The coup in Mali appears to be over, and President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso is leading talks on how to organize and move forward.

“Former parliament speaker Dioncounda Traoré was sworn in on Thursday as interim president after Amadou Toumani Touré resigned under the 6 April agreement.

The 70-year-old mathematician turned politician is expected to name a prime minister soon, and to organise elections within 40 days.

He has threatened “total war” against the northern rebels, who seized a vast swathe of territory amid the disarray that followed the 22 March coup, which the mutineers justified by accusing Touré’s government of mishandling the Tuareg rebellion.”

The following interview with Andy Morgan from March 27 provides knowledge, history, and insight regarding what is going on with the Tuareg uprising in Mali.

“Q: Could you give us the general picture of what is going on in Mali at the moment?
A: The Tuaregs have been fighting an insurgency against the central power in Mali since the late 1950s but in terms of open fighting, since 1963. So this is a very old story. What we are seeing is the latest chapter, but a chapter with a great many differences. The Tuaregs this time are better equipped, better trained and better led than they ever have been before and as a result they have been able to clinch a series of military victories which have given them control of the northern half of Mali …

Q: What about the AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb)? Does this group exist and are there any links with the MNLA as some have suggested?
A: No Tuareg has ever killed or maimed another human being in the name of religion – certainly not in the last sixty years. I say that just to make clear that there is no cultural affinity between the Tuareg and AQIM. There is no question that AQIM does actually exist, this has been verified, but the more difficult question is who are its friends and enemies? They carry out kidnappings and have murdered people, including soldiers and policemen and have carried out suicide attacks. But there is a great deal of conjecture about this whole issue. What does certainly happen is that many western African and North African governments use Al Qaeda to discredit political or independence and autonomy movements.”

Here is the map of Mali from near the end of March.

Map of Mali with the MNLA claims and positions as of March 28, 2012, before the MNLA captured Timbuktu

An excerpt from The Causes of the Uprising in Northern Mali by Andy Morgan:

“Iyad Ag Ghali, Ansar Eddine and Mali-AQIM collusion theory

Iyad’s creation of Ansar Eddine and his reported ties with a certain Abou Abdelkarim aka Le Targui, one of the minor AQIM leaders operating in the southern desert, have opened the flood gates to national and international speculation about the possible links between the Tuareg rebel movement and Islamic terrorists, a link that the Malian government is all to keen to stoke and publicise in order to discredit the movement. As his name indicates, Abdelkarim le Targui is supposedly a Tuareg, a native of the Tinzawaten region and the erstwhile preacher at the mosque in In Khalil, a remote and fairly lawless border town in the far north east of Mali. He is reportedly a subordinate of the thuggish emir Abou Zeid, and leader of his own small katiba called Al Ansar which was responsible for kidnapping the septuagenarian French humanitarian worker Michel Germaneau in 2010. According to an announcement by Abdelmalik Droukdel, until recently the supreme leader of AQIM, which was posted up on the AQIM website, Abdelkarim Le Targui was also responsible for murdering Germaneau in cold blood as well as negotiation major drug deals on behalf of AQIM with the representatives of a Colombian drugs cartel in Guinea-Bissau. Not the kind of person you should be associating with if you want to present yourself as a legitimate political organisation.

Iyad’s association with Abdelkarim Le Targui is vague and conjectural. Some Tuareg even argue that far from being a true targui, Abdelkarim is an Algerian Arab, like all the other AQIM leaders in the southern desert. Nonetheless this link, together with the perceived religious extremism of Iyad and his Ansar Eddine movement, has spawned a smear campaign in Bamako which aims to convince the world that the MNLA are in cahoots with AQIM. The AFP reporter in Bamako even claimed that Abou Zeid took part in a recent MNLA attack on the army in the village of Aguel’hoc north of Kidal. Nothing is more poisonous to the international image of the Tuareg cause than this taint of fundamentalism and AQIM, not even the Gaddafi links.

There are several reasons why that taint is wholly unjustified. The first is that since the inception of the MNA and MNLA movements, one of their loudest, most cherished and oft repeated aims is to rid their homeland of AQIM, an organisation which they consider to be one of Mali’s most effective weapons in its fight against their cause. “AQIM was parachuted in and installed in our territory by the Malian government,” declares Hama Ag Sid’Ahmed, with total conviction. “It was the initiative of certain drugs barons, who are advisors to the President, in the shadows of the Koulouba Palace [The Presidential palace in Bamako]. They brought them into the Timbuktu region and then to Kidal. In return for the release of the 32 hostages in 2003, a pact of non-aggression was signed between Bamako and Al Qaeda, who then progressively occupied this territory. Those contacts became permanent and it’s clear that since then all the operations led by the terrorist groups have originated in Mali, and the terrorist have always fallen back to Mali. It’s their safe haven. Everyone knows that the terrorists are in communication with military leaders, and that politicians from Bamako meet the terrorist emirs quite regularly.”

Far fetched? Maybe. Like Professor Jeremy Keenan’s controversial theory that AQIM are a creation of the Algerian DRS, the Mali-AQIM collusion theory remains conjectural. But the circumstantial evidence that links a cabal of Malian army and secret service operatives, usually Arabs from the north of the country close to the upper echelons of Mali’s political and military hierarchy, to the huge drug smuggling operations that have blighted the stability of the northern deserts in recent years and to AQIM is very strong. It’s hardly a secret anymore that a consensus exists among US, French and Algerian diplomats in the region that Mali has been long on words but short on action in its dealings with AQIM since 2006. The frustration with Mali’s lack of firm resolve and decisive action in this regard, despite the millions of dollars in aid that it has received from the US and France specifically for the purpose of fighting terrorists on its soil, has been growing exponentially in the embassies and foreign ministries of the world powers. Apart from one clash with AQIM in the desert north of Timbuktu back in 2006, there have hardly been any confirmed reports of the Malian army doing any damage to AQIM at all. In fact, the most determined opposition that AQIM has encountered during its five year campaign of terror in Mali has been at the hands of the ADC, the Tuareg rebel movement launched in 2006, who skirmished with the terrorists several times between 2006 and 2009, with lives lost on both sides. And now that the entire might of the Malian army has been thrown against the Tuareg uprising with such devastating force, including fighter jets, tanks, armoured vehicles, missiles of every stamp and thousands of troops, it’s little wonder that Tuaregs, diplomats, analysts and commentators are feeling a tad cynical about Mali’s repeated assertions in recent years that they’ve never had the military wherewithal to deal with the AQIM threat.

