Mali: France, Kidal, and the MNLA

The story I want to tell here can be told with headlines:

  • AFP, May 18: “France Accused of Favouring Mali’s Tuareg Rebels.”
  • Reuters, May 19: “After Crushing Mali Islamists, France Pushes Deal with Tuaregs.”
  • USA Today, May 20: “French Troops Depart Mali, Leaving Joy, Worries.”

These articles leave the reader with the impression that France is continuing to intervene in Malian politics even as it reduces its military presence there, and that its political stances are proving unpopular.

France and other outside powers have flirted heavily with the idea that the Tuareg-led National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA), a movement that advocated northern Malian separatism during the early phase of last year’s rebellion, is a politically acceptable negotiating partner, and one that deserves some political stake in post-conflict northern Mali. Some Western policymakers find this belief alluring, I suspect, because it helps them categorize northern Malians into “good” and “bad” rebels and offers hope of putting various genies back into various bottles. If the MNLA speaks for northern Malians, the argument runs, reaching an agreement with it could resolve the conflict.

My own opinion is that the MNLA’s brutality and loss of political control in early 2012 refutes the notion that they can speak for northern Mali – they only speak for part of it. The recent withdrawal from the MNLA of one of its key leaders provides further evidence that the MNLA only speaks for some.

Outsiders would be wise to question the reductionist view that positions the MNLA as the most significant political force in northern Mali. Outsiders’ attempts to apply such a view could cause backlash on the ground. As the city of Kidal, which the MNLA now helps control, becomes a symbol in struggles over the future identity of Mali, France’s positions appear out of step with the views of many Malians. The Reuters article mentioned above explains:

A standoff over how to restore Malian government authority to Kidal, the last town in the desert north yet to be brought under central control, is sowing resentment with Paris and could delay planned elections to restore democracy after a coup.

Mali’s army has moved troops towards Kidal, a stronghold of the MNLA Tuareg separatists, but missed a self-imposed deadline this week to retake the Saharan town. France, which has its own forces camped outside, does not want Malian troops to march on the town, fearing ethnic bloodshed if it is taken by force.

[...]

Many in government and on the streets of Bamako blame the January 2012 uprising by the Tuareg MNLA for unleashing the other calamities that nearly dissolved the country. Nationalists now want the army to march into Kidal to disarm the rebels.

France is instead backing secretive talks being held in neighboring Burkina Faso, designed to allow the July elections to take place, while urging Bamako to address Tuaregs’ long-standing demands for autonomy for their desert homeland.

Clashes between Arabs and Tuaregs have shown that ethnic tension remains high.

More on the talks here, and a short case study of Arab-Tuareg clashes here.

As of Wednesday (French), the MNLA had expressed willingness to let Kidal participate in presidential elections in July, but continued unwillingness to allow the Malian army to enter the city. The longer the political and military standoff over Kidal continues, the more frustrated other parts of the country could become – RFI (French) writes that Kidal has become “a national obsession in Mali,” and that its name “is on all the lips in Bamako.” Historical memories may contribute to this “obsession”: Kidal was created in 1991 (out of the Gao region) with the hopes of helping resolve the Tuareg-led rebellion of that time. Many non-Tuareg Malians reportedly blame the Tuareg for Mali’s crisis and view the Tuareg as angling for a greater share of government largesse than they deserve. As anger grows over the situation in Kidal, Malians who hold such views may become outraged by outsiders’ attempts to elevate the MNLA as the north’s premier political force.

Somalia, Mali, and the Weakness of Analogical Thinking

NPR, in March, wrote the headline, “Western Money, African Boots: A Formula For Africa’s Conflicts.” Somalia’s “success,” the piece suggested, could be replicated in places like Mali. Bloomberg, over the weekend, made the same argument: “To Stabilize Mali, Look to Somalia’s Lessons.” From the piece:

Mali is like Somalia in that, in both places, Muslim extremists took advantage of political turmoil to seize large areas of the country. In each case, African countries agreed to send soldiers to neutralize the threat — a way around Western reluctance to commit troops to far-off places, and a local solution more likely to be acceptable to African populations. Yet the forces largely floundered when left to their own resources.

Other examples of this kind of thinking are legion.

