Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A clear sighted appraisal of the Kidal debacle

 Francis Simonis , lecturer of African History at the University of Aix Marseille and member of the L’Institut des mondes africains (IMAF)  analysed the mistakes made by France  that have led to the present anarchy prevailing in the region of Kidal in an interview on May 26 on the site . Selected pieces of this interview was published on the Malian news site Malijet.  Simonis’ clear understanding of the situation deserves to be read by anyone interested in the current Malian crisis so I translate it into English below: (readers of this blog will understand why I feel like indulging in an   ‘I always told you so!’)
" During the operation Serval (the French and allied intervention in January 2012) , when the French and Chadian troops arrived in Kidal , the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA ) consisting of Tuaregs who had been defeated by Al- Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb ( AQIM) was reinstalled in its region with elements from the Islamist Ansar Dine. This resettlement in the region took place with the blessing and under the protection of the French forces which prevented the return of the Malian army in the region. " (...) " Paradoxically , the situation was less anarchic before the  intervention  because the Ansar Dine group was dominant in the region and was applying sharia law . There was then a real authority.  Ansar Dine then disappeared and is now recycled as the High Council for the unity of Azawad ( HCUA ) . Currently, the MNLA is unable to maintain order in the region and the same goes for the HCUA, both under the gaze of French and Chadian forces. The initial mistake was not to disarm the Tuareg MNLA when the Serval troops arrived  at Kidal.
It is operation Serval who is responsible for this situation of anarchy (...)because we were of the opinion that there were on the one hand the islamists which we had to fight, and on the other hand there were the Touaregs at the heart of the MNLA which we had to understand if not assist. " The objectives of the Serval operation have  never been clearly established . When visiting the United Arab Emirates in January, François Hollande announced that the purpose of operation Serval was to destroy terrorism.  In this case , it is a complete failure. If the goal, as he also said, was to restore the territorial integrity of Mali is also a complete failure. But in this case , it is a deliberate failure, because in reality  the Serval operation has prevented the Malian government to resettle in Kidal . " (...)

"France has always supported the MNLA. The Tuaregs have always been regarded as victims of the southern Malians that do not recognize their rights. Members MNLA have widely cultivated this image. The French pretended to believe that there was a distinction between Ansar Dine - Tuareg jihadists - and MNLA which was considered a brave movement, certainly separatist, but fighting for the cause of the oppressed Tuaregs. This view ignored the  porosity between these two movements. Proof of this is the recent statement from the  MNLA which  announced that it would dissolve in order to merge with the HCUA, new name for the Ansar Dine. "
Francis Simonis’ proposal to resolve the crisis :

It is clear that , despite the announcements of France , the number of French soldiers deployed there cannot be reduced. Nobody ever thought we would be able to do so. Today we recognize that we will undoubtedly need to keep thousands of French soldiers and that we are in this situation for several years to come. If the French were to leave today no one would at this time be able to prevent large-scale islamist attack . Only the Chadians would be capable but the Chadian public opinion has begun to swing against the intervention and against the Malians who are not truly grateful for their sacrifices.
Now,  the first thing to do is to ask the Malian government clearly what it  wants. If it wants to regain full control over this region this will entail the total disarmament of all the armed groups that are there.  It is therefore not possible to consider that some of them , such as the MNLA, have a legitimacy to keep their weapons . "

What is certain is that the Malian government is open to dialogue. This leaves for France to accept the disarmament of the Tuareg separatists .


Blogger David said...

Excellent article, thanks for translating. Supposed Realpolitik, then, that is just dangerous and messy.

7:43 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Yes indeed David! Now you understand me perhaps? But the situation is very complex and very difficult to do justice in a soundbite only for international news- which is why, I suppose, it has hardly been reported.

7:50 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

good post

7:21 AM  

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