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UNDERSTANDING WHO’S WHO IN NORTHERN MALI:

Terrorists, Secessionists, Criminals

MALI | SPRING 2013

The S iwa G roup ‫"! ﺱسﻱيﻭوﺓة‬#$%&

Seeing the Middle East in more than Black and White


The Siwa Group is a specialist consultancy and advocacy group that operates across the Greater Middle East, from Kabul to Casablanca. We provide bespoke analysis, business and cultural training, and more traditional consultancy services, along with an unrivalled database of contacts and access points. With more than 20 years on the ground operational experience across the Greater Middle East, The Siwa Group exists to make sure you get it right the first time.

© 2013 The Siwa Group. All rights reserved. The Siwa Group encourages use of its materials for educational, noncommercial purposes as long as proper attribution is given. Please use the following credit line for all reprints and reproductions of Siwa Group material: Reprinted with permission from The Siwa Group. Copyright © 2013 The Siwa Group, Washington, DC. All rights reserved. www.TheSiwaGroup.com

The Siwa Group 3700 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Suite 511 Washington, DC, 20016, USA info@thesiwagroup.com www.TheSiwaGroup.com

This publication can be downloaded at no cost at www.TheSiwaGroup.com Cover photo: © Hugh Sitton www.hughsitton.com All rights reserved.


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PREAMBLE This paper is the result of a panel convened and moderated at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Washington, DC, on Monday, March 11, 2013. “Understanding Northern Mali: Terrorists, Secessionists and Criminals” brought together some of the foremost authorities on Mali to discuss the context and setting of the ongoing crisis, and the wider field of Islamist-inspired insurgent and terrorist groups in the Greater Middle East. I was delighted to welcome and work with the panellists: Rida Lyammouri, an analyst with the Navanti Group; Michael Shurkin, a Political Scientist at the RAND Corporation; and Larry Velte, a Professor at the National

Defense University. Bios and contact details can be found at the end of this paper. The views and opinions shared by the panellists are theirs alone and are not to be understood as representing the institutions for whom they work. Suggestions for action and possible futures are my own. Readers are invited to write to me with any questions regarding the situation in Mali, the Sahel, or North Africa in general. Eamonn Gearon President, The Siwa Group; Professorial Lecturer, JHU-SAIS. egearon@thesiwagroup.com Washington, DC / Spring 2013


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TABLE OF CONTENTS Preamble --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Map of Mali ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Acknowledgements -------------------------------------------------------------------

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Introduction ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

1

Six Takeaways -------------------------------------------------------------------------

2

Mali – Facts and Figures ------------------------------------------------------------

4

What’s Wrong with Mali? Reasons for the Current Crisis -------------------

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Northern Mali – Recognising differences of Race, Caste and Clan ---------

10

What’s the Background? Mali’s Historical Context ---------------------------

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Who’s Who in Northern Mali? A Breakdown of the Main Groups ---------

14

National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) ---------

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Ansar al-Din & the Islamic Movement of Azawad (MIA) ----------------

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Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) ---------------------------------

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How is AQIM connected to al-Qaeda central? -----------------------------

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Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) ----------------

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Are Events in Northern Mali a Threat to the West? ---------------------------

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What to do? Conclusions and Solutions ------------------------------------------

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Parting Thought -----------------------------------------------------------------------

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About the Speakers -------------------------------------------------------------------

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Before all others, thank you to the panellists, without whom the “Understanding Northern Mali” event could not have taken place. Thanks to Dr Peter Lewis, head of the African Studies Department at Johns Hopkins, School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) for his guidance, support, and calm counsel at all times. He is everything a departmental head, scholar and educator should be. Thanks to all of my students, whose interest, insight and feedback enhance our mutual learning and ensure that my lectures remain fresh and original. For assistance on the day of the “Understanding Northern Mali” panel, from signing everyone in to deftly handling the collection of questions, thanks to Annie Seibert and Sabina Henneberg. For transcribing the presentations, thanks to Sean Carlisemo, Sean Ellis, Melia Plotkin and Marisa Sullivan. Thank you to Hugh Sitton for permission to use his exquisite photograph of a Tuareg man on the cover. For the design and layout of this paper, special thanks to Laura Clauson at The Siwa Group.