I’ve criticized the Mali-Somalia analogy, as well as the idea of Somalia as a “success story,” here. I will add this: beyond whatever merits the analogy may have, the way in which people make it, their seeming lack of awareness or concern or curiosity about the limits of the analogy, bothers me. Does the presence of “Muslim extremists,” “political turmoil,” “African forces,” and “Western funds” establish a fundamental similarity between two places? Are the separatist movements of Mali essentially similar to those of Somalia? Are the histories of these two countries, particularly over the last twenty years, alike? Is the situation in Bamako now comparable to the situation in Mogadishu? The answer to all these questions, in my view, is no.

I do not see what is to be gained, from a policy perspective, by eliding the differences between Mali and Somalia. Yes, there are Western-funded African forces in both places. But each country seeks, and needs, political solutions that respond to its own particular histories and dynamics (Peter Tinti’s writing on Mali is relevant here). If Somalia’s “model” offers Mali anything, it is grounds for caution:

  1. The length of time it took to reconquer territory
  2. The fragility of political progress
  3. The persistence of problematic center-provincial relations (see here for a grim take on struggles over Somalia’s Jubaland)
  4. Problems with payment and funding 

Etc.

Mali is preparing for elections that will likely prove highly problematic. Mali faces a massive crisis of refugees and internally displaced persons. Mali confronts a lingering guerrilla conflict in the north. Mali is struggling to determine who will rule reconquered northern territories, and what place the separatist National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad will have in northern Mali’s future (see Reuters on Kidal). Amid these challenges, more attention to the specificity of Mali’s problems would bring greater benefit than than more casually drawn analogies between Mali and Somalia.

Ber, Mali

On Monday and Tuesday, Malian and Burkinabe soldiers moved into the village of Ber (map), in the Timbuktu region. AP calls Ber “a focal point in recent weeks of fighting between two of Mali’s ethnic minorities — Tuaregs and Arabs.”* RFI (French) has more detail on Tuareg-Arab clashes in Ber, or more specifically, clashes between the Movement of Arabs of Azawad (MAA) and the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA). An MAA commander (French) has stated that Arab forces forces in Ber, however, did not act on the MAA’s orders. Whatever the case, residents reportedly called on troops to pacify the village. Troops have since made a number of arrests – in one account (Arabic), these arrests targeted Arabs and raised fears in the Arab community that a “wave of new arrests” of Arabs would follow.

Events in Ber highlight, first of all, the uncertainties surrounding information coming out of northern Mali (what happened? who made decisions? who acted in whose name?) and the narratives that compete for the spotlight. These events also call attention to community-level conflicts elsewhere in northern Mali (see this article, in French, on intra-Arab fighting in Anefis, north of Gao). In my view, if you combine Tuaregs’ and Arabs’ widespread fear of communal violence, the actual occurrence of communal violence, and the competing narratives that emerge from violence, you create conditions for (adding to) long-lasting grievances and mistrust in these communities. Reported abuses by Malian soldiers against Peul, Tuaregs, and Arabs further exacerbate fear and anger.

*It’s worth mentioning that Oumar Ould Hamaha, a commander within the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, is an Arab from Ber.

Map of Recent Islamist Coalition Aggressions in Mali

Plans for an external military intervention in Mali are moving forward. Negotiations between regional mediators and the northern Islamist faction Ansar al Din continue. At the same time, the Islamist coalition that controls northern Mali – which includes Ansar al Din, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and the Movement for Unity/Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) – has continued aggressive actions.

Specifically:

In the case of both conquests, Islamists were driving back forces from the ostensibly secular, Tuareg-led Movement for the National Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA). The MNLA launched the northern rebellion in January, but lost control of the uprising during the spring.

The northern provincial capitals of Timbuktu, Kidal, and Gao have been the strongholds of the Islamist coalition – with MUJWA having a strong presence in Gao, while Ansar al Din has a strong presence in the other two cities. A leader from Ansar al Din, which has demanded the implementation of shari’a across Mali, recently even stated in preliminary talks in Burkina Faso that “we are waiving the application of sharia law across the entire Malian territory except in our region of Kidal where sharia will be applied.”

The Islamist coalition, however, has not confined its activities to these three capitals. In September, MUJWA fighters took Douentza from a local militia, and now there are the recent conquests. I would not say that there has been a steady geographic expansion by the Islamists, but they have shown an ability to periodically project their presence into new towns. The kidnapping, finally, is not unprecedented for that region – an Italian couple was kidnapped on the Mauritania side of the border near Diema in 2009 – but in the context of the war in northern Mali, MUJWA’s capacity to carry out a kidnapping in southwestern Mali has raised eyebrows.

