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Mariela Baeva
Mariela Baeva
Member of the European Parliament for Bulgaria
2007 - 2009
(first direct EP elections in Bulgaria);

LEED to OECD partner (Nanotech)

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Mali and current developments – Part IV

2012 coup and warfare in the north

Dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the conflict in the north was cited as the impetus for an army mutiny on March 21, 2012, that quickly evolved into a military coup. Early the next day the mutinying group announced that it had seized power and suspended the constitution, replacing Mali’s democratically elected government with the National Committee for the Recovery of Democracy and Restoration of the State, headed by Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo. The coup was quickly criticized by the international community, including the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Within a week of the coup, both organizations suspended Mali, and in early April they imposed sanctions on the junta and Mali, which quickly led to food and energy shortages and rising prices.

Meanwhile, Tuareg rebels and Islamic insurgents—some of whom had ties to AQIM—took advantage of the political instability and by April 1 had gained control over the northern half of the country, including the strategically important town of Gao, home to a military base, and the historic city of Timbuktu. On April 6, 2012, the Tuareg rebel group National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad; MNLA) declared that the northern part of Mali was now the independent state of Azawad. The MNLA’s declaration of independence was promptly condemned by the international community. Later that day, with the impact of the sanctions as well as the rapidly deteriorating situation in the north weighing heavily, the junta agreed to a deal mediated by ECOWAS that would restore civilian rule to Mali. In return, the sanctions were lifted. As part of the agreement, Touré officially resigned from the presidency on April 8, clearing the way for the presidential succession plan mandated in the constitution to be enacted. Consequently, the president of the National Assembly, Dioncounda Traoré, was sworn in as interim president of Mali on April 12, 2012. Traoré’s appointment was not well received by all Malians, however, and in May he was beaten into unconsciousness by a mob of junta supporters who had launched a brazen attack on the presidential palace. He recuperated in France for two months before returning to Mali in late July. Under pressure from ECOWAS to form a more inclusive—and presumably more stable—government, Traoré reappointed his prime minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra, in August, and a new government was formed later that month.

During Traoré’s absence, the situation in the self-declared state of Azawad grew even more precarious. An alliance that was announced in late May between the MNLA and the primary Islamist group, Ansar Dine (“Defenders of the Faith”), would have caused the north to be ruled as an Islamic state, but the alliance quickly broke down over Ansar Dine’s insistence on imposing a strict version of Sharīʿah law in the region, which had traditionally embraced a more liberal and tolerant version of Islam. By early July, Ansar Dine and other Islamist groups, including AQIM and an offshoot known as Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, had wrested control of much of the territory from the MNLA—including the main towns of Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal—and had begun imposing Sharīʿah law on northern Malians. In addition, the Islamists had begun damaging or destroying many Sufi religious shrines of great historical and cultural value; they claimed that the monuments were idolatrous. Ansar Dine’s leader, Iyad Ag Ghali, repudiated the MNLA’s claim of independence for Azawad, stating that Ansar Dine members considered themselves Malian, opposed dividing the country, and wanted to impose Sharīʿah law throughout the entire country, not just in the contested northern territory. By midsummer the grave situation in the north had caused hundreds of thousands of Malians to flee the region.

In early December, representatives from the Malian government, Ansar Dine, and the MNLA met with ECOWAS officials to discuss an end to the protracted crisis. Both rebel groups agreed in principle to respect national unity and human rights, while rejecting forms of terrorism and extremism, and to observe a cease-fire, and all parties agreed to continue talks at a later date. In the months prior to the meeting, as the various Islamist groups strengthened their foothold in the north, the international community grew concerned that the region was becoming a haven for terrorist groups and debated about what course of action to take to assist Mali in its efforts to reclaim the territory. Options included bolstering Mali’s military capabilities by providing training and support and deploying an international military force to retake the contested region. However, many members of Mali’s military, including the members of the junta responsible for the March coup, were resistant to the idea of foreign troops on Malian soil. On December 10, 2012, Diarra, one of the Malian politicians who supported plans for foreign intervention in the north, was arrested by soldiers from the junta. The next day they forced him to resign as prime minister; they alleged that Diarra was on the verge of committing acts of subversion. Later that day Traoré appointed Django Cissoko, a seasoned public official, as the new interim prime minister. The military’s interference in political affairs was widely condemned by the international community.

credit: Encyclopaedia Britannica

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