A video recording (running time 1:26) of the “Understanding Northern Mali” panel can be found on the SAIS Hopkins YouTube channel: http://youtu.be/nkJOiygOsP8


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INTRODUCTION Remote and removed from the consciousness

understand the history of unrest in northern

of most of the world, Mali is a country that

Mali, and the names and histories of the

tends to be ignored or overlooked by all

numerous individuals and groups involved.

except those working in international aid and

Who is who in northern Mali?

development. The March 2012 coup by Malian Army Captain Sanogo made

“Understanding Northern Mali: Terrorists,

headlines, but it was the sudden and rapid

Secessionists and Criminals” was organized

push by Tuareg separatists - sometimes aided,

to answer these questions.

sometimes harried by violent extremists - that really attracted the world’s attention.

This paper brings together information from the panel held at Johns Hopkins University,

This sudden interest was due to the presence

School of Advanced International Studies

and activities of al-Qaeda in the Islamic

(SAIS) in March 2013 as well as the insights

Maghreb (AQIM). A predominantly Algerian

gained from time spent both living in the

group, it was only in 2007 that the group

Sahara and years of extensive research and

adopted the al-Qaeda moniker, in a re-

analysis of the various groups involved.

branding exercise, taking up one of the world’s most recognisable labels. The

It is intended to contribute to a better

presence of AQIM meant that the world at

understanding of the Malian context for both

large could no longer ignore events in the

specialists working in the Sahara and, those

Sahara, including in and around the legendary

following Islamist extremist groups. It may

city of Timbuktu.

also serve as an introduction to the area for those working in development, and for

Many people found the complex situation close to incomprehensible. When coming to the area for the first time, it can be hard to

interested non-experts.


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SIX TAKEAWAYS 1. Do Not … Believe That Battlefield Victory Equals Success While faring well in the early stages of their intervention, French military gains are far from being comprehensive, permanent, or a genuine solution to the problems facing Mali today. Military gains alone are of limited use and are not likely to endure after French troops depart, which they are keen to do as soon as possible. While the situation may not revert to exactly what was in place before the French intervention, a nascent insurgency is likely to spread and persist across Northern Mali, and beyond. The best way to avoid such a result is if France and its allies in the West and Africa can lay the groundwork for a political and security dispensation that would make military gains sustainable.

2. Do Not … Pay Ransoms AQIM, al-Qaeda splinter groups and others operating in the Sahara – from Tunisia and Algeria south to Niger, Mali and Mauritania – have become very wealthy in the past decade off the back of kidnapping for ransom. A number of governments have paid tens of millions in US dollars to free their nationals, kidnapped while travelling on adventure holidays or working in the area. Estimates

vary wildly for just how much cash these violent extremist groups have netted, but it is certainly more than US$ 40 million since 2007, and it could be closer to 80 or 90 million US dollars. This money goes directly to creating new, and supporting existing, criminal networks that are turning much of the Sahara into a no-go zone. It is destroying legitimate local economies, keeping tourists away and making energy companies and other foreign investors think again about coming to the region. In addition, and more worryingly for the long term outlook, the ransom money supporting these criminal networks is ruining any chance of good governance in the countries of the Sahel and Sahara. Bribes and other payments to government officials – whether wearing a suit or a uniform – are included in the criminals’ business plans.

3. Do Not … Imagine a Lasting Solution will be Quick or Easy A holistic and long-term approach is needed, one that has viable economic planning for the entire country at its heart. A degree of prosperity must be fostered in the region to help undermine the criminal economy that benefits the headline-grabbing violent extremists, such as AQIM, and corrupt


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officials at all levels of government, locally and nationally. One must also pick partners with care, finding those whose interests are congruent with one’s own, while recognising this will inevitably disadvantage others. It is essential to know the local actors, their interests, networks, supporters and rivals. Time spent learning the local cultures – ethnic, linguistic, religious, familial and political – is time well spent. This is not a quick process, but implementing effective change is only possible with a through understanding of the situational background.

4. Do … Follow the Money Much of the unrest in northern Mali is driven by the unimaginable but commonplace deprivation that is the lot of those who live in one of the Earth’s harshest regions. Life in the Sahara is never going to be easy, but in the absence of regular employment or investment, people will do whatever they can to make a living. In northern Mali, this often means criminality, including kidnapping for ransom and smuggling, both of which net the criminal networks millions of US dollars per annum. The international networks include cocaine coming from Latin America, hashish travelling south and east out of Morocco, and cigarettes moving north across the Sahara.

Added to this, since 2011 and the fall of Libya’s Qadhafi, the trade in weapons has added another, deadly commodity to the market, and made the neighbourhood even more dangerous than usual.