With the thought that visualizing all of these developments can help make sense of them, I’ve made a rudimentary map showing Menaka, Douentza, Lere, and Diema. I’ve used red for MUJWA, and yellow for Ansar al Din.

Africa News Roundup: Nigeria’s Oil Export Problems, Somalia’s New Cabinet, Karim Wade Questioned in Senegal, and More

BBC (video): “Nigerian Military Chief Sets Out Mali Plan.”

Jeune Afrique (French): “The MNLA Launches an Offensive against MUJWA in Gao.”

Reuters:

Nigerian crude oil export delays have lengthened, traders said on Friday, a sign that a raft of recent output problems caused by oil theft and flooding are increasingly holding back supplies from Africa’s biggest producer.

BBC:

Nigeria’s military has killed a top commander of militant Islamist group Boko Haram in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, an army spokesman has said. Ibn Saleh Ibrahim was killed in an exchange of fire with six of his lieutenants.

On Tuesday, Somalia’s Federal Parliament approved the new cabinet.

VOA: “In Somalia, Political Battle Over Newly Liberated Regions.”

The Economist: “The question of what to do with the charcoal, perhaps worth $40m, could affect the fate of Somalia’s new government.”

Senegalese police summoned Karim Wade, a former cabinet minister and son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, for questioning on Thursday, and have forbade him to leave the country.

BBC (video): “Is Biofuel a Solution for Burkina Faso?”

Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, wounded in a shooting on October 13, continues to convalesce in France.

What else is going on?

Mali: A Backlash against the Islamist Coalition? [Updated]

Saturday, in Gao, northern Mali:

On Saturday night the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa [MUJWA] announced on private radio that they would [amputate a thief's hand] at the square.

MUJWA did not get their way:

“They [Islamists] were not able to take the prisoner to the square to cut off his hand. The residents of Gao occupied the square and refused to allow the thief’s hand to be amputated,” the leader of a local NGO said on condition of anonymity.

According to corroborating sources, the accused was a young [MUJWA] recruit who had stolen weapons to re-sell them.

“We don’t want to know what this young man did, but they are not going to cut his hand off in front of us. The Islamists have retreated and the civilians sang the national hymn as a sign of victory,” another resident said.

This is not the first report of local resistance to MUJWA and the broader Islamist coalition of which it is a part (the other major factions are the movement Ansar al Din and fighters from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb). Protests in July – to which Ansar al Din responded harshly – also seemed to signal some popular discontent with Islamist rule.

It has been hard to get a clear sense of what is going on in northern Mali, but the recent signs of resistance to Islamist control could mean several things. One widespread interpretation is that the versions of Islam and Islamic law that the Islamists are attempting to impose are foreign and extreme in the eyes of the people of northern Mali. In this reading, conflict between the Islamists and those they are trying to rule is inevitable.

Another interpretation, more complex than the one above, is that the people of northern Mali have a range of stances vis-a-vis Islamism and that the outcome is not predetermined. In this interpretation, the Islamist coalition is facing resistance because it has mismanaged the politics of the situation.

Ironically, the Islamists’ initial rise to power probably came about partly because of their opponents’ political failures. The ostensibly secular National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) originally launched the rebellion in Mali, but the MNLA appeared incapable of providing law and order to conquered areas – which seems to have given the Islamists an opening to establish some form of law and order.

Other forms of politics were also important. Kal notes that in Gao, MUJWA was able to push the MNLA out in part because MUJWA played local politics effectively:

MUJWA appears to have deftly leveraged its local connections in Gao among local Arabs to exploit strong animosity between Songhai armed elements and the Tuareg-dominated MNLA. The MNLA’s pro-[secession] agenda and abuses of the local population on arrival in Gao coupled with long-standing hostility between members of the Ganda Iso and Ganda Koy militia groups (elements of which were involved in atrocities against Tuaregs during previous rebellions) appears to have allowed MUJWA to direct popular discontent with living conditions in the city resulting from the rebellion onto the MNLA, marginalizing it and forcing its members in the city to take flight.

Following this interpretation, I wonder whether Islamists’ political victories over the MNLA contained the seeds of the Islamists’ present political difficulties: without the MNLA around as a contrast, in other words, the Islamists’ political stock must rise or fall on its own and not simply look better than the MNLA’s. Paul Mutter wrote several weeks ago that the Islamists were “less unpopular” than the MNLA – and “less unpopular” does not necessarily equal “popular.”