A senior Malian politician once had the temerity to declare in a private meeting at the US Embassy in Bamako that the presence of AQIM in the north east of the country was a good thing, as long as it meant that the Tuareg rebel movement wasted its resources and time trying to combat it. At another meeting, the new Algerian ambassador informed his US counterpart that he suspected collusion between Mali and the terrorists. He cited the then recent case of a joint Algerian-Malian operation to attack an AQIM base that had failed because the AQIM katiba in question had been tipped off in advance. All these frankly startling revelations are contained in the US Embassy cables leaked by Bradley Manning and Wikileaks. In fact, there is no better way to understand what really went on in the northern deserts of Mali between 2006 and early 2010 than to read those US Embassy cables. The level of intelligence, analysis and research contained in them is often of the highest order. And yes, they do reveal that the US Embassy has also suspected Mali of at best tolerating and at worst colluding with AQIM at one time or another.

If the implantation of AQIM on Tuareg soil was part of a deliberate Malian strategy, then it has been extraordinarily effective. The main campaign of AQIM kidnapping and extortion began in March 2008 (interestingly there had been a five year hiatus since the 2003 hostage incident), just when relations between Mali, the ADC and Ag Bahanga were reaching their nadir. Since that time AQIM has knocked the Tuareg rebellion squarely off the front page, both national and internationally. Until January 17 of this year that is. The presence of AQIM in Mali put the country in the front line of the USA’s global war on terror, giving it kudos and a receptive ear in Washington whilst justifying the huge amounts of money, training and equipment that America lavished on Mali in the context of its Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Programme (TSCTP) and Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI). It has also emptied the north of foreign journalists, foreign observers, foreign NGO workers, foreign tourists and foreigners in general, whose presence could have been inconvenient for certain shady army or secret service (DGSE) operations, especially those linked with the drug trade. Most of all, AQIM have simply throttled the region and deprived its Tuareg population of any hope of building a viable future and developing a strong economy. In short, AQIM has crippled Tuareg society in Mali’s north east. No wonder MNLA have vowed to rid their land of Al Qaeda.

And yet Iyad Ag Ghali’s Ansar Eddine movement continues to sow the seeds of doubt and Mali’s propaganda machine continues to milk any possible connection between the MNLA, Iyad and AQIM for all its worth. Apparently Iyad tried to sell his plan for an Islamic inspired movement to the Ifoghas meeting in Abeibara by promising that his political approach would be no different to that of the moderate Islamic parties that have come to power following the Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. There also happens to be another Islamic organisation in Mali with the name Ansar Dine. It has a vast following amongst southern Malians, who flock to football stadiums in their thousands to hear the preachings of the movement’s leader, Cherif Ousmane Madani Haidara. Ansar Dine preaches tolerance, democracy and social morality inspired by faith in the teachings of The Prophet. It is also an ardent critic of government corruption and incompetence. Perhaps Iyad sees his movement as a Tamasheq off shoot of the bigger Ansar Dine. Who knows? “What’s very important is that all the religious leaders of the Adagh des Iforas have categorically rejected this foreign Salafist culture that has been planted in their midst,” Hama Ag Sid’Ahmed declares with emphasis. “I know that Iyad is an important person in the region and I know that he’s involved in religious matters. But I cannot believe that he would completely abandon the tolerance that is part of our Tuareg culture. Not for one second. Maybe Iyad and others realise that AQIM has a hold on some of our young people, and they’re trying to present a different message about Islam that might possibly win back all those that the Salafists have co-opted into their ranks.”’

There is also this article that is worth noting:
Terrorism In The Sahara And Sahel: A ‘False Flag’ In The War On Terror? – by Richard Trillo

“Some Sahara analysts believe that AQIM, which was formed in 2007, is a false flag organisation. In this scenario, many of AQIM’s members may be genuine Islamic ideologues from Algeria, with a background in the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) that were formed after the cancellation of Algeria’s 1991 elections in which the Islamic Salvation Front won a sweeping victory. The activities of these AQIM ground troops, however, are said to be coordinated by none other than the Algerian intelligence service itself, in a strategy aimed at justifying the country’s authoritarian government, procuring arms and drawing their American military partners into the region in the “Global War on Terror” (there is a significant American military presence in the Sahel, notably a large US training base at Gao, in Mali).”

And a comment to the article says:

“I was in Mauritania spring 2009. On June 25 (2009, not 2010) Christopher Leggett, a husband and father of four, was shot multiple times. Leggett was an American aid worker teaching computer classes. At the time AQIM issued statement: “Two knights of the Islamic Maghreb killed Christopher Leggett for his Chistianizing activities”. Soon after more than 100 Peace Corps volunteers were evacuated to Senegal. (The Peace Corp had worked in Mauritania 40+ yrs)
In Novemeber 2009 AQIM also kidnapped three Spanish aid workers in Mauritania…

Agree, the operations of AQIM appear focused on running blackmarket opperations (smuggling, drugs, money-laundering & protection rackets). It appears to me AQIM does not want witnesses, foreign observers, especially those trusted by locals. Leggett and the three Spanish aid workers were neither political targets nor ransom targets (corporate engineers/execs).

AQIM violence not only drove off tourists, but also aid workers… which may have been their objective.”

Outsiders who are trusted by local residents might bring back reports of what is really happening. Those with a political agenda might want the outside to know of their deeds when they are effective. They may have less to hide. Those with a criminal agenda might want to prevent any whiff of real information from reaching the wider world. They may have much more to hide.

