Crises in Mali: Roundup of Reactions from the Region

News is coming fast out of the Sahel these days, so I may default to roundups many days this week rather than attempting cohesive analytical pieces. Today’s roundup is about Mali and the overlapping crises there, but indirectly: the links below discuss reactions, both verbal and physical, by a variety of actors in the surrounding region. Before we jump into regional news, though, one important resource on the situation inside Mali is AP’s timeline of the French intervention.

Regional

  • The Guardian with a regional map.
  • The Washington Post on the regional refugee crisis.
  • Al Jazeera on the January 19 Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) summit in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. More here, with details on the ECOWAS force, its leaders, etc. (The other key acronym to know is AFISMA or the African-led International Support Mission in Mali).
  • Liberte (French) on the upcoming African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 29, and the question of funding for an ECOWAS force in Mali.
  • Troop movements/announcements/news: Senegal, Benin, Liberia, Nigeria, and Chad (French). Not a comprehensive list, of course.

Algeria

Yesterday, at a press conference on the recent hostage tragedy in In Amenas, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal stated (French) that Algeria “will not send one soldier to Mali” and will concentrate on “protecting its borders and its territory.” Sellal added that Algeria “encourages dialogue among the different parties” in Mali.

Niger

This blog post (French), from a site with which I am not familiar, does a nice job laying out Niger’s attitudes toward the situation in Mali. Key points include Niger’s preference for securing Malian territorial integrity before holding elections, and Niger’s view that the situation in Mali is, for Niger, an internal security threat as well as a Malian problem. You can read an interview Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum gave to RFI here (French).

Mauritania

Al Bawaba depicts widespread opposition to the French operation in Mali, and to the possibility of Mauritanian military involvement there, among religious and political leaders in Mauritania. A coalition of three parties, however, supports intervention in Mali (Arabic, French). Mauritania has placed areas along its border with Mali under military control (French).

Nigeria

On January 19, gunmen attacked a Nigerian military unit in Okene, Kogi State, killing two and wounding five. The unit was preparing to deploy to Mali. The Nigerian military has blamed Boko Haram for the attack. Jama’a Ansar al Muslimin fi Bilad al Sudan (Arabic: The Society of Defenders of Muslims in the Land of the Blacks), a purported splinter group from Boko Haram, has claimed responsibility for the incident, saying that it was targeting the unit because of Nigeria’s involvement in the Mali intervention. IRIN (link above) has more on “JAMBS.” The group’s statement (which was issued in English, from what I can tell) is here.

Any other news? Please let us know in the comments.

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10 thoughts on “Crises in Mali: Roundup of Reactions from the Region

  1. The striking thing about the attack on Nigerian soldiers is the proximity to Southern Nigeria.

    Okene is further south than either Jos or Abuja and Kogi State shares a boundary with Anambra (South East), Delta (Niger Delta) and Ondo (South West) – so it lies within the political & geographical center of Nigeria.

      • I don’t know much about JAMBS, but there is something interesting about Okene other than how far south it is. The Egbira in Okene have for a long time been violently anti anything the Igalas -in posession of the state government- are for. To my mind it is not necessarily evidence of southward creep of Boko Haram, but of opportunity location. Okene already has an established ethno-conflict politics. It could be that the splinter group are drawn from these youth, or that these youth have seen an opportunity to forward their violent ethno-politics in this way.

      • Thanks for this Andrew, very interesting. This incident certainly bears looking into further.

      • Andrew Walker,
        Thanks for your observation, but I struggling to see the correlation:

        1. Both Igala and Egbira are very well represented in the Nigerian Military, so how exactly does an attack by Egbira youth (assuming they are involved) on the Nigerian Military relate to power politics between the Egbira and Igala?

        2. Both Igala and Egbira have a large population of Muslims, so could we say this is an attack on “Igala infidels” – very unlikely.

        3. This is a terrorist attack that has absolutely nothing to do with the antagonism between the Egbira and the Igala or local politics.

      • These are all fair questions, to which I can only say: I was theorising a partial answer to the question “why Okene?” (as opposed to any other town in the area, or Lagos, or Port Harcourt))
        Your point about egbiras and igalas being represented in the army is, I feel a little off the mark. Aren’t northerners including those from the north east well represented in the army? That doesn’t stop Boko haram attacking them.
        Similarly Boko Haram has shown itself to be willing to attack and kill Muslims of any ethnicity if it suits their morphing ideology.
        I’m not saying that the conflict between egbiras and Igalas has morphed into Boko haram because of the nature of those identities, but that the existence of identity conflict itself has given opportunity for a new kind of conflict to lodge there. Conflict breeds conflict if you like.
        I do not see BH as a creeping wave moving inevitably south, infecting the hearts of Muslims, as I suspect you do. It is a Guerrilla movement which in order to move into a new area has to find purchase among the population. In many ways the multiple identity conflicts that – if they were fewer- might give Boko Haram more to work with, Ironically may also hamper their expansion (I’m told Kanuri businessmen get short shrift in Kano these days). I think because we are seeing BH activity in this area it is evidence of bh or a splinter group somehow plugging in to that existing identity conflict. I don’t know exactly how, but that is my theory.

      • Andrew Walker,

        Your points are well taken, this is a little off topic – what does the attack (at Jalingo) last year tell us? Isn’t the violence slowly moving southwards?

    • I don’t know about the Jalingo attack I’m afraid. I’m skeptical about the notion of BH spreading south. To establish regular operations in the south-west and east, I think that would be very difficult for them. It would expose them to a great degree of risk, and what would they really stand to gain for all that risk? I mean it’s not impossible, but there would be evidence of it before now. there has been a group of people making Boko haram -like attacks in Okene for around a year I think. This attack wasn’t out of the blue. My guess is it came from a group that is well hidden in the community.

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