The Islamists appear to be harming their own political position by making two mistakes. First, their attempts to carry out dramatic corporal punishments are taking attention away from the behaviors that originally made them more popular than the MNLA. The Islamists’ initial (relative) popularity, it seems, came about because they were preventing abuses by fighters, distributing food and aid, and providing rudimentary order. The Islamists seem to feel a religious imperative to mutilate alleged thieves and stone alleged adulterers, but in political terms these moves have probably begun to hurt them.

Second, the Islamists seem to be mismanaging dissent. Their confrontational approach either results in a crackdown, which likely leaves resentment simmering, or a loss of face for themselves, which is what the events on Saturday look like to me.

No one knows what will happen going forward. But it looks like the Islamist coalition will continue to face some resistance, particularly if their response to dissent is uncompromising.

[UPDATE:] MUJWA opts for more repression, generating more dissent.

AFP:

A radio presenter was badly beaten by Islamists occupying the northern Mali town of Gao after he reported on a protest in which they were stopped from cutting off a thief’s hand, hospital sources said Monday.
[...]
Hundreds of people protested on Sunday night in Gao against [presenter Abdoul Malick] Maiga’s detention and demanded his release, setting fire to a car belonging to a leader of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) which controls the town.
The Islamists fired shots into the air to disperse the crowd.

 

Political Shifts in Northern Mali [Updated]

This post is more a roundup of overlapping events than an attempt to produce a coherent narrative about the political situation in northern Mali, but the events do share one broad trait: they all instantiate political change, underscoring how fluid the situation remains.

The rebellion in northern Mali was launched in January by the Tuareg-led group the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA, where “Azawad” refers to the three northern regions of Mali). The MNLA’s stated goal has long been independence for that territory. Starting in April and especially since June, the MNLA has lost political and military ground to Ansar al Din (Arabic: Defenders of the Faith), a group that seeks to implement shari’a law across all of Mali. Ansar al Din’s coalition of Islamists includes fighters from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and an AQIM offshoot called the Movement for Unity/Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA).

One recent political shift has been in the MNLA’s stated goals. On Sunday, the MNLA announced that they were (my term) downgrading their quest: instead of seeking full secession, a spokesman said, they now seek “cultural, political, and economic independence.” Their spokesman referenced Quebec as a model. The MNLA further declared its resolve to fight Ansar al Din. The implications of this change in rhetoric regarding secession may be quite serious. Big questions arise: Would the MNLA help the Malian army or outside forces reclaim the north from the Islamist coalition in exchange for guarantees of future autonomy? Does this change of rhetoric signal the MNLA’s desperation (and decreasing political and military relevance)?

Another apparent political shift could benefit Ansar al Din. In June, a trio of northern Malian militias announced the formation of a coalition to “liberate” northern Mali from the rebels. Now it appears that some fighters from one of those militias, the ethnically Songhai group Ganda Koy, have broken ranks to join Ansar al Din. The reasons for this (alleged) shift are unclear to me.

On other political fronts, Ansar al Din is not faring as well. Throughout the spring and summer, there have been reports of protests in northern cities, but it was not always clear whether the protests were targeting the MNLA or Ansar al Din. Now that Ansar al Din is more firmly in control of key northern cities, it seems clearer that recent protests are against the Islamists. I have long argued that Ansar al Din has gained some popular support from its attempts to establish law and order and to provide aid, and I stand by that, but the protests are a sign that significant elements of the local population want the Islamists gone. Ansar al Din’s harsh response to protests last weekend, moreover, could generate further backlash.

Finally, there are outside attempts to split the Islamist coalition. The African Union stated yesterday that Ansar al Din, in Reuters’ words, “can be part of a negotiated political solution to reunite the divided West African country if it breaks with al Qaeda and its allies.” This offer seems unlikely to tempt Ansar al Din so long as they have the upper hand in the north, but it is possible that continued efforts at putting wedges into the Islamist coalition could induce cracks later on if Ansar al Din finds itself on the defensive. It is also possible that the AU’s talk will fall on completely deaf ears.

[UPDATE]: Peter Tinti (in the comments) provides us with a link (French) to an interview with MNLA spokesman Moussa Ag Assarid, in which he denies that the Movement has renounced its goal of independence. He claims the earlier news was misinformation spread by the Movement’s “detractors.” According to him, the MNLA is “ready to have talks with the Malian authorities” under international supervision, but they “have never renounced [their] demand for the independence of the Azawad.”