5. Do … Look for Local Solutions The problems of Mali – north and south – are driven by local circumstances, and so too must be any viable solutions. The international community has a number of possible roles to play, but this should not mean telling locals what to do to. Believing that “foreigners know best” about what to do in Mali is flawed in both theory and practice; nor, in truth, do outsiders really want to make the required investment in time or money. Local actors have a better understanding of the many, interconnected issues involved, and are best situated to secure a lasting peace.

6. Do … Learn About the People of Mali There is no single opinion or group that speaks for all Tuareg, or all Arabs, all Bambara, Fula or Songhai. Northern Mali, like the country as a whole, is made up of many different tribes and groups, and subsets within groups, all with unique histories, agendas and individual personalities. Be smart, ask questions, listen, learn, and make informed decisions.


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MALI - FACTS & FIGURES

Ethnicity

Mali is a vast, land-locked country that lies across both Saharan and Sahelian, West Africa. It is one of the world’s poorest countries, where most people rely on various forms of agricultural for a living. Malians are, thus, extremely vulnerable to changes in climatic conditions, with drought and desertification both posing serious challenges, especially in the north of the country.

Population: 16 million (2013 UN est.)

Capital: Bamako (pop. 2 million)

Life expectancy: 51 years Literacy: 46% (2011, UNICEF est.)

The vast majority of Muslims are Sunni, with traditional, tolerant Sufism coming under attack in the past 10 to 15 years from more ideologically radical voices, supported by foreign, i.e. Saudi Arabian and Qatari, money.

☪ 90% ✝ 5%

Religion

90% Muslim; 5% Christian, the religious breakdown in Mali has also been described as 100% animist.


5 Mali’s national motto “One People, One Goal, One Faith” (French, “Un peuple, un but, une foi”) – is not entirely accurate.

Mali is the 8th largest country in Africa, and 24th in the world 1,240,192 sq. km (or 478,839 sq. miles)

Economy Agriculture accounts for 70% of the Malian labour force, and 45% of GDP. Small-scale, subsistence farming dominates this sector.

80% of Mali’s exports. The Sahara is the world’s largest desert. Covering the whole of northern Africa, it could easily swallow up the entire USA.

In a good year, cotton production can be 500,000 tons. Mining of gold, the third largest source of Malian exports, and salt remain important to the economy ... and have been for more than 700 years.


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WHAT’S WRONG WITH MALI? REASONS FOR THE CURRENT CRISIS IN THE NORTH i) Economic: Razor Thin Safety Margin, Opportunism, Drugs & Smuggling Writing about life in the Sahara, the German anthropologist Georg Klute entitled his work, “The Hardest Job in the World: Daily Life of Tuareg Nomads.” It is no exaggeration. Life in northern Mali is unimaginably tough. It is difficult to survive. Very few people have anything but the thinnest of safety margins, and any change in conditions invariably has a negative impact. In the past few decades, a number of things have happened, including droughts and political upheaval, which together have put the population of northern Mali into a state of permanent crisis.

Economic opportunism is the single most important motivator for why people become involved in militant groups.

For this reason, economic opportunism is the single most important motivator for why people become involved in militant groups. By and large, the only thing that has kept northern Malians alive is their ability to go somewhere else. Even such migration, often north across the Sahara, is extremely hard, and often fatal.

In this context, any source of revenue, including the opportunity to work for international aid organizations and NGOs, becomes an object of intense competition. Who will the NGO hire? From whom will they buy the goods they need? From whom will they rent their compound? All such questions become vitally important.

Cigarette smuggling is big business. Coming from North Carolina, across the Atlantic to land in Mauritania, before being smuggled across the Sahara to the Mediterranean coast and Europe. This also explains why the drugs trade, which is only about ten years old in northern Mali, is so incredibly corrosive. In an environment where there are no opportunities, and next to no cash, smuggling and the drugs trade introduce ready money – and competition – that makes it a game changer. It may be dangerous, but it promises to pay more money than young Tuareg or Arabs in northern Mali could otherwise imagine. It is an option for survival.


7 ii) Political: Fourfold Cycle of Marginalisation If the Arab, Tuareg and other populations of northern Mali have felt anything about their position in Mali since independence, in 1960, it is marginalised. The government in Bamako is ���national” in name only. The three provinces that make up northern Mali - Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu - account for about 70% of the country’s area, and are

home to about 10% of the population. Since independence, there has been a fourfold

The government in Bamako is “national” in name only. cycle that comes around with predictable regularity.

