Mali and the Sahel: The war is far from over

The Economist

The humiliation of Mali’s army and government is a rude reminder that the wider region is still a hive of instability

20140531_MAP001_1

SEVEN weeks ago Moussa Mara was the rising star of Malian politics. Picked by Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the country’s president, to be prime minister at the age of 39, he had a reputation as a shrewd and capable administrator. An eventual rise to the top seemed possible. When he defied warnings on May 17th and visited Kidal, a hotbed of ethnic Tuareg separatism in the far north-east of the country, he was met by rebel gunfire. This made him a hero to the crowds in the capital, Bamako, for standing up to secessionists seeking to destroy the country’s unity (see map). Read the rest of this entry »


Migration from Africa: No wonder they still try

The Economist

Why so many Africans still risk their lives to reach Europe

“GET free or die trying,” runs a graffito in English on the wall of a migrants’ detention centre on the outskirts of Tripoli, Libya’s capital. The author was one of the countless migrants to pass through the fetid, overcrowded facility, his fate unknown.

Some of the people herded into more than 20 such centres across Libya were intercepted by Libyan naval vessels as they attempted the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. Others were arrested before reaching the sea by Libyan militias that have held sway since the revolution that toppled Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Read the rest of this entry »


African migrants going to Europe: Taking their chances

The Economist

A new report looks into the ever more busy migration routes from Africa to Europe

20140517_map513FOLLOWING the recent sweep of revolutions in North Africa, the corpses of migrants have washed up with increasing regularity on the region’s shores. This month alone 58 perished, with another 54 missing, following shipwrecks off the coasts of Libya and Greece. Weakened states are less able to police borders, allowing thousands to reach the European mainland. In April, Italian vessels rescued over 4,000 migrants in two days, prompting beleaguered authorities to declare a humanitarian emergency. By some estimates, more than 600,000 people from Africa and the Middle East are currently waiting on north Africa’s shores to embark for a better life.

Read the rest of this entry »


Hurry up, or it’ll be too late

The Economist

As Mali’s feuding parties dither, the extremists may get stronger again

IN THE lobby of Bamako’s El-Farouq hotel, Ould Mohamed Ousmane Omar, a middle-aged Malian Arab whose life has been one of exile, rebellion and plot, is gossiping about friends and enemies. Take the Tuareg rebels, whose 2012 rebellion precipitated the fall of northern Mali to al-Qaeda-linked extremists. “They’re only in it for their own gain,” he says, adjusting the white veil of his turban to reveal a wisp of goatee. Or Mali’s new government, which, he grimaces, “knows nothing—not the north, not the Tuareg, not the problems. It’s so easy to fool.” As for his own faction, the Arab Movement of Azawad (as some northern Malians call their homeland), Mr Omar can only lament that an international conspiracy to thwart its potency has cracked it down the middle. But then again, he says, few of his erstwhile colleagues were ever more than “second-class” and “drug dealers”. Read the rest of this entry »


Morocco’s role in Africa: Making more of it

The Economist

Morocco is vying with Algeria for more influence in the region

KING Muhammad VI of Morocco’s trip to Mali could not have gone better. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Mali’s president, and his entire cabinet were waiting on the tarmac to welcome the monarch off his jet on February 18th. When the king bestowed Morocco’s highest honour on Mr Keita, he promptly renamed a boulevard in Bamako after him (Muhammad’s name is emblazoned on a red and green billboard). Over five days of pomp, pageantry and public displays of affection, Muhammad signed 18 agreements, covering microfinance to defence and energy. He is hoping to do the same in Ivory Coast, Guinea and Gabon, the remaining stops on his tour. Read the rest of this entry »


Taken down a peg

The Economist

A former coup leader is dragged to court

IT SEEMS unlikely that Amadou Sanogo will be remembered for much other than his incompetence. The Malian army captain bungled his way to power last year as leader of a coup, clearing the way for ethnic rebels and religious extremists to take over half the country. His clumsy posturing isolated Mali diplomatically and brought it close to ruin. Only popular discontent and bloodthirsty supporters lent the captain—a man of much ego and little talent—a measure of power. Until now. Read the rest of this entry »


Death in the desert

The Economist

Two French reporters are killed in an attack that bears the hallmarks of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

IT WAS brutal and perhaps unexpected. Two French journalists in the northern Malian town of Kidal, an unlovely settlement on the southern flank of the Sahara, were seized by gunmen as they left a meeting with an ethnic Tuareg separatist on November 2nd, driven into the desert and executed. French troops found their corpses hours later. Although jihadists hiding out in the desert have launched a spate of attacks in recent weeks, these have tended to be opportunistic—a mortar attack here, a suicide bombing there. The abduction of the reporters in broad daylight in the centre of town required proper intelligence and planning. Several hundred UN peacekeepers based moments away knew nothing about it until it was far too late. Read the rest of this entry »


Destroying Timbuktu: The Jihadist who Inspires the Demolition of the Shrines

This TV grab shows Omar Hamaha, military chief of the Islamist group Ansar Eddine, gesturing on April 3, 2012 in Timbuktu. AFP / GETTY IMAGES

TIME.com

The charismatic military leader of Salafist rebels in Mali may just be helping to found an Islamic caliphate but he is also taking apart an ancient city’s heritage.

Oumar Ould Hamaha is a one-man whirlwind of piety and fury. For more than a decade he has —  by his own account and others — raided government outposts in Mauritania, Algeria and Niger; held Western hostages for extravagant ransoms; and proselytized a ferocious asceticism over the barrel of a gun. Riding with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, he has crisscrossed the shadowless Sahara in the service of a god he envisions as unforgiving as the desert itself. He has invoked Koranic verses to protect himself from the “evil work of devils” and “the biting of snakes and scorpions,” learned to navigate by the sun, moon and stars, and believes that meteor showers are battles between djinns and angels. It has been a ferocious transformation for a former student of accounting. Read the rest of this entry »


The jihadists’ frightening new front

The Economist

Extreme Islamists are threatening the region—and an ancient African heritage

LEGEND held that the main gate of Timbuktu’s Sidi Yahya mosque, a wood-panelled affair with metalwork cast in the shape of crescent moons, would open only at the end of time. In a metaphorical sense that is what Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda who control the ancient trading-post in northern Mali have now unleashed. On July 2nd they battered down the ancient entrance with picks and shovels to “destroy its mystery” as part of a city-wide programme of cultural vandalism inspired by religious zeal that has left inhabitants aghast with horror. Destroyed, too, are eight mausoleums and a number of saints’ tombs. More wreckage is feared. Read the rest of this entry »


An unholy alliance

The Economist

Tuareg rebels and al-Qaeda unite to create a fierce new state in the north

GUNFIRE pierced the night quiet. For weeks, inhabitants of the ancient desert towns of Gao and Timbuktu had feared that rival Tuareg rebels would clash. Between January and March they had together waged a devastatingly effective campaign against Mali’s army, sending its last troops packing in early April and proclaiming an independent state called Azawad. But the rivalry then flared, and lawlessness and factionalism have been rife since. Read the rest of this entry »


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.