The French government merits lots of kudos for leading the offences against the Islamist rebels in northern Mali, but trying to turn around and impose elections when the fighting is yet to be over and the indifference of the Tuareg resolved is fuelling or fanning further bloodshed in this complicated internal conflict.
The extremist Islamist rebels, especially foreign escapees could be assumed to have been crushed or forced to flee, but Tuareg both rebels and locals are still left behind and are demanding their own share of the national cake from Bamako. The genesis of this conflict lies in the hands of the Tuareg who still consider themselves marginalised and prefer to quickly take arms to fight for their own state, Azawad. From history, successive governments have had to confront rebellion from the Tuareg nomadic peoples in the north of Mali.
However, in May 1993, the conflict was declared over following the peace-making efforts of Tuareg leader Rhissaag Sidi Mohamed and the then President Konare. Following the declaration, a two-year project was announced for the repatriation of 100,000 Tuareg refugees from southern Algeria. Although the rebellion there after could be said to be officially over, there had remained continuous tension on the point of reintegration of Tuareg fighters.
Unanswered Tuareg question
The re-trained and fortified Mali army now controls large part of northern Mali, as negotiation are supposed to be ongoing to try to reach an amicable deal with the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, MNLA that backed the French and its allies to defeat the foreign extremist groups. Although these talks have been dragging for too long or have yielded no fruits, it is hard to envisage peace and unity in Mali when the MNLA is still fully armed and feeling being manipulated by both the French and the interim regime at Bamako. It might be quiet at the battlefield, but that shouldn’t be misjudged to mean it’s a victory already for the Malian Army or its financiers, the French.
Of course, all Malians are enthusiastic to see the country return to its peaceful heydays with all its ethnic groups – Tuareg, Moor, Fula, Bambara, Voltaic, and Songhai all living together as Malians not fractional groups. Election is the last idea most of them should be thinking of at the moment, especially as the hostilities in the North are still on. Election is a condition and not one of the solutions to the numerous problems Malians have at the table of discussion. The country needs peace, unity, reforms and reconstruction. The thousands of displaced people still languishing in refugee camps in neighbouring Mauritania need to return home and be welcomed. Overall, reconciliation between the warring factions cannot be ruled out. Elections need planning, training of officials, registration of voters and a convincing atmosphere for politicians to campaign, for fair and free voting, counting of ballots and the declaration of results.
Hasty election isn’t democracy
France’s Francoise Hollande, can use the liberation campaign in Mali to boost up his falling French fame, but trying to be cheeky by not respecting the sovereignty of Mali as a state is creating distrust to his good intention if really they are good indeed. Going to Mali at the time when the country was branded a failed state with Islamic extremist groups, like vultures threatening to snatch every bit, was a well-timed gesture. However, trying to rule Malians from France with interest in any move or reform in Bamako as if it has become one of the provinces in France is what no African would what to visualise of today. Even beggars do have a choice, so do Malians both at home and in exile.
Hollande needs to think of President Charles De Gaulle’s actions in Africa especially in Algeria before and after independence era. Although conditions then obliged most of the colonies, except for Guinea of Ahmed Sekou Toure to keep loyalty to France and stay in the French orbit or union they very much valued their freedom.
As a reminder, it was Ahmed Sekou Toure during De Gaulle’s last trip to Guinea in Conakry who said: “We prefer poverty in freedom to riches in slavery.”
Even the Tuareg that are fighting for an Azawad state would prefer to stay in the Sahara desert and rely on their nomadic activities and trade than reduce to beggars under French dictatorship. Good intention badly executed becomes bad endeavour even to people in needs. Economic development and the reconciliation of a broken society rather than political reforms should be a priority now for Mali. The problem of the Tuareg also need to be addressed squarely by building a coalition government seeking support without appealing either to religious or ethnic affiliation.