Step 1: Marginalisation There are demands for increased business opportunities, development and investment in the north, as well as – depending on the interest group involved – greater involvement in or autonomy from the political elites in Bamako.

Step 2: Inaction The government of the day pays lip service to some or all of these demands, but no more than that.

Step 4: Exhaustion, Resentment and Mistrust This exhausts and impoverishes all parties, breeds longterm resentment and mistrust of the government, which once again has a good reason for not wishing to get involved in northern Mali, leaving the people feeling marginalised … and so on and so forth.

Step 3: Frustration and Uprising Frustration builds up until it explodes in an uprising in the north, which the government tries to stamp out by sending in units of the Army, which are often little more than regional militias. These units have more or less free reign to inflict their southern prejudices against the northerners.


8 | Understanding Who’s Who in Northern Mali Attempts at decentralization since 1992 have been sporadic, half-hearted, and ultimately unsuccessful. The general level of mistrust towards central government can be seen in

The Sanogo coup came just weeks before national elections were due to be held. Had they gone ahead, no one expected a higher than normal turnout.

Election turnout has consistently been the lowest anywhere in the Sahel and West Africa.

The 28 July 2013 elections that the international community is so keen to take place will be even more flawed than previous elections, as the north of the country is still in a state of war, and there are close to 1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees who are not registered to vote, and so would not be able to vote even if they wanted to.

the fact that in every national, multi-party and presidential election since 1992 (1992, 1997, 2002, 2007), the turnout has consistently been the lowest anywhere in the Sahel and West Africa, with turnouts remaining stubbornly below 40%. Turnout for the April 1992 presidential elections was 20%.

iii) Social: Islamization and Changing Religious Circumstances Mali has a reputation for being a bastion of moderate Sufi Islam, a kinder, gentler form of the faith in part popularized by Malian intellectuals. However, in recent decades there has been a lot of fervour and turmoil in the Islamic world, and scholars have noted an increased Islamicization of the Malian public sphere. There has been a rise of what has been referred to as reformist Islam, or Islams, because it comes in different varieties. The emerging movements are typically critical of standard Sufi practices. Some of these forms of reformist Islam are full-blown Wahhabi, and there now exists a Wahhabi movement that is alive and well among certain communities in Mali. The old idea that

Malian society reflects a nice, gentle, moderate form of Islam is no longer true. This change in religious circumstances is also part of the problem and militancy today is to a large extent indigenous, rather than something coming from outside.

The old idea that Malian society reflects a nice, gentle, moderate form of Islam is no longer true. The place of inter- and intra-communal competition is also important for understanding how to build a possible future solution. These questions are addressed in the following section, Recognising Differences of Race, Clan, and Class.


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Š Oxfam Italia. 2007 Fatimata Walett Tokha works in a school vegetable garden that Oxfam supports in the village of Intedeyne, Mali. In this arid landscape, it requires a lot of work to maintain any kind of agriculture.


10 | Understanding Who’s Who in Northern Mali

NORTHERN MALI - RECOGNISING DIFFERENCES OF RACE, CASTE & CLAN Race Questions of race are heavily influenced by creation myths, genealogies, social organizations, and where one comes from. It is not so much about skin colour. Malians often categorise themselves as either “black” or “white.” Arabs and Tuareg self-identify as “White” Malians. Both Arabs and Tuareg have a creation myth that sees them as descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, or at least people who were close to him. This idea gives them their racial credentials and allows them to foster a supremacist ideology.

Loosely defined, Tuareg are ethnic Berbers who speak a Berber language. Arabs in northern Mali speak a dialect of Arabic, which is one point that distinguishes them from the Tuareg. Whether the “Arabs” of northern Mali are in reality Berber or ethnically Arab is a point of some debate. “Black” Malians are those who cannot or do not claim Arab, Berber or Arab-Berber descendants or ancestry. The major black communities in northern Mali are the Peul, also known as Fulani, and the Songhai.

Mali and the Region. Extracted from M. Shurkin’s panel presentation “Going Beyond the Easy Categories: Using Knowledge of Local Actors to Guide Engagement.”


