The events in Western Africa indicate the global division has reached a new phase. It’s not only changing boundaries but rather creating regions of “permanent instability” subsequently plunging them into a new condition that could be defined as the state of “savagery”. This is a strategic goal reached by diverse means. One of them is inciting hatred between different groups of population to provoke civil conflict in the targeted country …
Let’s try to understand what’s behind such actions as the Boco Haram activities in Nigeria that have come into light recently. Formally the goal is to fight against secular education and the creation of Islamic state. Could it be achieved by the methods used? For instance, the Boco Haram blows up Christian shrines, especially during great holidays, it also decapitates the Christians (1). It’s worth to note police precincts are attacked. It mainly happens in the northern states of the country where the Muslim law has been officially effective for dozens of years. The actions of Boco Haram seem to run counter to logic at cursory look but if one suggests that the real objective is inciting a civil conflict by stoking religious hatred in the country, then the picture becomes clear. The conflict is incited to destroy the Nigerian state itself against the background of paralysis of power (the attacks against police precincts is a bright confirmation of the fact).
The recent reports coming from Mali also look to be “illogical”. The Tuaregs living in the country and those coming from abroad (Libya) have captured (using arms brought from Libya) the whole northern part of the country and declared the creation of a new state called Azawad. According to information agencies the insurgents (let’s call them this way for the time being) started to destroy the objects and places of cultural heritage, including those making part of the UNESCO’s world cultural list. But even going back to the first insurgency of 1964 the Tuaregs said the goal was achieving independence and “restoration of Islam” (2). Now they have started to destroy the Muslim monuments, including the Djinguereber Mosque (Masjid) in Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia. The militants dispersed the crowd of worshipers and started to shoot at the shrines of the XIV century saying the intention was to eliminate 16 tombs from the UNESCO’s cultural list. The “dubious logic” of the actions was explained by the fact that the Tuaregs were not the only force taking part in the special operation to dismember Mali, moreover, as it happened, they were not even the major driving force of events. It was the Ansar Ad-Din who destructed of mausoleums and other historic sites. They explained Allah was the only one to be worshipped, the mausoleums as the objects of worship were seen as “idolatrous” and “violations the Islam canons” (3). The explanation hardly holds water and appears to be far from the truth. In real life the Ansar Ad-Din and the local Al Qaeda pursue the goal of inciting hatred and stoking civil conflict. In this context the activities of “rebels in the North”, such as blocking the population of Gao by mining the ways out of the city, don’t look strange or illogical anymore.
One more thing looks strange while reviewing the situation in West Africa – the reaction of global community. According to UNICEF children are recruited to fill the militants ranks in the north of Mali. Many of them are reported to be killed or heavily wounded (4). Actually the report saw light by and large at the same time as the International Criminal Court handed down the verdict in the warlord Thomas Lubange’s trial, whose main accusation was the recruitment of children to fill the fighter’s ranks. The International Criminal Court doesn’t respond to neither Boco Haram led terror in Nigeria or to military crimes committed in broad daylight in the North of Mali. It does take place no matter the Court’s jurisdiction encompasses the situations when a state doesn’t want, or is not able to persecute the guilty. There is also no response on the part of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, something that looks “strange” against the background of persistent calls to refer the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court. The “illogical” situation is exacerbated by the fact that Syria is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, unlike Nigeria and Mali that joined it 14 and 12 years ago respectively!
All these “strange” and “illogical” things disappear in case the above mentioned activities are viewed from point of view of real, not openly stated, objectives. The goal of destabilization caused in Nigeria and, especially, Mali is not capturing territory but rather plunging these countries into a rampant permanent conflict.
How does Africa itself respond to the events in Mali? According to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) a military intervention is inevitable but it cannot be done without the UN Security Council’s say so. It fully matches the position of Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “An ECOWAS led operation in Mali…should be approved by the UN Security Council.” (5) At the end of June an ECOWAS summit took a decision on rapid deployment of military mission in Mali. The African Union approved the motion. The ECOWAS approached the UN Security Council asking to support the action as soon as possible ( 6).
On July 5 the UN Security Council considered the appeal and came out with the resolution № 2056 (2012). The most important part of the resolution was the recognition of the fact that the northern part of Mali is not captured by the Tuaregs only but by the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The other most important achievement of the resolution 2056 was the recognition of the fact that Mali was in the state of armed conflict. It’s not just another commonplace word but rather the term of international law.
A number of the resolution’s provisions make come to this opinion. First, paragraph 14 requires that the both sides observe international humanitarian law that comes into force only for the period of armed conflict. The resolution doesn’t strictly define which norms of international humanitarian law are to be enforced what makes its fulfillment much more complicated. The contemporary humanitarian law has at least two protocols related to the Geneva conventions of 1949 that envisage absolutely opposite approaches to internal and international conflicts. Reading the text of the resolution attentively one can see the Mali conflict is rated as international no matter it doesn’t say so directly. The paragraph 10 of the resolution is related not to the Tuareg rebels of Azawad (internal part of the conflict) only but to the Ansar ad Din and foreign combatant on the territory of Malia soil!