Here is more from the interview with Andy Morgan in Global Dispatches on the subject of Mali’s Tuareg Rebellion.

“From about October 2011 onwards, they basically started preparing the uprising, with long meetings out in the desert where they indulged in a great deal of soul searching about what had gone wrong in previous uprisings, so as to get it right this time. What happened is that they entered into an alliance with a much younger group of Tuaregs, you might say young intellectuals, very Internet savvy young Tuaregs, who set up the National Movement of Azawad, the MNA at the end of 2010. They eventually merged with the MNLA. This was an important move as one of the aspects that was deemed to be lacking in previous uprisings was good communications with the international media, and with the world at large.

Q: When we talk about Tuaregs we are talking about many different tribes, spread over different countries. Some say the MNLA is just a small group of a few thousand fighters. What sort of support does the MNLA have from Tuaregs as a whole?
A: There are roughly 1.5 million Tuaregs, although an accurate census does not exist. They are spread out over 5 countries: Mali, Algeria, Libya, Niger and Burkina Faso. They have a very complex clan and tribal structure, at the top of which you have 5 large confederations which are then broken down into tribes, then clans and families etc. It’s very complex. They don’t all see eye-to-eye and historically they have fought against each other, sometimes very bitterly. The idea of a Tuareg identity is a relatively recent phenomenon. Up till about 50 years ago, they did not see themselves as a unified people, they saw themselves as different families, tribes and clans – nomads from different parts of the desert who often fought against each other.

Q: So who are the MNLA?
A: The MNLA are basically led by Tuaregs from the north-east of Mali, especially by two particular clans, called the Iforas and Idnan. The Iforas are the traditional rulers of north-eastern Mali. The Idnan are also a traditional warrior clan, bearing in mind that their society is very hierarchical and each clan had its different role. All of these old structures have been modified and deconstructed over the last one hundred years, but basically these two groups, the Iforas and the Idnan, are very much at the head of the MNLA. Support for the MNLA amongst Tuaregs is quite broad, partly as a result of the MNA’s propaganda and certainly before this latest conflict happened, I got the feeling from talking to various friends, that a lot of Tuaregs felt that at last they had a rebel organisation that was worthy of their cause. However they do not represent all Tuaregs by any means, and even less, all the people living in the north of Mali, where there are quite a number of different ethnicities apart from the Tuareg, including Arabs, Songhai and Peulh. All I can say is that it’s been along time since a rebel movement has enjoyed the level of support that the MNLA have, but this support is by no means universal.

Q: Is there any internal opposition?
A: There is one group that is seemingly opposed to the MNLA and they are called the Inghad. They are the former subordinate or ‘vassal’ class in the old hierarchical structure, subordinate to the more noble Idnan and Iforas Tuaregs. Many of the Inghad were in favour of the Tuareg lands becoming part of the Republic of Mali, as the socialist principles upon which the Malian Republic was built meant that they were freed from their subservient status in Tuareg society. One of the most frequently touted names in this conflict is a Tuareg military commander called Colonel al-Hajj Gamou. He has been the Malian army’s champion in the north-east for quite a number of years and he is an Inghad, from one of these vassal tribes. Ag Gamou has been built up as the defender of the Malian cause in the north. Apart from the Libyan Tuareg presence in the MNLA, there have also been a lot of desertions to the MNLA from the Malian army since December, as the Malian army did comprise a large number of Tuaregs. The actual number of people in the MNLA is difficult to gauge but I am sure that the numbers are growing.

Q: What are the aims of the MNLA?
A: They want a country of their own, a country called Azawad, which will comprise the three northernmost provinces or regions of present-day Mali – Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal. There has long been a debate within Tuareg society about what they want; autonomy within a federalist Malian structure or a completely independent state. After the last big rebellion in the early 1990s, when the suffering among the civilian population was quite extreme, many Tuaregs fell back to a more conciliatory position, saying that they did not want an independent country but wanted their rights; cultural rights and economic rights. This position has hardened in recent years to the point where the MNLA want absolute independence for Azawad, the long-dreamed-of Tuareg state.

By saying that they are only interested in Mali, the MNLA are trying to limit the fear and concern of neighbouring states that a Tuareg uprising in Mali will lead to Tuareg uprisings elsewhere in all the 5 other countries where Tuareg are present.

Morgan continues to describe in more detail why the nearby countries are extremely nervous about the situation. He speaks about the reasons for the coup, and the very real grievances the Malian military had against their government. He discusses the origin and nature of Ansar al Din, and the links and frictions between it and the MNLA, and the AQIM. Morgan describes how AQIM’s kidnapping and drug running destroyed tourism and related business in northern Mali. This led to bad feelings towards AQIM. Morgan discusses how during peaceful times, Malians and the Tuareg generally get along pretty well. And he discusses the tensions between Mali and Mauritania.

Ansar al Din probably caused Alexandra at Libya360 to write:

“I have been expressing concern for Tuareg for several months. My research uncovered two parallel movements. One, a genuine uprising of the Tuareg. The other, an imperialist-backed initiative aimed and manufacturing consent for the takeover of another African nation and the genocide of the Tuareg.

The US and the French have had their Special Operations forces in northern Mali and neighboring countries for most of this century, and the French long before that. The French have been particularly active in Niger. The US has used this time to create a decade of lies in order to establish the GWOT in the Sahara and give some legitimacy to AQIM in order to justify anti-terrorism.”

Moeen Raoof writes:

“The conflict in Libya has had a devastating effect in Niger and Mali where the nomadic Tuareg peoples in the Sahara Desert regions of northern Niger and Mali and southern Libya have been involved in a spate of kidnappings and armed uprisings known as the ‘Tuareg rebellion’. This is especially dangerous for northern Niger in and around the town of Arlit, an industrial town located in the Agadez region, where uranium is mined by French companies in two large uranium mines (Arlit and Akouta).

Put simply, this is about Uranium to be found in the Tuareg areas of Mali, Niger and Libya, the next step will be UN/ECOWAS/NATO Peace-keepers, Military intervention and killing of thousands of Tuaregs.”