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Caste and Clan Massive divisions exist within each of the region’s communities. Deep, prevalent intra-group differences are demonstrated in a strict hierarchical system. Castes include nobles, vassals, slaves and former slaves. Within each of these categories there are numerous Tuareg clans and Arab tribes. For this reason, it is almost never the case that one can refer to the Tuareg or the Arabs in terms of, for example, “the Tuareg have rebelled” or “an Arab rebellion.” It is virtually always the case that one sees a few clans or a few tribes rebelling, for specific, limited and local reasons.

Militant Group

The most powerful Tuareg confederation is the Kel Adagh. Within this confederation, the most powerful clans are often referred to as the Ifoghas, and the most powerful clan among them is the Kel Afayla. The Kel Afayla clan is the clan of the Amanaqal. The Amanaqal is, traditionally, the Tuareg kinglike figure, which is more or less an elected position. If you look at every uprising among the Tuareg – and there have been five since 1916 – the story repeats itself. It is always specific clans or specific tribes, acting out for specific reasons.

Associated Clan/Ethnic Factions (indicative, not absolute)

Ansar Dine

Ifoghas (Kel Afella and Iryaken) Tuareg, Berabiche Arabs

MUJAO

Foreign Arabs, Tilemsi Arabs, Peuls, Songhay

MNLA

Tuareg: Ifoghas (Ifergoumessen), Idnan, Chemenammas

AQIM

Foreign Arabs, Berabiche Arabs, Tuaregs

Factional Breakdown, 2012. Extracted from M. Shurkin’s panel presentation “Going Beyond the Easy Categories: Using Knowledge of Local Actors to Guide Engagement.”


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WHAT’S THE BACKGROUND? MALI’S HISTORICAL CONTEXT

1890-1960 - French Occupation Since the period of French occupation (1890s-1960) of modern Mali and the neighbouring Saharan territories, there have been periodic rebellions against outside rule by some members of one of the groups who call the area home. This group, the Tuareg – sing. Targi – are one of numerous non-Arabic, Berber peoples who were living in North Africa long before the Seventh century invasion of the region by certain tribes from the Arabian Peninsula.

the authority of the distant, national government in the capital, Bamako. MNLA arsenals were quickly filled with arms from Libya, both bought and stolen. This was one factor in the timing of this latest Tuareg uprising. It should be noted that Malians of different ethnicities were trained by and fought in the Libyan National Army under Colonel Qadhafi. In 2011, Malians, Tuareg and non-Tuareg, fought on both sides of the Libyan Civil War.

January 2012 - MNLA Attacks Since Mali obtained independence, in 1960, there have been a number of periodic uprisings by groups of Tuareg, the 2012 uprising being the fourth.

In January 2012, the MNLA launched attacks against Malian Army and Police forces. The Government of Mali responded with air strikes and ground attacks, neither of which were effective in halting MNLA advances.

October 2011 - Creation of MNLA

March 2012 - Coup d’Etat

In October 2011, a group of Tuareg calling themselves the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) was formed in northern Mali. They were the latest in a century of armed, militant, and independenceminded Tuareg groups to emerge, challenging

On 21 March, there was a coup d’etat in response to this failure to stop the MNLA by what the coup leaders called “the incompetent regime of Amadou Toumani Touré” (b.1948), the President of Mali, often referred to as ATT.

1960 - Malian Independence


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The coup was orchestrated by a group calling itself the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State (CNRDR), and was led by Captain Amadou Sanogo (b.1972 or 1973) and a small group of fellow army officers. An unsuccessful counter-coup was launched by an ATT-loyalist parachute regiment, and in which the ousted President had once served. As any sense of national authority in the country evaporated, the MNLA capitalised on the mayhem wrought by the Sanogo coup. Pressing their advantage, the MNLA swept aside whatever, typically limited, opposition they met from the small-scale military posts scattered across northern Mali. Hoping to gain additional strength from more seasoned fighters, the MNLA partnered with a number of Islamist-inspired, violent extremist groups. These included Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith) and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA). Splits and fissures soon appeared, dividing groups into ever-smaller loyalties including Arab nationalists, Tuareg secessionists,

Islamist-inspired terrorists, criminal gangs and any possible combination of the above. By June 2012, the MNLA had lost control of northern Mali to an assortment of Islamist groups.

January 2013 - French Intervention In December 2012, UN Security Council Resolution 2085 was unanimously adopted, authorising the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA). On 11 January, 2013, with Islamist forces making steady south-westerly progress, into southern Mali and the general direction of Bamako, France launched Operation Serval. French troops were airlifted into Mali, quickly halting the progress of Islamist forces. A ground war and subsequent counterinsurgency campaign ensued.


