Clinging to power

The Economist

EVERY morning a bus caked in dust pulls into Bamako bringing the latest rumours of war. Looking dazed and dehydrated after 24 hours on the road, Mohammad Maiga explains how Tuareg separatists and Islamist militants have turned his native Gao, northern Mali’s most populous town, into a ghost town. “Everyone is leaving,” says Mr Maiga. “There’s no food, no supplies.” Blackouts last all day. Banks and offices have been pillaged by rampant rebels. Read the rest of this entry »

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Escape from Timbuktu: Foreigners Flee as Mali’s Rebels Declare Independence

A handout picture released by Azawad National Liberation Movement (MLNA) on April 2, 2012 and taken in February 2012 reportedly shows MNLA fighters gathering in an undisclosed location in Mali. AFP / GETTY IMAGES

TIME.com

Caked in dust and bristling with weaponry, the Tuareg rebels smiled at Neil Whitehead and Diane English. “It’s okay, we’re here for your protection,” one of the veiled warriors grinned at the nervous couple. Caught up in the middle of a war after Tuareg separatists advanced hundreds of miles in a matter of hours, the hotel-owners had tried twice already to leave their adopted home of Timbuktu. At first, retreating army columns had blocked their way. Then, when the road eventually cleared, English and Whitehead ran straight into a firefight. “There were guns going off all around us and tracer going past the cab windows, and we thought, ‘This isn’t good’,” English says, with a flash of understatement. Read the rest of this entry »


Food stocks low, fuel hard to find: Mali’s misfortunes worsen as al-Qaeda arrives

The Times

Mali’s two-week-old junta rejected international calls to relinquish power yesterday as sanctions intended to force the new regime to step down began to bite and Islamists cemented their grip in the country’s turbulent north.

In his first comments since the embargo was imposed, the coup leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo, warned that the ousted president, Amadou Toumani Toure, could be charged with “high treason and financial wrongdoing”. He announced that a meeting to discuss Mali’s future would take place tomorrow.

Amid fears that Islamic extremists were taking advantage of the political upheaval, three of al-Qaeda’s leaders were said to have headed to the ancient trading city of Timbuktu, where Sharia was being imposed and women were being told to wear veils. Read the rest of this entry »


The Fearsome Tuareg Uprising in Mali: Less Monolithic than Meets the Eye

 

Tuareg rebels stand near a truck in Mali on March 19, 2012. DPA / LANDOV

TIME.com

The allegedly al-Qaeda-linked faction of the Tuareg rebellion in troubled Mali seems more of an opportunistic break than a real extension of the terror group

Somewhere close to the Algerian border a delegation of Tuareg notables hurried through the desert for a summit. It was mid-March and there was dissension among them. One of their own, a renegade desert warrior called Iyad ag Ghali, had just thrown the Tuaregs’ meticulously plotted rebellion against the Malian government into jeopardy. In proclamations appearing on YouTube, ag Ghali’s spokesman had done everything that the committee behind the two-month-old uprising by Tuareg rebels wanted to avoid. “It is our obligation to fight for the application of Shar’ia in Mali,” the spokesman said. The poisonous phrase, seized eagerly by a Malian government smarting from military defeat, undid months of careful political messaging. Now everyone would think the Tuareg were in bed with al-Qaeda. Read the rest of this entry »


Un-Welcoming the Presidents: The Mali Junta Digs In

TIME.com

A contingent of regional leaders turns its plane away as the Mali Junta appears to solidify, learning how to spin and propagandize. But trouble looms

They pumped their fists in the air. “Shame on Africa,” they cried. And then the protesters swarmed across the runway at Bamako international, trampling over the red carpet laid out for visiting dignitaries. With a jet carrying presidents from five West Africa countries inbound, it was an eloquent statement of what many in Mali’s military junta think about international condemnation of their coup — even if the soldiers in charge didn’t explicitly order up the demonstration. Read the rest of this entry »


Mali’s Coup Leader: Interview with an Improbable Strongman

TIME.com

Captain Amadou Sanogo does not sound or look like the man in charge. But he is now the only show in town in a country beset by multiple crises

Under a sickle moon a large man with dreadlocks, a sparkling purple cloak and white moccasins climbed the stairs of the house that has become Mali’s new nerve-center. He was a marabout — a West Africa holy man — summoned by the 40-year-old army captain everyone in Kati is now calling le President. The new power in Mali is Amadou Sanogo, a career soldier whose improbable coup d’etat has upturned one of Africa’s strongest democracies. On Monday night he sought strength from the spirit world. He needs whatever help he can get. Read the rest of this entry »


As the U.S. and al-Qaeda Watch Mali’s Phony Peace, Tension Mounts in Timbuktu

TIME.com

Several interested parties await the outcome as a once-healthy democracy descends into conflict between military mutineers and their president

Pick-ups packed with soldiers zoomed toward the maize-colored building that houses the State broadcaster as rumors flew of more civil strife in Mali. There was a counter-coup. No, there wasn’t a counter-coup. The leader of the mutiny was dead. No, Capt. Amadou Sanogo would appear in a broadcast momentarily. Read the rest of this entry »