The spokesman quoted in the piece above on MNLA’s renunciation of secession demands was a different figure, Ibrahim Ag Assaleh, identified by Reuters as “a senior member of the MNLA.” The contradictory rhetoric either indicates that one of the two men (likely Ag Assaleh) does not genuinely speak for the MNLA, or that the movement is divided over how to proceed.

Mali, Shari’a, and the Media

Reporting on shari’a law and groups who attempt to impose their version of it often leans toward the sensational. This tendency appears to reflect the views of many Western journalists, and much of their audience, that shari’a is barbaric, violent, and misogynist, and its application trivial and arbitrary. Negative Western views on Islamic law have, to put it mildly, a long history; for just one example, take Max Weber’s notion of “kadijustiz,” which The Max Weber Dictionary defines (p. 136) as “an irrational type of justice focused on the single case.” Kadi/qadi is Arabic for judge.

I mention this tendency in the media not because I want to make an apology for those who impose shari’a but because I believe that news coverage can blur our sense of context and cause us to misread the political relationships between those who apply a version of shari’a and those to whom it is applied. Reading coverage of shari’a in the news – coverage that tends to follow a model established in reports on Afghanistan, and extended to Somalia – one might easily get the impression that shari’a is simply an alternation of cruel acts and ridiculous ones. One moment the Islamists are stoning a woman, the next they are banning soccer. What this kind of coverage misses is how shari’a fits into the systematic attempts at state-building that groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan, al Shabab in Somalia, and Ansar Dine in Mali pursue. (Comparing such groups is fraught with peril, but we can at least establish these commonalities between them: they are all interested in shari’a and state-building, and the media has emphasized the brutality of shari’a when discussing all of them. Indeed the comparison may be most apt when we are talking about the media, rather than about events on the ground.)

With this in mind, recent reports on shari’a in Mali begin to seem contradictory. VOA writes:

Residents of northern Mali say Islamist militant groups currently running parts of the region are trying to win hearts and minds with an odd mix of punishment and charity.

The groups carry out harsh corporal punishment they say the religion requires, while at the same time doling out cash and other gifts.

Note how mixing punishment with charity – or could we say mixing law with social services, which are core functions of any state? – is described as “odd.” Note how corporal punishment is marked as motivated by “religion,” yet “doling out cash and other gifts” is not, even though charity is fundamental to Islam. Whipping a couple for having premarital sex, the article implies, was “shocking.” Rewarding the couple with money and gifts after they married was simply a way of trying to win the poor young man “over to their way of thinking.” Does this reward have no religious significance?

I am not saying that members of Ansar Dine are motivated solely by piety and that political calculation does not shape their thinking; quite the contrary. But is it a stretch to view all of these actions – the punishments and the charity, the whippings and the gifts – as part of an effort to impose a system seen by its architects as internally consistent, politically effective, and religiously proper?

The political opportunism of Ansar Dine’s leader Iyad Ag Ghali has been well documented, but my impression is that at least some of Ansar Dine’s leaders and fighters take piety quite seriously. Let’s look at AFP’s article “Wine, Women and Song Tempt Mali’s Islamists.” It describes the Ansar Dine delegation’s reaction to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where they met with regional mediators and with representatives of rival group the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA, a secular Tuareg-led group fighting for the independence of northern Mali). One could read the article as exposing Ansar Dine’s delegates as country bumpkins fighting to keep their pants on in the big city. But from the article it seems that it was Ansar Dine’s delegates who mentioned the “test” they faced to AFP’s reporter, and not the reporter who caught them in the grip of temptation. Perhaps they brought up the test to emphasize that they were passing it. The delegates scrutinized what they ate, where they prayed, and how their environment affected them; these are men who care about piety, or at least want observers to believe they do.

Back in northern Mali, reporters tell us, people don’t want shari’a. But the reporting is self-contradictory enough that it becomes difficult to tell what the situation is. People flout Ansar Dine’s rulings, we learn. And yet we also learn that people live in fear of “fighters they say carry arms everywhere, from the market to the mosque.” The people are tired and may soon revolt, we hear. But we also hear that “living conditions in Gao have improved somewhat since early April…The hospital was looted in April but is functioning again under Islamist protection.” It would be reasonable to conclude from these various reports that there is real chaos in the north, and deep division among the population. We could also conclude that Ansar Dine enjoys at least some support; surely hospitals, aid, and a form of law have benefited some civilians.

