News of a coup in West Africa was commonplace in the 1980s and 1990s, but in the last two decades it is a sufficiently rare event to make world headlines, especially when the two last coups in West Africa happened in the same country – Mali.
Over the last 20 years, Mali has mostly been a model of stability in a fragile region. Now it is falling apart. Rebels control the north of the country and are depriving local people of their freedom. They destroyed religious monuments, and many fears the region could become a new haven for terrorists, some of whom have abducted Western hostages in recent years. Mali’s neighbours and some in the international community, including France, are leaning toward the use of force as the right solution. But an immediate military intervention would be short-sighted, almost certainly drive the wedge even deeper between the northern and southern communities and further destabilize West Africa and the Sahel.
However, recently there was a video of one gathering in the rural commune of Sangha which shows the leaders from the rival Dogon and Faluni communities. These communities have brutally massacred millions of civilians thinking that this act of theirs would bring peace.
On the contrary, it just spilled the hatred amongst the citizens. There were mediators like fighters from Al Queeda, Mali affiliate, who had been searching for rifles and ammunition belts. Most of the people had their faces covered with turbans and dark sunglasses.
Since the last coup in Mali, the country has undergone a dramatic shift from the secular socialist society that marked the post-independence period to 1991, to emerging as a deeply religious society.
Since Libya, Mali has become the focus of international Islamist insurgency and counter-insurgency which has drawn to it disparate groups from homegrown Jama’s Nusrat ul-Islam wal-Muslim in (JNIM) to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to Islamic State.
Then, the Malian military was fighting a heavily armed Tuareg militia that had crossed the Sahel from Libya, in the wake of the short-sighted French and UK military intervention in Libya in 2011. Up to then, the militia had served as late Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi’s bodyguard. As Libya collapsed, they helped themselves to his substantial arsenal and set off for their traditional home in the deserts of northern Mali.
Mali’s military equipment proved no match and the armed forces were repeatedly humiliated.