Not only is uranium an issue, oil is in the picture as well. As Andy Morgan puts it:

“Q: What about oil and gas? Is the area strategic in terms of its mineral resources?
A: Yes, one thing that has been happening in the last 5 years is that northern Mali has been explored, and parcelled off as lots for oil drilling. Those lots have already been sold off – and I should say this is where things get very murky and where some serious investigative journalism needs to be done. Total, the French oil company, were involved in the exploration, as were the Qatar Petroleum Company. As we know, both Qatar and France were heavily involved in the overthrow of Gaddafi and many Malian commentators see a conspiracy theory in which France (remembering that France and the Tuaregs did try and set up a Tuareg state back in the ’50s prior to Malian independence which was quashed by the FLN in Algeria and the leaders of independent Mali) have always rued the fact that they lost all their colonies and access to the rich minerals in northern Mali. So many Malians see the Tuareg rebellion as being engineered by the French.”

Energypedia provides an outline of Mali’s oil blocks, and this piece of information from October 2011:

“Algerian state energy group Sonatrach will start long-awaited drilling for oil in Mali’s section of the Taoudeni Basin by mid-2012, the company’s managing director said on Malian state radio. Sonatrach signed a deal for oil exploration in Mali in 2007, but progress has been slow in the basin, which straddles Mali, Algeria and Mauritania. The area is overrun by gunmen, some of whom are linked to al Qaeda”

The Taoudeni Basin in Mali, which extends far into Mauritania, and somewhat into Algeria, is thought to be the location of significant reserves of oil.

There is an interview with a spokesman for the MNLA from March 28 at Afrik.com
MNLA : « L’indépendance ne se donne pas, elle se mérite, google translation here. Mossa Ag Attach, communications officer for the MNLA tells us in the interview that the MNLA is determined to control (free) the three northern cities, Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu. He indicates the MNLA is happy to negotiate so long as the government of Mali will respect Azawad independence. You can check for more from the source at the MNLA website.

The international community is hyping the threat of terror, linking it to the Tuareg victories in the north of Mali. But if Mali’s army and political elite have been a more active partners and participants with AQIM’s drug smuggling and criminal endeavors, the Tuareg may make life more difficult for AQIM, and cost some big people money. Also, how does the quest for oil and uranium interact with AQIM’s criminal endeavors?

The north of Mali is hostile and unfamiliar to soldiers from the south. ECOWAS has spoken of sending troups, but getting actual troop commitments is chancy, and no way guaranteed.

If the upper echelons of Mali’s army and political elite are allied with AQIM, and the US knows this, then all the train and equip is another example of the US knowingly partnering with the perpetrators, and actively concealing the truth. What is the goal of such a policy?

 
 
 

Be sure to read the entire article, The Causes of the Uprising in Northern Mali by Andy Morgan. I only included a small portion here. He covers many more aspects of the recent history and the present situation.
Check the interview as well Mali’s Tuareg Rebellion.
 
Earlier posts relevant to this topic:
Inherent contradictions of AFRICOM – lies and illusions
US Policy Versus Democracy In Mali
Lied Into the War On Terror In the Sahara
New York Times catapults the propganda for AFRICOM
Obama’s African Rifles – Partners/Surrogates/Proxies
Supplying Arms and Military Training – The US Gift to Africa

h/t David/Daoud
h/t Joerg Tiedjen
for informative links

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AFRICOM’s train and equip undoubtedly helped facilitate the coup in Mali. Train and equip was a contributing cause. Just the fact that the coup leader, Captain Sanogo received US training and attended the infamous coup school in the US at Fort Benning makes this an issue. Whether train and equip played a large part or a tiny part in the coup is hard to say at this point, but it certainly played a part. US train and equip has a long and ugly history in Africa, and in Latin America. However, Pentagon apologist Wendy Sherman alleges that train and equip is the cure to events such as the coup in Mali, not the cause.

From: Seizing opportunities from a transforming Africa (III)
Thursday, 05 April 2012
Wendy R. Sherman

“In West Africa, African peacekeepers contributed importantly to the rebuilding of the war-torn countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone. But as we have seen most recently in Mali, militaries can threaten decades of democratic gains. That is why a critical component of our engagement with Africa is to help African countries develop professional militaries to provide for the national defense of sovereign states and the safety of the populace while respecting civilian authority. Likewise, we support the creation of effective coast guards and maritime security forces to enforce exclusive economic zones and cut down on illegal fishing, as well as professional border security forces to cut down on illicit trafficking.”

A U.S. Special Forces soldier instructs Malian troops in counterterrorism tactics through a translator (right, in black turban) on the outskirts of Timbuktu in 2008. Photographs by Justin Bishop.

The author of these remarks is Wendy Sherman, is an apologist for the Pentagon and a corporate shill, or, as described on her Worldwide Speakers page:

Ambassador Sherman was recently named to the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Policy Board, where she is tasked with advising the Secretary of Defense on matters of defense policy. In 2008, she was appointed by Congressional Leadership to serve on the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. A seasoned strategist and organizer, she is skilled at engaging stakeholders and building broad coalitions. Ambassador Sherman serves as a frequent analyst in major news outlets, providing unparalleled insight and perspective on today’s most complex issues.

Don’t forget:

From Congressional testimony by the Africa Faith and Justice Network, in July 2008:

The ‘train and equip’ idea is not new. In fact, it has a very bad history in Africa – a history that harkens back to the proxy wars of the Cold War and U.S. support for illegitimate or corrupt regimes.

In the 1980’s, the U.S. spent $500 million to train and equip Samuel Doe in Liberia. According to a report from the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute, “every armed group that plundered Liberia over the past 25 years had its core in these U.S.-trained Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) soldiers. There is thus a fear that when the United States withdraws support for its security sector reform program and funding for the AFL, Liberia will be sitting on a time bomb; a well-trained and armed force of elite soldiers who are used to good pay and conditions of service, which may be impossible for the government of Liberia to sustain on its own.”

