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Rebellions, Refugees, and Resources: The Conflict In Mali

 
Person445

User ID: 11438968
Canada
03/01/2013 05:03 PM

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Rebellions, Refugees, and Resources: The Conflict In Mali
Currently the ongoing situation in Mali is gaining traction in the media with the reporting of Al Qaeda members within the ranks of the Tuareg rebels. The situation in quite complicated and involves not only France, but also the US and partially Canada and links to the interests of these Western powers with not just Mali, but with the African continent as a whole.

The Tuareg People

In order to get a better handle on the situation, there must first be an understanding of the domestic actors, namely the Tuareg people, who presently “live across the Sahara Desert, including in the North African countries of Mali, Niger, Libya, Algeria and Chad.”

Tuareg are a people that have lived in northern Mali “as early as the fifth century BCE” according to Herodotus. After establishing the city of Timbuktu in the 11th century, the Tuareg “traded, traveled, and conquered throughout Saharan” over the next four centuries, eventually converting to Islam in the 14th century, which allowed them to “gained great wealth trading salt, gold, and black slaves.” This independence was swept away when the French colonized Mali when they “defeated the Tuareg at Timbuktu and established borders and administrative districts to rule the area until Mali declared independence in 1960.” The Tuareg people have consistently wanted self-independence and in pursuit of such goals have engaged in a number of rebellions.

The first was in 1916 when, in response to the French not giving the Tuareg their own autonomous zone (called Azawad) as was promised, they revolted. The French violently quelled the revolt and “subsequently confiscated important grazing lands while using Tuaregs as forced conscripts and labor - and fragmented Tuareg societies through the drawing of arbitrary boundaries between Soudan (Mali) and its neighbors.”

Yet, this did not end the Tuareg goal of an independent, sovereign state. Once the French had ceded Mali independence, the Tuareg began to push toward their dream of establishing Azawad once again with “several prominent Tuareg leaders [lobbying] for a separate Tuareg homeland consisting of northern Mali and parts of modern day Algeria, Niger, Mauritania. […] [However,] black politicians like Modibo Keita, Mali’s first President, made it clear that independent Mali would not cede its northern territories.”


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CtYankee

User ID: 30129105
United States
03/01/2013 05:48 PM
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Re: Rebellions, Refugees, and Resources: The Conflict In Mali
The United States


The US has its own personal interests in Mali, which is why they have been backing the French in the form of transportation assistance.[40] The official line is that the main US concern is Al Qaeda, with the Congressional Research Service reporting that “The prospect of an expanded safe-haven for AQIM and other extremists and criminal actors in Mali is a principal concern for U.S. policymakers examining the situation in Mali and the wider region.”[41]


However, the real problem that the US has isn’t Al Qaeda, but rather China. China’s economic power has grown greatly within the past two years.


China’s trade with Africa reached $166 billion in 2011, according to Chinese statistics, and African exports to China – primarily resources to fuel Chinese industries – rose to $93 billion from $5.6 billion over the past decade. In July 2012 China offered African countries $20 billion in loans over the next three years, double the amount pledged in the previous three-year period.[42] (emphasis added)


Thus, we see not only the increasing economic influence of China via trade, but also their increasing political clout due to the economic aid that China is giving African countries.


This economic aid and investment definitely paid off it was noted by the New York Times in 2011 that China’s image in Africa trumped that of the United States.


A 2007 Pew Research Center survey of 10 sub-Saharan African countries found that Africans overwhelmingly viewed Chinese economic growth as beneficial. In virtually all countries surveyed, China’s involvement was viewed in a much more positive light than America’s; in Senegal, 86 percent said China’s role in their country helped make things better, compared with 56 percent who felt that way about America’s role. In Kenya, 91 percent of respondents said they believed China’s influence was positive, versus only 74 percent for the United States.[43] (emphasis added)


The positive, albeit economically motivated, role that China was- and is- playing in Africa represents a threat to US interests. Thus, the US African Command (AFRICOM) is paying much attention to the current events in Mali. It was noted last year that AFRICOM was meeting with Mauritania to discuss military intervention in Africa[44], thus the command could become involved in Mali in the future.
Despite US government officials stating that AFRICOM isn’t meant to counter Chinese influence in the region, it is quite the opposite. The BBC reported in 2008 that two of the main reasons for the creation of AFRICOM was to “to secure oil supplies” and “counter China's growing influence on the continent,”[45] noting China’s economic influence in the region.
CtYankee

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