Today at 9am GMT, Malians around the country tuned in to their TV sets to watch the Malian government become legitimized at least in the world’s eyes. The roller-coaster of events that derailed a 20 year democracy saw a crest as an interim President Diacounda Traoré was sworn in.
So what does this mean for Mali? Diacounda’s task is by no means a small one. Plan of action during the next 40 days: reunite the country and set up elections. With Islamist forces taking over the North and calling for the independence of Azawad, Mali is in essence being divided. There is no clear indication as to which groups are involved in the takeover of the North. Initially, while it was thought that MNLA and AQIM were the only forces, it is becoming more and more apparent that many smaller factions may be involved like MUJWA, MUJAO, GSPC and GIA (http://thewasat.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/the-black-flag-flies-in-mali/). The latest report points at Boko Haram members in Gao. This is the same group that takes credit for its violence in Nigeria. If it is true that all these groups are operating in the North, the Northern regions of Mali are already proving to be a dangerous breeding ground which if not contained and eliminated could spread to the rest of Mali and even West Africa. More and more this takeover is becoming more about just having the land and free range to do as they please versus trying to create a better equal environment for the Tuaregs. This is best shown by the degree of looting and destruction of property as well as the harm of individuals. If one truly wanted to take over land for the end purpose of freeing one’s “oppressed” people, then one would not scare its residents or destroy hospitals, pharmacies, stores etc that are the proof of a civilized community. No! No one is trying to free the Tuaregs. What is happening is a personal agenda of terrorist organizations to take over a territory that can be best used to facilitate their drug and trafficking activities and serve as a breeding ground for training camps. What we have is a pre-9/11 Afghanistan being created.
Furthermore, in the region of Tombouctou, there is the imposition of Sharia law, which essentially the leader of Ansar Al-Dine wants for the whole of Mali. What would Sharia mean for Mali? Well for one, the wearing of veils would become mandatory as it is now for our sisters in Tombouctou. Women are a very fashion oriented gender in Mali and would not appreciate being told how to dress or how to look. More serious however, would be the strict observance of Islam, which would seem out of place in this moderately Muslim country. Also, Muslim law follows a very strict punishment policy with thieves/vandals having their hands cut off and adulterers being stoned.
So how are we to restore territorial integrity? Initially, when the three territories had fallen, the junta had asked the African Union to provide help. The African Union stands ready to provide a 3000 strong army, but the junta have said, we don’t need boots just give us arms. The Malian army is a 7000 strong army and has been trained for many years by foreign forces to battle these problems in the North. However, not even the bravest of soldiers will run into battle without arms. Arms are a necessary evil but plans need to be carefully drawn and dialogue needs to happen before war. Waging a war without assessing future impacts could be dangerous. We do not want to harm more innocent lives. Plus the Malian army is capable( if equipped) and are more familiar with the desert regions. For all their mistakes, the junta, only 500 strong does not speak for Mali’s army and did not create the Northern problem; they exacerbated it by causing a moment of weakness for the country.
In addition with the drought of the region, the refugee crisis worsens with each passing day. My heart aches to think of mothers that watch their children die and cannot do a thing about it. My heart aches as the number of people fleeing their homes grows each day. In this day and age, to watch one part of the world flourish and another continue to suffer seems unimaginable. But it exists. It gives individuals like me an opportunity to share my blessings and make a difference to someone in need. Yeah has been working with various organizations to make this possible. Hopefully soon, we will see these organizations shipping containers bringing much needed food. We have also set up a trust to accept anonymous donations if you can help: Friends of Mali Trust, 472 East 4380, North Provo, Utah 84604 or you may donate online at www.samake2012.com and put the keyword “refugee” in the comment field. If you today, could make a difference, please do. Even $1 will feed a child for a day in Mali. Imagine what $10 could do? Imagine what $100 could do? And if you cannot help financially, use the blessing of your voice and spread the word to your network. Let this not become another “African” problem or “not my problem”.
Given these issues, can Diacounda truly set up elections within the next 40 days? The answer is one riddled with ifs. If Diacounda truly embodies the things his party ADEMA says about him like “very keen on working toward consensus” and “a man of the people” (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2012/04/20124917549965212.html), then maybe a united Mali is possible. Diacounda cannot do this alone. He has to work with other political parties whose leaders are not contaminated with embezzlement and bad governance. “We will never negotiate the partition of Mali,” Traoré said in his inauguration speech in which he promised to organize “free and transparent elections over the whole of the national territory”. Time will tell. The only solution now is for Diacounda to surround himself with “true” leaders who view Mali’s unity and integrity and the Malian peoples safety as their personal goal.
Tomorrow, Yeah will fly out with other members of ADPS to Burkina Faso. Why Burkina? The ECOWAS team has assigned President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Campaoré, as their mediator for the Mali crisis. Yeah and his team will present to the President of Burkina, their joint solution to saving Mali from further casualties and loss of territory. This is an important meeting and dialogue is the key to breeding a Mali solution rather than an international plan to restore Mali to its former self.
We will not rest till Mali is whole again. We will not rest till democracy is restored. We will not rest till every refugee returns home. That is the Samake2012 fight! Are you in? Make your voice heard today at http://www.samake2012.com