vols, pillages, des exactions sur les civils, et la destruction des biens du patrimoine mondial dans les régions Nord.
Le pas a été franchi par le président Dioncounda, qui a capitulé de manière honteuse face aux pressions de la France, et contre la volonté de son peuple. En choisissant la voie du dialogue avec ceux qui ont tué impunément, sans consulter le peuple malien, Dioncounda Traoré confirme qu’il n’est pas un président digne des Maliens qui, dans leur majorité, ont dit « non » à tout dialogue et réconciliation avant la justice.
Peuple malien indignez-vous !
Négocier avec des bandits armés, c’est donner un blanc-seing à des déserteurs et à des criminels qui ont sur la main tachée du sang de centaines de civils et de militaires maliens, en plus des crimes de guerre liés à la destruction sans cause de sites culturels et de symboles historiques.
En clair, toute négociation consacre l’humiliation pour le Mali. Car, il traduit la volonté de travestir la nature de la rébellion armée conduite par un groupuscule minoritaire en la présentant comme un conflit opposant les populations du Nord du Mali à celles du Sud.
Resté sourd aux différents appels du peuple malien, le président par intérim a pensé que « la négociation est absolument nécessaire ». Une déclaration de la honte de la part de quelqu’un que les Maliens voyaient incarner les valeurs démocratiques, d’intégrité et du respect des principes et valeurs de la République. Le peuple malien est donc interpellé. Face à l’option imposée par Dioncounda, il a le devoir d’opposer le sentiment de refus. Et il doit le faire savoir.
Le peuple malien n’a donc pas le choix : face à l’obsession du président de régler la question MNLA avec la légèrement des années précédentes, il doit dire « non » à la capitulation. Ouvrons les yeux peuple malien, et indignons-nous face au diktat des décideurs !