Mayhem in Mali - Danger for Africa?
Until six months ago, Mali was regarded as one the stable democracies in West Africa. But then a Tuareg rebellion triggered a military putsch. The nomads living in Mali, Algeria and Niger were supported by former mercenaries who had previously been in the pay of the toppled Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. But as their rebellion progressed, radical Islamists increasingly got the upper hand. Meanwhile the interim president appointed by the military junta was attacked by an angry mob in the capital Bamako, and driven from the country.
Today Mali is a divided country: in the North the Islamists have completely displaced the Tuareg and have introduced Sharia law. In the South, the interim president Traoré has returned and is trying to form a new government of national unity. Traoré is following a timetable set by the West African economic organisation ECOWAS, which is already preparing military intervention. The central government put in place by the military junta is considered too weak to drive back the well-armed rebels in the North. The current prime minister has also declared that he is opposed to Traoré's plans for a new government.
It is not just the neighbouring African states which are alarmed by the advance of the Islamists. France and Spain too are at least thinking about intervening with military force. The United States appears willing to provide logistical support for military action, although not without the agreement of the UN Security Council.
How great is the danger that Mali could become an incubator of international terrorism? What risks would military intervention entail? What will become of the several hundred thousand refugees, most of whom have fled into the Sahel zone, where people are already struggling to find food? Can the unity of Mali be restored?
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Winrich Kühne – is a peace researcher and author who studied law and political science before joining the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in 1973. He later headed the Africa research group and became an institute director. He has taught at the university LMU Munich and served as a visiting professor at the Bologna Center of the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) starting in 1991. From 2002 to 2010, he was founding director of the German Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF) in Berlin.
Marc Engelhardt – spent seven years in Africa as a foreign correspondent. Since 2010, he has been based in Geneva, Switzerland, where he reports on the United Nations and the more than 200 international organizations based in the city. He is especially interested in stories that connect Africa with Europe. The Cologne native studied geography, marine biology and public law in Kiel. After completing his studies, he got his start in journalism at the radio broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk, and spent several years working for the Tagesschau news program for broadcaster ARD. From 2004 to 2010, Mr. Engelhardt was based in Nairobi, where both of his daughters were born. His documentary "Hotspots - Afrika Speaks up on Climate Change" was shown at several film festivals. In his books, Mr. Engelhart writes about Africa, climate change and the consequences of globalization.
Mamadou Diawara – is a professor of ethnology at Goethe University in Frankfurt. His areas of expertise include local knowledge, oral history and oral traditions in the media age, as well as globalization and African history. His regional concentration is sub-Saharan Africa and Mali, where he was born. Mr. Diawara is the director of Point Sud, a research institute for local knowledge in Bamako, Mali, and he is the principal investigator for the Cluster of Excellence research project “The Formation of Normative Orders” at Goethe University. In 2011, the Canada Council for the Arts recognized him with the John G. Diefenbacker Award, which is coupled with a $75,000 prize.