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WHO’S WHO IN NORTHERN MALI? A BREAKDOWN OF THE MAIN GROUPS The most important fact to note about the various groups operating in and around northern Mali is that they rarely if ever represent a solid, unitary whole. When one talks of the Tuareg, this cannot by any means be taken to mean that all those who identify as Tuareg share the same political aspirations, religious ideology or social background. This is as true for members of the other ethnic groups in northern Mali, where the Tuareg are and always have been a minority, as it is for members of non-ethnically-aligned groups in the country. Loyalties to one group or another tend to be flexible, while the aims, membership and standard operating procedures of all these groups can, and on numerous occasions have, changed, sometimes suddenly and in unexpected directions. - National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) - Ansar al-Dine & the Islamic Movement of Azawad (MIA) - al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) - Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA)

© Magharebia. 2011. Counter-terror operation in Mali.


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PATH LEADING TO THE CREATION OF THE MNLA & ANSAR AL-DINE **Simplified history to illustrate how key local leaders change partners, foment rebellions, create new groups, make peace and change their stated missions based on the influence of power, tribal affiliation, financial incentive and ideology. 1990 A general revolt by most “whites,” i.e. Tuareg and Arabs, against Bamako. A short-lived uprising Result: Peace agreement reached with the Malian government in Tamanarasset, 1991. No one is happy with the agreement and they break from each other and form their own movements Iyad Ag Ghali Tuareg: Ifoghas: Kel Adagh Clan: Elite Caste Popular Movement of Azawad (MPA)

El Hadj Ag Gamou Tuareg: Low Caste Chammenamas Clan

The Revolutionary Army of the Liberation of Azawad (ARLA)

Malian government relies on the strongest Tuareg group, Ag Ghali’s MPA, to fight and weaken the other groups = mistake. The inter-community tensions exacerbated by picking one side turn out to be bad for the government in the long term. Result: Peace agreement

vs. Become Arch-Enemies Iyad Ag Ghali

1991-1996 Rebellion b/w old allies. General melee in which all groups start fighting one another and jockeying for position.

El Haj Ag Gamou

Democratic Alliance for Change (ADC)

1996-2006 Peace agreement holds, although intercommunity tension increases over access to lucrative drug routes. 2006 - 2009 Pocket rebellion between Tuareg clans. Malian government crushes it by switching sides and supporting El Haj Ag Gamou this time. Ag Ghali agrees to peace; Ag Bahanga refuses. Speculation that Ag Bahanga went to Libya with his fighters and Ag Ghali continued to make deals with him despite his peace agreements with the government.

Iyad Ag Ghali Ibrahim Ag Bahanga Tuareg Ifoghas Tuareg: Ifoghas

Asks to join the MNLA, but only if he can lead it. The MNLA declines his offer because he is too religious and wants Sharia law for Northern Mali. Creates Ansar al-Dine

El Haj Ag Gamou

2011 Libyan war and Qadaffi regime falls. Tuareg fighters return to Mali, battle-hardened and armed.

Ag Bahanga mysteriously dies in August 2011. His dream to create an independent state of Northern Mali inspires intellectual youths. In October 2011, these youths continue Ag Bahanga’s dream. Creates the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA)

Becomes the leader of pro-government forces.

Most powerful Tuareg commander in the Malian Army


16 | Understanding Who’s Who in Northern Mali

NATIONAL MOVEMENT FOR THE LIBERATION OF THE AZAWAD (MNLA) Aims – To create an independent state in northern Mali, separate from the Bamakobased national government.

Origins and Character – The MNLA was formed in October 2011 as a secular nationalist political and military entity s e e k i n g i n d e p e n d e n c e a n d Tu a r e g “liberation.” Its recent creation date disguises the fact that it has drawn on the experience and organisation of an older generation of Malian Tuareg, who have fought for either autonomy or independence since 1960, when Mali became independent from France. The MNLA is not a unitary whole but a coalition of various, primarily but not exclusively, Tuareg groups from northern Mali.

Leadership – Malian. Apart from the Secretary General, Bilal Ag Acherif, who is a Tuareg of the Ifogha tribe, MNLA leadership is made up of Tuareg from the Idnan and Chemenammas tribes. This is because the MNLA, apart from wanting to establish an independent country in northern Mali, were also trying to wrest power away from the Ifogha, the traditionally dominant, ruling tribe. This also resulted in many Ifogha leaders joining Ansar Dine, not for ideological reasons, but in an attempt to

maintain the Ifogha power base. Once again, all politics is local. The MNLA received significant local criticism for a lack of diversity in its leadership. They responded by appointing Mahamadou Djeri Maiga, a Songhai, as their Vice President.