AFRICOM’s value as a structure for legitimizing African armies should therefore be called into serious question.

This ruinous history, just from the train and equip in Liberia alone, is still playing out.  When Ivory Coast fell into conflict following the most recent presidential election, former soldiers from the Liberian and Sierra Leonean civil wars of the 90s headed to Ivory Coast looking for work in what appeared to be a coming civil war. 

When you invest all your attention and resources in the military sector, the message you send is that the military sector is best qualified to run things.  And US investment in Africa is almost entirely military.   I’m sure Ambassador Sherman would point with pride to programs such as AGOA, or some of the agricultural programs, which mostly benefit US corporations, and harm, or potentially cause great harm, for Africa.

I do not think AFRICOM’s train and equip was the main cause of Mali’s coup.  I don’t know, and have no particular reason to believe there was any US instigation in the coup, although it is possible.  Malians, and Mali’s military had many reasons to be angry with their government.   

From Mali’s Tuareg Rebellion:

Q: What are their grievances?
A: The conduct of the war against the MNLA has in their eyes [Mali’s soldiers] been a thing of shame. They feel the army is underfunded, undersupplied and there are stories of soldiers almost dying of hunger because of not getting enough food. There was also supposedly a massacre of Malian soldiers in a village north of Kidal called Aguel’hoc, which the Malians claim was perpetrated by AQIM (Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb) but the jury is out on what actually happened. But in Bamako, people certainly believe that the soldiers were badly treated and brutally murdered in Aguel’hoc. The Malian army also suffered some serious defeats a couple of weeks ago, in Tessalit, which is up near the Algerian border. The MNLA captured a lot of soldiers, and the head of the MNLA, Mohamed Ag Najm, in an interview with El Watan, the Algerian newspaper, said that the MNLA had tried to hand back the soldiers to the Malian authorities but that Mali did not seem to want them. So there is also the feeling that the soldiers are being abandoned. There is a lot of anger and this anger has clearly boiled over. The big question is “Who is behind this putsch?” The leader of this little junta, Captain Sanogo, is a complete unknown, although he has fought on the frontline and has experience of the north-east. Whenever he and his junta make declarations on the TV, it is clear that there are no senior officers involved in this coup at all – no-one above the rank of captain. I think it is generally accepted that when there is a military coup in an former French colony, the French army have got something to do with it, or at least some prior knowledge, as the links between the armies in Mali and Senegal for example and the French army are very close. Most senior Malian officers will have been trained in French military academies. It is possible that this coup may be the exception and that it is being led by a group of fairly young junior soldiers who are clearly very angry. It looks like they have taken over but it is not clear if the rest of the army has gone over with them. The jury is completely out on this, we will see how this situation develops.

Whatever the relationship between the coup makers and AFRICOM, key players have received US training.

When Ambassador Sherman says:

But as we have seen most recently in Mali, militaries can threaten decades of democratic gains. That is why a critical component of our engagement with Africa is to help African countries develop professional militaries … while respecting civilian authority

She is claiming a cause of the problem is the cure for the problem. It is hard to say whether the most appropriate response to that claim is apoplectic outrage or gales of laughter.

Although the timing and nature of the coup in Mali is surprising, that a coup occurred is not surprising. Mali’s GDP is around $9 billion. The annual US $167 million in military train and equip investment is a huge sum in relation to Mali’s GDP. The overwhelming emphasis on military training, arms transfers, and military assistance, is an incitement to create military governments wherever it occurs. The message is that the military knows how to run things, and you need the military to get things done. It would require robust and independent civilian institutions to counter that. Few developing countries enjoy that luxury. Mali was in a better position to maintain a civilian democratic government than most. The US may have had no direct involvement in the coup, or there may have been some knowledge, possibly even encouragement from US sources. I would hope that is not true, but there are plenty of unfortunate precedents. And Captain Sanogo has received a lot of US training, including at the coup school at Ft. Benning.

The following are more pictures of US train and equip activities in Mali, from 2009-2011.

GAO, Mali - A U.S. Navy SEAL advisor watches a Malian special operations vehicle unit run through immediate action drills for counter-terrorism missions during training February 26, 2010, near Gao, Mali. The Special Operations Command - Africa SEAL team spent several weeks in Mali working with a Malian special operations unit on advanced counter-terrorism skills training. Military training engagements such as this one are geared to build upon previously established relationships and help African partner nations develop capacities, achieve regional cooperation and improve security. These capacity-development events support the regional interagency objectives of the U.S. State Department's Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership program and the Department of Defense's Operation Enduring Freedom (Trans-Sahara). (Photo by Max R. Blumenfeld, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara)

MI Professional Course, Bamako, Mali, March 2011. Recently, U.S. Army Africa (USARAF) intelligence assets extended a helping hand to their African continent counterparts in Bamako, Mali. 18 students from various African nations took part in a Military Intelligence Professional Course (MIPC) recently. The six-week course was conducted in French and English. This six-week course was the first of two such MPICs slated for this year.

It is worth reviewing this article from 2009:
Counterterrorism’s blindness: Mali and the US
Vijay Prashad

BAMAKO, Mali - A French-speaking U.S. Special Forces NCO advises a Malian military counter-terrorism unit while training on raid tactics recently at a military installation near Bamako, Mali. Advanced counter-terrorism training is provided by U.S. Special Operations Forces under the authorities of the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership, a State Department-led interagency initiative designed to develop the capabilities of countries in northern and Western Africa. U.S. Special Forces teams provide capacity development training and advisement during more than 30 pre-scheduled military training engagements conducted annually in the Trans-Saharan region. Department of Defense TSCTP activities in the region are planned, coordinated and conducted as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (Trans-Sahara) and are managed by SOCAFRICA's Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara. (Photo by JSOTF-TS Public Affairs)

Mali: The Political Crisis – Taking Grievances Seriously by Brian J. Peterson fleshes out the story of what happened far beyond previous accounts.