Still the main decision was not taken. The UN Security Council only “took note ” of the ECOWAS and the African Union’s request to give them a UN mandate for a military intervention in Mali. The UN Security Council demanded “additional information provided regarding the objectives, means and modalities of the envisaged deployment”. In this regard it recommended to encourage “a close cooperation between Malian Transitional authorities, the Commission of ECOWAS, the Commission of the African Union, and countries in the region in order to prepare detailed options and further requests the Secretary-General to support the Commission of ECOWAS and the Commission of the African Union in preparing such detailed options”. A refusal to allow a military operation was formulated in the way to leave no doubts the action would be under the control of the forces that would ensure its failure. Let’s not forget that Allassane Outtara, President of the Republic of Cote D’Ivoire, who heads the Economic Community of West African States now, was not elected but rather “pushed through” to the position of the Chairman by using rude military force when the French troops (formally the French contingent of UN peacekeeping force in Cote D’Ivoire) captured the president – elect Laurent Gbagbo having destroyed its palace. It’s clear the ECOWAS actions conducted in line with the UN Security Council guidelines in accordance with the US-France-Great Britain draft will fully serve the interests of the countries in question and not the ones of Mali.
On July 15 the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad announced an end to the fight for independence. The leader of the movement said independence was an initial goal but the leadership of the organization takes note of the world opinion and strives to solve the crisis through peaceful means. (7). Such a statement is an attempt (clearly futile) to put a brave face on a sorry business. The real reason behind the refusal was made public at the UN Security Council’s session by an ECOWAS spokesman. He said the jihadist movements infiltrated the territories occupied by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad and squeezed it away (8).
The situation in the unoccupied (as yet) part of Mali is complicated. Formally the military junta that came to power instead of toppled president Amadou Toumani Touré, has transferred power to civilians. Acting President Dioncounda Traore had headed the parliament till the new appointment, it’s worth to remember he was minister of foreign affairs in the middle of the 1990s. The coup d’etats led by the former foreign policy chiefs have become more frequent recently. Besides Cheick Modibo Diarraa, a well known astrophysicist became a new Prime Minister ( 9). I have read his book called "Interplanetary Navigator" (10) where he told about his experience in NASA where he headed a number of programs including the ones related to the Sun and Mars. No doubt he is a unique person (they didn’t find anyone else to head the Martian program but Diarraa, a Malian!). In the given case we emphasize his US citizenship and the fact of his being a candidate in the race that never took place (the coup had taken place a few days before the election). Another fact to be added to the overall picture is that the head of military junta Captain Sanogo has gone to the USA a number of times for training. Inevitably the questions get raised. For instance, the US traces, is it a “pure coincidence”? More to the point the transfer of power from the junta to the interim government happened to be rather conditional, the key positions of minister of defense and minister of internal security have remained in the hands of former junta members. A few days ago interim President D. Traore was attacked, he stood alive but is still away from the country (he’s getting medical treatment in France). It’s interesting to note that the just adopted UN Security Council’s resolution on Mali condemned in the strongest possible terms the assault against Interim President Dioncounda Traoré that took place on May 21 and called for bringing the perpetrators to justice. A good proposal, the only thing it is done along with flat refusal to meet the demands to conduct investigation into the coup d’etat against President Amadu Tumani Touré. Let’s remember the resolution was adopted in accordance with the US-France-UK draft…
How could the Mali situation be assessed in the global context? One or another solution of the “problem of Mali” defines the stability in the whole Africa. The Tuaregs reside in Algiers, Mauritania, Libya, Burkina-Faso and other adjacent countries. An ECOWAS intervention in Mali may not only cause the process of the Tuareg national unification, it may spark rebellion of “native” Tuaregs in the countries contributing troops for the operation (first of all Niger). It means a rescue operation in Mali may generate explosions in a number of African states at once! The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation states the situation jeopardizes the security and integrity of Mali itself but also in the vast Sahara Sahel area in whole (11). It is so. Mikhail Margelov, the current Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Federation Council of Russia and a special presidential envoy for cooperation with Africa, made a right assessment defining the events in Mali as the ones of global rather than regional agenda (12).
The goal of terror organizations operating in the northern Mali is creation of command and coordinating structures for the terrorist network activities encompassing the whole Africa.
2) Ref.: S.S.Novikov, D.P. Ursu. New and Contemporary History of Mali. The Institute of Africa, the Russian Academy of Sciences, 1994, p.197-198.
3) Ref.: The information and press Department of the MFA of Russia’ commentary related to the destruction of cultural and religious sites in Mali”, July 2, 2012. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs official website: http://www.mid.ru/ brp_4.nsf/newsline/ A800 1842F791 26A24 4257A 2F0 0571DA7.
4) Ref.: The official United Nations website: http://www.un.org/russian/news/fullstorynews.asp?NewsID=17815.
5) Ref.: The commentary of Russia’s ministry of foreign affairs spokesman Alexander Lukashevich on the ECOWAS and AU plans related to military intervention in Mali to restore order in the northern part of the country, June 9, 2012. http://www.mid.ru/brp_4.nsf/newsline/AE7D2DCCFE73013F44257A1800368233
6) Ref. The official ECOWAS website: http://news.ecowas.int/presseshow.php?nb=180&lang=en&annee=2012.
7) Ref.: http://www.fondsk.ru/news/2012/07/16/povstancy-tuaregi-prekraschajut-borbu-za-nezavisimost-severa-mali.html
8) Ref.: The transcript of the 6798th plenary meeting of the UN Security Council, June 5 2012. The UN document S/PV.6798
9) More to the point. C.M. Diarra is the son-in-law of former President M. Traore. Taking into account Moussa Traore was toppled by Amadou Toumani Touré. the coming to power of C.M. Diarra naturally raises the questions.
11) Ref. The official website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation:
12 The report dated May 28 2012. http://www.rosbalt.ru/main/2012/05/28/985672.html.