Monday, May 19, 2014

"The Republic Of Mali is henceforth at War" : Moussa Mara


On Friday Keita phoned me in a state of agitation and informed me that ‘there is fighting in Kidal!’
 The Prime minister Moussa Mara’s  visit to the troubled MNLA stronghold  had been scheduled on  Saturday  in order for him to engage in  negotiations  with the separatists. Already before his arrival violence had flared up as hundreds of demonstrators loyal to the MNLA had gathered at the airport to attempt to prevent his visit. In November last year his predecessor Oumar Tatam Ly was unable to carry out a planned visit to Kidal because of anti government demonstrators. This time the prime minister refused to flee, although he was apparently advised  to do so by the MINUSMA (UN peace keeping forces)  and French Serval forces present in Kidal.
Mara carried out his visit and gave a speech to the citizens of Kidal while MNLA forces clashed with the Malian army and mortar shells where heard exploding in the back ground. 
The centre of the fighting took place at the Gorvernor’s  Office which is now still held  by the rebels, who are said to be holding 30 Malian civil servants hostage. 8 Malian soldiers were killed in the clashes while 28 of the rebels were eliminated according to the army . The MNLA claims it killed 19 government soldiers but says that they themselves did not suffer any casualties.  It appears  all government buildings apart from the government office  have been reclaimed by the Malian army. 

Mara criticised the UN and France for allowing the governor’s office to be seized despite its heavy military presence in the town. MINUSMA claimed 21 of their police officers were injured in the clashes however.
IBK is scheduled to address the Malian Nation today. Mara has said to Reuters:" the Republic of Mali is henceforth at war”.
"Reinforcements are on the way to Kidal. The objective is to totally retake Kidal," said one senior military source.  Certain  troops that have been sent as reinforcement are believed to be the Balanzan Battalion, which has recently been undergoing military training by the European Union’s training mission to Mali.  Some Malian army troops have allegedly been sent up from the nearest town south: Anefis.
Meanwhile the MNLA are also preparing for further confrontation:
"The situation is calm right now. We're in position. We're not scared of the Malian army. We're ready," said MNLA spokesman Ag Mohamed.
What will happen?
One of the major reasons Ibrahim Boubakar Keita won the election with such overwhelming majority was because of his strong position on the MNLA. He declared at election time that all is negotiable except the integrity of the Malian territory, autonomy and self rule in the North.The Malian people saw in him their hope for a unified Mali.
Eight months into his mandate, IBK’s  popularity has been rapidly waning: there is a scandal over the allegedly unnecessary purchase of a new presidential jet which rumbles on but most of all there is the sentiment in most Malians that IBK has betrayed the nation over Kidal and the MNLA since he has ‘towed the line’ under  international and French  pressure and has attempted to keep negotiations going instead of using military force to regain control of the town and the area.

He is now finally sending in the troops. But will they be stopped again on the threshold of Kidal? This is what happened in June when the interim government decided to attack Kidal in order to claim the city so that democratic election could finally be held. The troops successfully took the town of Anefis but were stopped by the French and prevented from entering Kidal. Feverish last ditch negotiations were  set up  and held in Ouagadougou between the government and the MNLA. The outcome of the negotiations paved way for the elections that were held in August. However, according to the Ouagadougou agreement The MNLA were to be kept ‘in containment’ and the town of Kidal was to be governed by the Malian administration. This agreement has never been implemented and despite a heavy presence of UN and French soldiers The MNLA have been allowed to continue to patrol the street of Kidal freely.
Why this leniency with the MNLA? Malians find it incomprehensible.  In addition, some foreign diplomats I speak to in Bamako are now certain that it is only a question of time before there will be an Azawad state.

However, there are  now  certain signs that seem to point to an international admittance  that what has happened in Kidal this time is unacceptable:
"This barbaric crime is totally unacceptable and those responsible must answer for their actions.” said Albert Koenders, the head of MINUSMA. He stops short of advocating a military intervention however and suggests that “an inquiry must be carried out quickly in order to verify the facts and bring the responsible parties to justice."
Malians have now lost the taste for peaceful inquiries however. Will the Army once more  be stopped at the gates of Kidal?



Blogger David said...

I presume 'excitedly' means 'in a state of agitation'. He can't really be excited in a good way by this insoluble mess?

11:59 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Yes, of course that is what I mean David. In fact I will change the wording, thank you!

12:22 PM  
Blogger Susan Scheid said...

Such a shame, all this. And how odd that the French prevented the interim government from entering Kidal last August. I'm sure you must have noted this at the time, and I somehow missed it. Anyway, I will join in hoping for better news.

2:57 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Susan, yes it is shame and a mess!
And further to the writing above, Keita now tells me that the Malian Army has apparently entered Kidal in some numbers and are encamped all around. There seems to be no immediate fighting going on however, as that would more or less mean a death sentence for the 30 hostages.

4:36 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Oh, and a couple of rectifications, Susan: the event at Anefis was in JUNE, and the elections were of course held in August...have changed accordingly.

4:51 PM  
Blogger David said...

Sorry if that sounded tart - it wasn't meant to be. And as usual you should be the first port of call, via Keita, for correct information on what's going on. The journalists just hang around Bamako, picking up what they can.

7:26 AM  

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