When the protest movement of Malian women erupted in the town of Kati on January 30, few took notice. The women were mostly “war widows” of Malian soldiers recently killed in fighting against the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).

The women were protesting the lack of government support, in particular the shortage of weapons and food, given to Malian soldiers. And they were enraged to hear reports that their husbands, sons and brothers had been massacred in the most dishonorable way by MNLA forces.

As the movement gained steam, the women began marching on Bamako, burning tires along the 12 km road from Kati, and heading for the presidential palace overlooking the city on the “hill of power.” Within days, the movement evolved into a more broad-based march in Bamako, soon spreading to Segou, the country’s second city.

Thousands of civilian protesters threw up barricades and burned tires, effectively shutting down the capital as President Amadou Toumani Touré desperately tried to restore order. Government security forces were dispatched with tear gas and blank bullets. As we have seen, this was only the beginning. But it provided the initial spark that eventually triggered the mutiny in Kati, which in turn evolved into the coup overthrowing the President.

This has led some to view the coup as “accidental” and “improvised.” But this improvised genesis of the coup still raises questions: to what extent is the junta expressing or reflecting the will of the people in the street? Is there any overlap between the junta’s populist rhetoric and the grievances of ordinary urban and rural Malians? Indeed, in assessing the crisis of Mali’s democracy, the world community must seriously address Malian popular grievances. And the main grievances I have in mind are ones that reach beyond dissatisfaction with the Malian government’s mishandling of the anti-separatist wars in the north.

… much has been said about the unintended consequences and spillover of the Libyan wars into the Sahel zone. Arms and mercenaries have flowed into northern Mali in the wake of Qaddafi’s overthrow, fanning the fires of Tuareg discontent. But these once-proud desert warriors have perennially opposed the state, leading to a series of rebellions against the post-colonial Malian government from the 1960s. Even during the pre-colonial and colonial periods, these nomadic groups existed largely outside state-spaces. Thus, a fundamental cause continues to be the unresolved tensions in the north, and the inability to convince the Tuareg that belonging to the Malian state is in their interests. Now, more recently, with ample arms, vehicles, and skilled fighters, they have stunned the Malian army with their rapid conquests in the north. At the moment of this writing, they are on the verge of even taking Kidal and Timbuktu. Again, they are mostly separatists, but not monolithically so.

The MNLA wants to carve out an independent nation of Azawad, free from the Bamako-based Malian government, which it views as tyrannical and unresponsive to northern concerns. Another group, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) appears primarily concerned with operating its smuggling and kidnapping-for-ransom business. And it should be noted that the MNLA has stated that one of its goals is to defeat AQIM, which has severely damaged the Tuareg economy by virtually ending tourism in the region. The third major group, Ansar Dine seeks to establish northern Mali as an Islamic state based on shar’ia law, according to leader Iyad ag Ghali. His group has been purportedly backed by Saudi Wahhabis. Taken as a whole, the “northern insurgency” has overwhelmed the Malian government and thrown it into a crisis that threatens to deepen and spread beyond its borders.

Back in Bamako the coup leaders saw a political opportunity in the run-up to the April 29 elections. While it is impossible at this stage to impute particular motives or intentions, we know of the military’s dissatisfactions as expressed by the newly formed National Committee for the Return of Democracy and the Restoration of the State (CNRDR). Furthermore, their stated and perceived intentions will be evolving in response to forces on the ground. Echoing the grievances of the women protesters, they state that they overthrew the government because of its “incompetence.” We’ve heard their rhetoric about defending democracy, fighting “terrorism,” restoring effective governance and such. And we’ve also been forced to contemplate the junta’s statements about returning to democracy once the country has been “unified” and “no longer threatened.” All of this is fairly familiar boilerplate reminiscent of African leaders, such as Mobutu and others who since the 1960s spoke of national unity while remaining clients of former colonial rulers or Cold War powers. In this light, U.S.-trained Capt. Amadou Sanogo, the head of the putschists, has neglected to count the presence of U.S. counter-terrorism forces, neoliberal economic policies or Franco-African neocolonial relationships as threats to “national unity” or “territorial integrity” alongside corruption, state paralysis and the northern insurgency.

The US seems primed to conflate MNLA with AQIM. This is a major mistake and needs to be countered and avoided. The US needs to listen to the local people, the people they call partners, but do not listen to and do not consult except those that have been trained by the US and say what the US wants to hear.

Mali is entering a season of food shortages, and Malians have reason to be dissatisfied with their democracy.

beyond environmental and agricultural vicissitudes, there is a widespread sense in Bamako that democracy has not been working for ordinary Malians. More educated urban-dwellers have grown impatient with the lack of economic opportunities, and the slow pace of improvements in education and the judicial system. Many have adopted jaded views of democratic institutions and commonly bemoan the corruption, nepotism, and patrimonialism associated with the Touré government. As one young migrant worker in Bamako said to me: “What is democracy? Democracy is about theft from the people. It is about SUVs hitting children on the road and never going to jail.” Or more broadly, as the Malian writer Moussa Konaté recently observed, it has meant the replacement of the military regime of Moussa Traoré by the mafia-like clique of ATT “for whom personal interests are above public interest.” Elections have become empty exercises and “parodies of democracy,” in which votes are purchased and governing elites are recycled.


To keep his hold on power, Capt. Sanogo has moved quickly to quiet the xenophobia and anti-Tuareg hysteria. In a recent interview, he stated that the “Tuareg people in the north, the Arab people, are our brothers,” while noting that the “door is open” for discussion and resolution of the crisis. This could be intended for a Western audience. But for his stated “total control” over the country to be fully realized he cannot risk Mali slipping further into chaos.

