News

    Across Mali, a Political and Civil Impasse

    Mali's junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo speaks during a new news conference at his headquarters in Kati, April 3, 2012.
    Mali's junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo speaks during a new news conference at his headquarters in Kati, April 3, 2012.

    Tuareg rebels in northern Mali who seized three towns in a fast-moving offensive have declared an end to military operations.

    The separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which wants northern Mali to become a separate state that will serve as its homeland, declared a cease-fire Thursday, saying it had accomplished its goal.

    The Tuareg rebels, along with Islamist fighters, seized the cities of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu over a three-day period beginning last Friday.

    It is unclear if the Islamist militants, which fought alongside rebels, will also put down their weapons. The Islamist group, which has been linked to the al-Qaida branch in northern Africa (AQIM), has imposed Islamic law in some areas.

    Islamists also sacked the Algerian consulate in Gao on Thursday and are reportedly holding Algerian officials. Algeria, which borders Mali, has long been a critical player in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel region.

    On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe warned that the Tuareg rebel issue can be solved only through dialogue and not through military action.

    Northerners Malians based in Bamako have called for humanitarian corridors to funnel urgently needed assistance to people in the aftermath of mass looting across a region already hard hit by drought and food shortages.

    Junta leaders pressured
    Meanwhile, pressure continued to mount against renegade Malian soldiers who seized power from President Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22. Mali's main political parties have rejected calls by junta leaders for a "national convention" to sort out the country's political and security problems.

    But on Wednesday, coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo announced on junta-controlled television that the group is postponing the convention because it needs more time to organize.

    The meeting had also been rejected by the ECOWAS bloc [Economic Community Of West African States] as a junta ploy to buy time, and the FDR coalition of 50 political and civil-society groups had said that such a convention would not be compatible with a return to constitutional order.

    "We are waiting for the country’s institutions to get back to functioning normally," said coalition co-founder Tieman Coulibaly. "It’s only from that point that we can envision moving forward. ... The junta might go ahead with [the meeting], but they’ll do it without our political coalition."

    Embargo takes toll
    Power cuts have been rampant since ECOWAS shut the land-locked country’s borders and blocked money from reaching government accounts on Monday, and people who can afford food supplies and gasoline are stocking up.

    On Thursday morning, Bamako markets and public transport were running fairly normally, but people remained worried about what lies ahead if the embargo continues.

    At a local convention hall, women dressed in white had convened to march against the junta's national convention. When it was cancelled, they instead held a meeting to discuss how civil society should proceed.

    The Tuareg Uprising

    • Tuaregs are an ethnically Berber, nomadic people in West Africa's Sahel and Sahara regions.
    • Tuareg fighters have staged multiple uprisings in Mali and Niger for greater autonomy.
    • Current Mali rebellion began in January after Tuareg fighters returned from Libya, where they fought for Moammar Gadhafi.
    • The conflict has driven about 100,000 Malians to neighboring countries, internally displaced more than 90,000.
    • Losses to Tuaregs prompted soldiers' coup in Bamako Thursday March 22.
    Source:Encyclopedia Brittanica, ICRC, France 24

    "People want concrete actions," said Alwata Ichaita Sahi, an activist in Malian women’s groups. "The junta, political parties and the international community must find urgent solutions to get Mali out of this impasse."

    While civil servants said they have yet to be paid for the month of March, some Malian youth have mixed views about ECOWAS’s embargo.

    "If you impose sanctions on Malians, it’s not the enemies that will be punished, but the whole society will be punished," said 22-year-old Aboubacar, explaining that Malians deserve better. "I think the whole society is not responsible for what is happening in the country now. We do not need sanctions for the time being. We need help."

    Like many of his fellow natives of the north, Aboubacar, who's from Gao, said combat has only just begun, and that the international community has an interest in putting down Tuareg efforts to secede.

    "We and the United States of America, we have a common enemy," he said. "We want them to give us weapons so we could face this situation. If they can give us weapons, we are ready to go there and fight for our land."

    But Assoumane Maiga, 23, said a little bit of harsh measures from ECOWAS may be just what Mali and the region need.

    "This is a kind of warning to all of the militaries in the sub-region to understand that now you cannot come and take power like that," said Maiga. "So if there is a problem with the head of state, it’s the people who have to bring the solution, not the military. So I see the sanctions, the embargo, like something which is helping Mali, not something against Mali."

    According to Mohamed from Timbuktu, the time for violence has passed.

    "The time to fight those guys was when they were in Kidal, not now," he said. "Now they are mixed with the population, with civilians. If we go there to try to fight them we will kill our own families -- that’s not the solution."

    The heavily armed Tuareg rebels arrived in northern Mali after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, and launched an insurgency in mid-January. Tuareg separatists have been seeking autonomy for decades.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora