This past week has passed in relative calm. The capital has almost gotten back to normal and one would find it hard to believe that a coup ever happened. The junta seems to have backed down completely and it’s probably the sweet deal that Sanogo got for himself that is keeping him quiet. However, I am quite surprised other members of the 500-strong junta have remained quiet, which lends to believe that either Sanogo was really the undisputable leader or the rest of the junta is getting something as well that has been undisclosed. Dioncounda remains in Paris and is supposed to return sometime this week. Life continues in much the same way as it did before. Prime Minister Diarra is attempting to fill his role as leader of the country. He has a great responsibility and many are relying on him to push Mali back on track. Yeah had met with him last week to discuss ideas and solutions on how to get Mali’s issues of leadership addressed as well as the issue in the North. Yeah’s take is that without strong leadership and a plan in the South of the country where the government is based, the North’s issues cannot be resolved.
Last week Yeah also gave an exclusive interview to the well known newspaper L’Independent in Mali where he talked of the struggles in Mali. He advised that Mali should not accept ECOWAS troops on Mali’s soil killing Mali’s people in the North. The solution has to be bred on Mali’s soil. Also Yeah encouraged ECOWAS to work with the political class in Mali. With the issue in the North, Yeah said that it is important to involve well off neighbors like Algeria and Mauritania because ECOWAS does not have the logistics and money to support troops despite them wanting to send troops to Mali. Also the stakes are higher for these countries because if rebels/terrorists overflow across their borders, it could cause instability for them. You can read the entire interview here in English: http://samake2012.com/updates/2012/05/interview-with-malian-newspaper-lindependent/#more-1296 or here in French: http://www.maliweb.net/news/interview/2012/05/28/article,69486.html
For the most part, people are just watching and waiting to see what the non-partisan Diarra will do. As I have said before, as long as their leaders don’t make things worse, Malians will put up with it. Diarra seems to be a calming force amidst the chaos. Malians seem to actually heed his words. For the first time yesterday on National TV, he spoke to Segou soldiers on the issue in the North of the country. “I have always said that I do not support war, because it’s war that makes a child an orphan and it’s war that makes a woman a widow. But if we love our country, we must liberate it even if it’s through war, a war that will end the daily wars. A war that will open the door for peace and security because without peace we cannot have security and without security, there will be no prosperity for this nation,” the PM said. He spoke with the most passion and conviction than I have ever seen him have. He talked of how Mali would not concede any part of its land to the rebels. Talk is all well and good. The thing that is most concerning is that Mali currently does not have an equipped army. The 7000-strong army that is reported by statistics websites like CIA may be correct as far as man count. However, the fact remains that the army lacked the arms before the coup and they continue to lack the arms. To send them into the North without the equipment would be like signing their death sentence. Apparently, Western countries, especially America had given ATT a lot of arms and vehicles to fight off the rebels before the coup. Rumor has it that ATT sold or gifted much of this to the rebels themselves when they initially came over to Mali after Libya’s Gaddhafi fell. There are no reports one way or the other to corroborate the story. Fact remains; the army is defenseless and has the manpower but not the equipment to fight.
What Mali needs immediately is strong leadership in the south that has a plan on how to re-unite the country and ultimately gain back the territories in the North. The Tuaregs are a minority and not even they are in control right now. Control seems to be shared between Ansar Dine, MUJAO, AQIM and MNLA, all terrorist factions. So while the South seems to be gaining some control, the North is struggling with a terrorist problem and a refugee issue.
UNICEF despite increasing the aid it is providing has been warning about the sanitary conditions at the camps as well as the demand outweighing the supply. Ultimately, it will be the women and children that will bear the brunt of this refugee crisis. This refugee crisis started with the drought but has been intensified by the crisis in Mali. The problem has been overlooked long enough as the world’s attentions focused in South Bamako. In addition governments of Mauritania, Algeria, Senegal and Burkina Faso also have to deal with the refugees that fled across the border. One country’s crisis is becoming West Africa’s dilemma. This is just one big mess and it needs the international community to bring light to the growing humanitarian crisis. On the other hand there are terrorist groups operating freely in the North. They are restricting aid and making life very hard for residents by imposing Sharia law. There have also been reports that they are damaging World Heritage sites in Tombouctou that have been around for centuries. Imagine the destruction of the Great Wall of China or the Taj Mahal. As an Indian, I would be angered if anything happened to a symbol of my culture. Even the youth of the North have mobilized themselves, fed up with the lack of leadership from Bamako.
Finally, given ECOWAS’ failed track record to help bring civilian rule to Mali, ECOWAS has designated a new representative from the country of Benin. Let’s hope the new leadership will not bully Mali and cause more issues.
Strong leadership first will allow Mali to resolve this crisis and attempt to resolve the growing issue in the North. The question remains, will Prime Minister Diarra be that stabilizing force that Mali desperately needs and will ECOWAS finally include all political forces in Mali rather than enforcing their will.