History shows that empires in the Mali area were major countries in the western part of Africa. Remains of the Mali empire in the 14th century and Songhai empire in 15th century show how culturally rich Mali was. The area had been the center of trade and study of Islam in the western part of Africa. However, when they collapsed, countries from outside started to attack this area, colonizing and exploiting people who live there.
During the colonial era, most of the areas in Africa were colonized by western nations. France colonized Mali area. After the Second World War, Mali and other African nations gained independence in the 1960s. For Mali, it was June 20, 1974. Like other African nations, the border of Mali was decided by France, and it made various groups be under one government, creating ethnic conflicts.
There are various ethnic groups. The biggest group is Mande. Other minor groups are Fula, Voltaic, Tuareg, Moors, and Songhai. The current Mali crisis is created by Tuareg. Tuareg lives in the northern part of Mali called Azawad. They already made several rebellions. There are several reasons why they revolt this time. First, they are impoverished because of the lack of support from the Mali government. Second, they feel that the area they live in is marginalized by the government. These can be happened in the country where GDP per person is pretty low. Only $668, which shows how poor Mali is.
However, why do other nations focus on Mali crisis so much? There are other civil wars in the world such as the northern part of Myanmar, Sudan, and Syria, but newspapers, AU(African Union), and other nations specially concentrate on the problem. What is going on in Mali?
1 ) Conflict
Mali crisis was started by MNLA(the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, French: Mouvement National pour la Liberation de I’Azawad) , which wants to have independence from the Mali government for Tuareg, being active in October 2011. The group is considered to have 3000~5000 soldiers. The first attack was Menaka in the southern part of Gao region in January 16, 2012. Also, it began to attack other cities like Aguelhok and Tessalit. Later, Mali government declared it took back those cities from the rebel. However, because of the lack of ammunition of the Mali army, MNLA took over areas again.
Support by the Mali government was really weak, because the government is too poor to support its army. For example, because of the lack of ammunition, soldiers ran away, and some were captured by MNLA. Also, Azawad area, the northern part of Mali, was already dominated by the rebels. In March 21, 2012, a coup d'etat by the army happened, and changed the government. Most of foreign governments did not support the group, so the coup d'etat government and the former government needed to reconcile to fight against the rebels, showing how weak the nation became.
While this was ongoing, MNLA took over Timbuktu, which is a city really close to the capital. Western governments were afraid of losing their power in Mali, so they started to support Mali government. France, the former colonizer of Mali, directly helped the Mali government by sending armies, and others nations sent airplanes and aid to support the fight against rebels. Why do they help Mali?
2 ) Why is Mali Crisis important?
Why does the world focus on the crisis so much? The main reason is that Islamic extremists groups are included in the fight. Organizations that helped MNLA are Ansar Dine, AQIM(Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), and MOJWA(Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa. Governments such as the United States and the United Kingdom already saw weak countries became the center of dangerous groups. For god’s sake, people are dying there because of conflicts created by terrorism.
Especially, Ansar di-ne is strong compared to other groups. The flag of it was everywhere in Azawad area. The Western media was worried, believing that MNLA is working with it. Previously during the fight, they helped MNLA to make it gain territories in the northern part. This was the reason why western governments helped the Mali government, because they thought the area will be the place for terrorists to settle. Some parts, yes, they can be right. However, they did not see other things.
The reason why it can be wrong is that there were conflicts between MNLA and extremists. In Gao area, the southern part of Azawad, MNLA and extremists attacked each other to gain the area. After the fight, MNLA declared that it would help the government to fight against those groups. Also, the people in Azawad area felt that extremists are different from them. The natives even call extremists ‘outsiders’. During an interview with Journeyman TV, Azawad person said “I’m afraid of Islamic extremists, because they might think our traditions are not appropriate for Islam”, showing fear towards the groups. This shows that the belief of main media and western governments is wrong.
Second, there are human rights’ problems. Everyday, there are 400 people crossing over the border between Mauritania and Mali. Also, many people go to Burkina Faso, creating refugees. Global society already saw how refuges in other parts of the world became. Having genocide by rebels because of the lack of proper securities, supplying small amount of foods for refugees that they eventually get diseases related to malnutrition, and providing poorly prepared environments for refugees. These show that human rights for refugees created by Mali crisis are in danger.
3 ) Intervention is not a solution
France and other nations intervened to stop the conflict. However, they should be careful, because history shows that intervention can be negative. In the Yugoslavia civil war, for instance, after NATO(North Atlantic Treaty Organization) intervention, conflicts among Serbians, Croatians, and other groups worsened, creating massive genocide. There should be other solutions to make Mali stronger rather than fighting more against the rebels.
First of all, UN(United Nations) and other organizations such as western governments need to help Mali government to have better governmental systems. The main reason why Tuareg people got angry was that Azawad region was impoverished because of the lack of supports. Before fighting against MNLA and eliminating it, organizations need to prepare to provide better systems for Mali government, so there can be no other civil wars.
Second, organizations need to gain trust of natives in Azawad area. Somehow, western media and governments look at people in Azawad like terrorists. This condition was also happened in Afghanistan by main medias like FOX, pointing Afghanistan people as danger. This should not happen, because when the United States lost trust of natives in Afgahnistan, people went against the U.S. strongly. Organizations need to build trust, so that natives do not ally with Islamic extremists.
When will people in Mali face peace and supports? Several previous rebels did not change the government. Even after the civil wars, the government just stopped, and did not do anything to create prosperity and unity. They are poor. For the actuality, Tuareg people are not the problem. The problem is that the government is not changing. We need to perceive that the situation will not get better if they do not see the actual problems they neglect.
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