Of course, whether or not the CNRDR stays true to its commitments to democratic institutions and sundry reforms of the state remains to be seen, and depends on whether or not a counter-offensive ever materializes, which at this point is appearing less likely. In the short-term, the coup leaders will seek to clamp down on looting and prove their ability to govern. If not, expect a quick and furious civilian backlash. Tolerance and cooperation are central values in Malian society, and indeed the mostly bloodless nature of this coup is remarkable. But when their sense of “moral economy,” that is to say their popular notions of justice and fairness at a time of dearth, is threatened, Malians have proven themselves more than capable of mobilizing against tyranny and conditions that they deem intolerable, as seen in 1991. And, in the end, it will be for Malians to decide what they’re willing to tolerate. For outsiders to blindly rally behind the word “democracy,” without acknowledging what it means in local contexts, or even how “politics” operate in rural and urban Malian settings, is a disavowal of the risks Malians are willing to take for a better future.

Read the whole thing: Mali: The Political Crisis – Taking Grievances Seriously

Here is some current analysis of the coup in Mali. I’m including excerpts, but each of these articles is well worth a complete read.

Mali:  How Will Coup Impact Peace and Stability? (analysis)
Unfortunate Military Coup an Unnecessary Setback for Democracy
INSTITUTE FOR SECURITY STUDIES, 24 MARCH 2012

As the first military coup in 2012 taking place 21 years after the democratisation process in Mali, this is certainly a major test for the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance in force since February 2012. There is also sufficient grounds for the regional organization Ecowas to firmly condemn the coup and insists on the return of a constitutional order. The statement by Ecowas, condemning the misguided actions of the mutineers and warning that it will not condone any recourse to violence as a means of seeking redress was a major step in the right direction. The next step was a decision by the African Union on the suspension of Mali from continental and regional institutions in line the policy of zero tolerance for any attempt to obtain or maintain power by unconstitutional means. It is about time military coups are eliminated from the political culture of the continent.

Mali:  Is There a Route Back to Democratic Stability? (analysis)
CHATHAM HOUSE, 23 MARCH 2012

The putschists may seek to consolidate their power; but they are isolated. Their attempts to secure the endorsement of senior religious and political figures and the senior officer corps have been rebuffed. The Bamako establishment is well aware of what is at stake, and what the country stands to lose if the overthrow of democracy is confirmed.

Despite the mutineers’ complaints, there is a widespread recognition that the crisis cannot be resolved through military means alone. Some sort of understanding would have to be reached with the MNLA, which has begun to hint that it might be ready to talk. And a new president, with a fresh election mandate, would be better placed than Touré to embark on such a deal. This may be a best case scenario.

There is, of course, also a worst-case option: that the mutineers reject negotiation opportunities, seek to hunt down Touré and then try to resolve the northern crisis through force alone. The consequences of that hardly bear thinking about.

Mali:  Coup Makes Tuareg Rebellion At Its Heart Harder to Resolve (analysis)
AFRICAN ARGUMENTS, 23 MARCH 2012

Yet, that a coup should have occurred so close to the April 29th elections, when Touré was due to step down, is highly significant. It has been suggested that the seizure of power in this way is indicative of a sentiment among sections of the military, and their supporters in civilian society, who believe that politicians are unable to competently resolve the rebellion in the North. If true, then there is more reason to be concerned for Mali in the long-term.

That politicians are unable to competently resolve the rebellion or any other problems is a major part of the message sent by AFRICOM’s train and equip. It may or may not be intentional, but if you only invest in the military you are only preparing for military solutions.

These other articles are worth reading as well.

Mali:  Reversal of Fortunes – A Coup d’état Sets Mali Back
RADIO NETHERLANDS WORLDWIDE, 24 MARCH 2012

A previous military takeover ushered in democracy. This time around, the soldiers are taking Mali in the opposite direction. read more 

Mali:  Junta Courts Civil Society
INTER PRESS SERVICE, 23 MARCH 2012

Mali:  Rebellion Claims a President
UN INTEGRATED REGIONAL INFORMATION NETWORKS, 22 MARCH 2012

Mali:  African Union Suspends Mali Over Coup
THIS DAY, 24 MARCH 2012

It does look more likely the coup was spontaneous, and there are some positive developments.

Mali: Ecowas to Call for Interim President to Replace Toppled Touré

West African leaders may call for the speaker of Mali’s parliament to become interim president following last week’s military coup, Burkina Faso’s foreign minister has told RFI.

The Ecowas regional bloc is to send a delegation of six heads of state to the country to press for a return to constitutional order and elections.

As part of a “transition in keeping with constitution”, the delegation is considering proposing that national assembly speaker Dioncounda Traoré become president temporarily, Burkinabé foreign minister Djibril Bassolé said in an interview with RFI’s Christophe Boisbouvier.

That would mean deposed leader Amadou Toumani Touré bow out until elections are held.

“If that is the formula that can bring an end to the crisis, why not?” Bassolé said. “And I think that President Amadou Toumani Touré himself would have nothing against it. He has always wanted peace, democracy and stability.”


Thousands of people marched in support of the coup in Bamako on Wednesday, some carrying placards declaring “Down with France” or “Down with the international community”.

Meanwhile, 38 political parties and several civil society groups have set up an alliance to oppose the coup, calling on the military to “engage in dialogue without delay” and organise “regular, credible and transparent elections”.


The military government on Tuesday announced a new constitution that bans its members from standing in elections.

There are mixed signs. Even the supporters of the coup oppose outside interference, but that won’t stop the outside from interfering.

The coup in Mali arises partly from the blowback following the NATO destruction of Libya, part of the counter revolution against the Arab Spring, and from the train and equip activities AFRICOM has been conducting in Mali for much of this century. Train and equip laid the groundwork; the return from the ruins of Libya of militant and well armed Tuareg rebels provided the trigger. I wrote about the AFRICOM threat to Malian democracy back in 2009, US Policy Versus Democracy In Mali. The picture below is just one piece of the ongoing train and equip activities. There are a couple more pictures at the end of this post. Read the earlier post for more detail. When your only significant investment in a country is military train and equip, you are prepping that country for military government.

