Nigeria stands up to Mali-gnant state in West Africa

Contributor:  Defence IQ Press
Posted:  11/26/2012  12:00:00 AM EST
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Tags:   mali

Nigeria announced yesterday that it will send around 600 or 700 troops into the troubled West African state of Mali as the country continues to struggle with Islamist extremists that have overrun Northern Mali, according to Deputy Defence Minister Olusola Obada.

“We are encouraging the Malians to do as much as possible for themselves because the issue of sovereignty is a very sensitive thing,” Admiral Ola Ibrahim, Nigeria's chief of defence staff, told the BBC.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) recently agreed to send 3,300 troops to help stabilise Mali after the coup earlier this year.

In July, writing for the Defence Dateline Group, Laurence Conneely painted a disturbing picture of what was happening in Mali and questioned why the media wasn’t paying more attention to it.

“After months of fighting, the near collapse of the Malian National Army and a coup d’état that ended two decades of democracy in the Western African state … the MNLA [National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad] have effective military control of the North of Mali.” Conneely said.

However, Conneely was quick to underline that “treating the situation in Northern Mali as one primarily concerned with the rise of ‘Islamic Terrorists’ or extreme fundamentalists ignores the significant variance between the groups involved, their aims and their real levels of power.”

Nonetheless, “it [the situation in Mali] is of international concern because there we have cells of terrorists that are everyday causing us a lot of problems for the people of Mali … and I believe that the support that we need to get from the U.K. and other international partners is to ensure that Mali regains her territory in the North,” Obada said.

Conneely concluded with a warning that something must be done in Mali, and international cooperation is required.

“An international diplomatic mission must be initiated, a ceasefire enacted and serious, internationally-mediated negotiations begun. These must include the options for large-scale federal autonomy for the Tuaregs within Mali, not the ‘tit-for-tat’ offerings made to various individual rebel leaders during previous rebellions. Bamako sent a delegation to meet with the MNLA leadership just prior to the outbreak of hostilities on January 7th 2012; offers not dissimilar to those made in 1992 and 2006 were put on the table, including some specifically aimed at the Ansar Eddine leader Ag Ghali. These were rejected out of hand.

“If Mali hopes to remain a single state, the Tuareg desire for a homeland must be treated seriously. If not, the future of Azawad is one to be watched closely and cautiously.”

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