(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 10, 2012
Regime Change Destabilises
THERE were never any shortages of guns in the
sparsely populated regions of North Africa and the
DE FACTO DIVISION
OF THE COUNTRY
The dramatic turn of events was also facilitated
by a ham-handed military coup in
Observers of the region predict that other
countries in the region, like
Gaddafi had many reasons to get involved in the
affairs of his immediate neighbours like
The Tuaregs, who till recent times led a nomadic
life style, can be found settled in sizeable numbers in
In Gaddafi the minority Tuaregs found an ally as
well as a mentor.
Unwanted and hunted in post-Gaddafi Libya, the Tuaregs, along with the other foreign fighters, melted away with the sophisticated weapons they had acquired from the Libyan armoury. Many of the Tuareg fighters were veterans of the failed 2009 rebellion, led by Ibrahim Ag Bahanga. The Tuareg leader had fled to Libya and had returned with his heavily armed fighters after the fall of Gaddafi.
OF LIBYAN CRISIS
And now it is this group which is claiming credit for the liberation of northern Mali. Other groups like the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are also trying to claim credit for the military successes against the Malian army. An Islamist rebel faction, Ansar Din (Defenders of the Faith), has proclaimed Sharia law in the North. The group which is alleged to have links with Al Qaeda has at the same time said that it is against the creation of an independent state for Tuaregs. The group claims that its demand is only for the introduction of Sharia law in the whole of Mali. The MNLA has now denounced the call for the introduction of Sharia law and vowed to set up a secular state.
The Tuaregs had started fighting against the government in Bamako soon after the French left the country in the early sixties. After a relative lull, the Tuaregs rose up against the rule of the recently ousted President Amoudu Toure in 1990. Mediation by Gaddafi had helped douse the situation in the last couple of years. Toure, a former general, had seized power in the mid-eighties and had later won elections in a democratic set-up. He had told a French paper in February that Gaddafi had persuaded the Tuareg fighters in Mali to disarm and reintegrate into Malian society. “His overthrow has left a vacuum,” Toure conceded. The former Malian president also revealed that he had warned “NATO and others of the collateral effects of the Libyan crisis.” But he said that it was of “no avail.”
The deteriorating military situation in the North, coupled with the ultimatum given by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to the putschists to restore democracy, made the coup leaders come to their senses. Mali is a member of the grouping. In early April, they returned back to the barracks. The speaker of the Malian parliament, Dioncounda Traore, took over as interim president and promised to go ahead with elections within 40-45 days, as per the agreement signed between the military leaders and ECOWAS. Traore, after taking over, also issued a warning to the Tuareg rebels to withdraw from the towns they have seized or face “total war.”
The ECOWAS may have to send in its troops to yet another of its member states. In early April, there was another military coup in a member state, Guinea-Bissau. The Malian army, after the serious military reverses it has suffered, is incapable of militarily tackling the rebels in the North. It will also be difficult for the scheduled elections to be held when half of the country is in the hands of the northern rebels.
DANGER OF FOREIGN
The French foreign minister, Alain Juppe, has said that his country would provide logistical support to an ECOWAS force in Mali. The former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, stated that it was to prevent a “terrorist or Islamic” state emerging in northern Mali. ECOWAS officials have confirmed that a military intervention may be on the cards and that France and the US have offered military assistance to “restore the territorial integrity” of Mali. Algeria, which shares a border with Mali, while deploring the Tuareg secessionist move, has warned against the dangers of foreign intervention. The Algerian prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, said that past and recent experiences have shown that such interventions backfire badly, “now or six months later.” He was of course alluding to the West’s intervention in Libya. According to the UN, the fighting between the Malian army and the Tuareg rebels since January this year has already displaced 206,000 people.
During his last years in power, Gaddafi had purchased huge amounts of weaponry from the western powers. Gaddafi, fighting with his back against the wall, had warned the West that forcible regime change in Libya would lead to an Afghanistan like scenario in the region. In one of his last interviews, he had said that his fight was against the Al Qaeda. “We are fighting against Al Qaeda. Our war is against the Qaeda,” he had kept on insisting. Weapons stolen from the Libyan arsenal have been intercepted in distant Gaza.
Islamists of all hues have gained from the NATO invasion of Libya. Within Libya itself, Abdelhakim Belhadj, a former jihadist, is the military governor of Tripoli. He has been however unsuccessful so far in bringing the various militias jostling for control of the capital city to heel. Tripoli, like the rest of the country, is fast spiralling into chaos. In the south of the country, Arab militias are attacking non-Arab ethnic groups, disparaging them as “Black Africans.” Regime change in Libya has opened a can of worms. Ethnic strife seems to be spreading like bushfire in the Sahel and could threaten the region beyond.