The media narrative about places like Afghanistan, Somalia, and Mali has often boiled down to, “Good local Muslims just want peaceful, ‘traditional’ Islam, but the bad outsider Muslims with guns want to go back to the seventh century.” I find narratives like that too simple. Politics is complicated, and understanding it is too, particularly when information about a locality is so limited and confusing.

In previous posts, I have referred to Ansar Dine’s approach in northern Mali as “law-and-order Islamism.” I stand by that. A civilian population terrorized by men with guns may not always distinguish between different groups with different worldviews. Indeed, some of the residents quoted in the linked articles above seem to lump the MNLA and Ansar Dine into the same general category of thugs. But some residents will make a distinction, and Ansar Dine’s approach – which, I will reiterate, at least attempts to be internally consistent – seems to win some support by offering a form of law-and-order, backed by concrete social services. The MNLA, in contrast, has sometimes offered only chaos and suffering. Tellingly, it is the MNLA that has launched a campaign of reconciliation with local populations, not Ansar Dine.

In case there is any doubt about my own views, I think women should be allowed to make their own choices about fashion and sex, that youth should be allowed to watch and play games, that people should have religious freedom. I find the situation in northern Mali upsetting. But if news coverage of shari’a only provokes our indignation and not our reflection, we miss the political context, and we risk our ability to understand the complexity of religious life in a place like northern Mali.

Africa Blog Roundup: Health in Ethiopia, Mali’s MNLA, the Sudans, and More

Africa Is A Country on social media in eastern and southern Africa.

Amb. David Shinn recommends a new report, “Advancing Health in Ethiopia.”

Bruce Whitehouse on rappers and politics in Mali.

Lesley Warner on Mali’s MNLA:

Times are tough for the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). Only two months ago, the Tuareg rebel group was at its peak.

[...]

Somewhere between April 6 (the day the MNLA declared Azawad independent) and May 26, the MNLA’s fortunes changed. And when all is said and done – be it next year or in ten years – people should look back at this time period with an eye for indications of the MNLA’s waning power and the group’s shifting equities. Initially, the MNLA had three options to achieve independence for Azawad and a monopoly of violence in the state: A) Fight on its own against government; B) Ally with other armed group to fight government; and C) Negotiate with government. As its strength waned, and as the political melodrama on Bamako persisted, it became clear that the MNLA would have to align with a stronger armed group to achieve its objectives.

And several compelling pieces addressing different issues in Sudan and South Sudan:

Focus on the Horn: “Insects and Islamists: War Rhetoric in the Two Sudans.”

Tom Murphy questions high estimates regarding the number of people in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains who are malnourished: “Providing the appropriate response to people living in the Nuba Mountains matters most. It is exactly why being precise as possible is so important.”

Roving Bandit: “South Sudan Oil Revenue Shutdown Starting to Bite.”

What are you reading today?

Africa News Roundup: Boko Haram Suicide Bombing, the MNLA and Compaore, Sudan-South Sudan Talks, Locusts, and More

Yesterday there was a suicide bombing at the police headquarter in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Officials suspect the rebel movement Boko Haram.

According to AFP, members of the northern Malian rebel group MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad) met with Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore and his foreign minister today. Compaore is the mediator appointed by the Economic Community of West African States.

The latest round of talks between Sudan and South Sudan ended without progress, but the two parties are set to try again on June 21.

Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam, AFP reports, could reduce water levels in Lake Turkana, with terrible consequences for “The fishermen and herders eking out an existence on the shores of the majestic lake.”

If you have not already heard about the plague of locusts that may descend on the Sahel, read here. A key excerpt on how politics has affected the situation:

Locusts are usually managed by spraying chemicals that stop the swarms from spreading. Algeria and Libya ordinarily attack the swarms, preventing them from hitting Mali or Niger.

But in the last year, as Libya was wracked by fighting between rival militias in the aftermath of the ouster of Moammar Kadafi and Algeria suffered insecurity along its border, local teams and international experts have been blocked from stopping the swarms, the U.N.  Food and Agriculture Organization  said.

VOA on new businesses and signs of revitalization in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Turkey and Ethiopia:

Saygin Group of Turkey said its Ethiopian subsidiary may generate $100 million in revenue a year from textile manufacturing, amid plans by the Horn of Africa country to boost the industry’s exports to 10 times that amount.

What else is happening today?