BAMAKO, Mali - U.S. Army Master Sergeant Robert Price stands with Malian soldiers he helped train as he is congratulated by Malian Minister of Defense Natie Pleah during a Counter Terrorism Train and Equip (CTTE) transfer of equipment ceremony in Bamako, October 20, 2009. Price, a logistics NCO with Special Operations Command Africa's Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara, supervised maintenance and supply accountability training provided to Malian soldiers for tactical vehicles and communications equipment transferred to Malian units. Under the U.S. State Department's Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Program (TSCTP), U.S. Africa Command's Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans Sahara (OEF-TS) Counter Terrorism Train and Equip initiative provided 37 brand-new Toyota Land Cruiser pickup trucks and high-tech communications equipment that will allow Malian military units to move, transport and communicate across vast expanses of open desert in the northern region of the country. In addition, replacement parts, clothing, individual equipment and other supplies will be provided in the next few weeks as part of a U.S. government capacity-building equipment transfer totaling more than $5 million. The CTTE program is designed to develop stronger military-to-military relationships while underscoring U.S. support for partner nation sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. (Photo by Max R. Blumenfeld, JSOTF-TS PAO)

Based on the accounts so far, it appears the coup may not even have been planned, it may have been spontaneous, arising from an argument between the military and the government at a meeting to discuss the handling of the Tuareg rebellion in the north. However, the groundwork for a coup was all in place, including the education of its leader:

Mali’s Tuareg rebels advance as world condemns coup

The green-beret mid-ranking captain, [Captain Amadou Sanogo] who speaks with a raspy voice, also revealed he had spent much time at training programmes in the United States, in Georgia and at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia.
He said he was trained under a US scholarship as an English instructor

And from another source:

Sanogo, who said he had received “training from U.S. Marines and intelligence”, said, he would not remain in power but refused to give a timeframe for restoring civilian rule.

The New York Times tells us more about Sanogo’s US education 2004-2012, including at Fort Benning’s Coup School:

Mali and the United States have had close military ties in recent years as part of American counterterrorism programs. According to the State Department, Captain Sanogo attended an English-language instructor course at the Defense Language Institute, a special school for international military students at Lackland Air Force Base, Tex., from August 2004 to February 2005.

Nearly three years later, in December 2007, Captain Sanogo returned to the United States, this time for more English language classes at Lackland before attending the Army’s entry-level course for intelligence officers at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., instruction that he completed in July 2008.

Finally, Captain Sanogo attended the Army’s prestigious infantry officer basic training course at Fort Benning, Ga., from August 2010 to December 2010.

Stars and Stripes gives us more detail on the ongoing train and equip activities with Mali, Leader of Mali coup received officer training from AFRICOM, under U.S.-funded International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs, confirmed by the Africa Command and the State Department.

The U.S. military has supported the Mali military extensively over the past decade, and the country has become a significant partner in the U.S. efforts to curb North Africa’s shadowy al-Qaida affiliate, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.

In addition to its involvement in the International Military Education and Training program, Mali has also participated in the Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership, which is intended to strengthen bilateral military ties with the U.S. and supports counterterrorism coordination across the region’s different militaries. Mali also recently hosted U.S. soldiers in a joint logistical exercise named Atlas Accord 12.

“We have regularly had small teams traveling in and out of Mali to conduct specific training that has been requested by the Malian government and military,” said Nicole Dalrymple, a spokeswoman for the Africa Command, known as Africom, in an emailed response to questions.

Most of the world was quick to condemn the coup:

Nigeria, others, deplore coup in Mali

NIGERIA yesterday joined others to condemn “in strong terms” reports that Malian rebel soldiers had taken over control of the country from the democratically elected government of President Amadou Toumani Toure.

President Goodluck Jonathan, who expressed displeasure and dismay over the action, described the move as “an apparent setback to the consolidation of democracy in Mali in particular and the African continent in general.”

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for calm and for grievances to be settled democratically. The African Union said it was “deeply concerned by the reprehensible acts currently being perpetrated by some elements of the Malian army”.

The African Union (AU) said the “act of rebellion” was a “significant setback for Mali”.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said it was deeply disturbed by the raging mutiny in Mali and has warned mutineers to hands off attempts to take over power via unconstitutional means.

The US may be hedging its bets. From the Washington Post:

The coup is a major setback for Mali, a landlocked nation of 15.4 million which is dirt-poor but fiercely proud of its democratic credentials. The current president, a former parachutist in the army, came to power himself in a 1991 coup. He surprised the world when he handed power to civilians, becoming known as “The Soldier of Democracy.” A decade later, he won the 2002 election and was re-elected in 2007. There was never any question that Toure — known by his initials ATT — would step down at the end of his term next month.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said officials were meeting to discuss whether to cut off the $137 million in annual U.S. assistance.
.

A client military government seems to be the US preferred form of governance for African countries. It will be interesting to see how the US proceeds.

Here are some other stories on the coup:

Coup in Mali, the rats and dogs discussion continues

Tuareg rebels take Mali town, threaten 3 more

African Union Suspends Mali, Hears President Toure Safe

For more background information with particularly informative links, you can read these earlier posts:

US Policy Versus Democracy In Mali

Lied Into the War On Terror In the Sahara

New York Times catapults the propganda for AFRICOM

Inherent contradictions of AFRICOM – lies and illusions

GAO Report On AFRICOM, Where AFRICOM Is Active

Stable and secure in AFRICOM speak does not mean stable and secure for the people of Africa. It means stable and secure for US energy and resource needs and US policy objectives.

MALI - Malian commandos advance with a member of the U.S. 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) during training rehearsals May 13, 2009, at a military training area north of Bamako, Mali. Building on specialized skills previously acquired during joint exercises such as Flintlock, which is Special Operations Command-Africa's premier Special Operations Forces exercise in the Trans-Saharan region, the "Warrior-Ambassadors" of the 3rd SFG (A) were continuing their Africa-focused security forces assistance mission to enhance African Partner Nation capabilities to help achieve regional cooperation and security. The 3rd SFG (A) is based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (Photo by Max R. Blumenfeld, JSOTF-TS PAO)

Military training near Bamako, US. Mali, & Senegal 2008