Membership – Most MNLA members are ethnic Tuareg from northern Mali. Beyond demands for an independent Tuareg state, to be called Azawad, they have few common interests. This is illustrated in the fact that some MNLA members fought for Qadhafi during the 2011 Libyan Civil, while others sided with anti-Qadhafi forces.

Range and Activities – Once active across much of northern Mali, after allying themselves to the Islamist groups Ansar Dine and MUJWA, they were quickly pushed aside by their erstwhile allies and expelled from territory they recently held. By the start of the French intervention, in January 2013, the MNLA said they would fight alongside the Europeans to expel the Islamist groups, but warned that they would also resist any attempts by the Malian Army to enter the north of the country. MNLA have armed themselves with weapons from Libyan arsenals, brought back from service there, and weapons either stolen from or abandoned by the Malian Army during their early 2013 retreat from northern Mali.


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Bilal Ag Acherif, Secretary General Tuareg: Ifoghas President of the Traditional Council of the State of Azawad (CTEA). Spent most of his life in Libya. Is well educated, unlike most Tuareg in Northern Mali.

Mossa Ag Attaher, Head of Information & Communication Tuareg: Idnan

Mahamadou Djeri Maiga, Vice President Songhai

The voice of the MNLA overseas. An intellectual who studied in Belgium, he has been trying to attract support for the MNLA from the European community as well as in North Africa.

Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh, Foreign Relations Tuareg: Idnan Involved in negotiations with the Malian government in 2012. Also restarted negotiations since the French intervention.

Mohamed Ag Najim, Head of Military Tuareg: Idnan

Spent several years fighting in Lebanon, and in Chad with the Libyan army.


18 | Understanding Who’s Who in Northern Mali

ANSAR AL-DINE & ISLAMIC MOVEMENT OF AZAWAD (MIA: AN ANSAR DINE SPLINTER GROUP) Aims – The imposition of their own, strict interpretation of Islamic, or shari’a, law across Mali. Thwarted in their early, grandiose ambitions, a 2013 statement from the group retracted this to cover just northern Mali instead. Thus, unlike the MNLA, they do not want an independent, northern Malian nation, but to establish theocratic rule nationwide.

Origins and character – A radical Islamist, and staunchly anti-Sufi, group, Ansar Dine (Eng. Defenders of the Faith, i.e. Islam), was formed, in early 2012,

Islamic profession of faith: “la ’ilaha I-Lah Muhammad rasul I-Lah” (Eng. “There is no God but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.”)

Range and Activities – Ansar Dine were active in the Kidal region and the southern portions of Timbuktu Province, in and around the city of Timbuktu itself. They do not appear too interested in working with Islamist groups operating outside Mali, nor do they appear to have any ambitions for ‘global jihad.’ However, they have cooperated with AQIM operations in Mali at times, and clashed with them on other occasions.

Leadership – Malian. Iyad Ag Ghali (b.c. 1954), a Malian Tuareg of the Ifogha tribe, has been involved in Tuareg uprisings since the 1980s, notably in the 1990 rebellion. His nickname is the Strategist. He founded Ansar Dine in late 2011, after failing to gain leadership of the Kel Adagh confederacy. (See Leadership section for MNLA above).

Membership – Almost exclusively made up of Tuareg from the historically dominant Ifogha tribe. Most are also deserters from the Malian Army with, by Malian standards, extensive military training. In keeping with the standard marks of contemporary Islamist groups, members tend to wear their beards long, and make use of the black banners inscribed with the shahada, or

Upon their founding, Ansar Dine went suddenly from having no significant resources to being the most powerful military movement in northern Mali. At this point, the group confirmed that it was receiving material support from AQIM. Most members who deserted the Malian Army to join the group brought their government-issued, light weapons with them. They were also in possession of a large number of vehicles, i.e. at least 100 pick-up trucks, and anti-aircraft weapons, which can be mounted on these vehicles.


19

Iyad Ag Ghali, Founder of Ansar Dine Tuareg: Ifoghas

Military branch never agreed with the

Political branch of Ansar Dine separates

political branch. Reportedly some Ansar Dine military commanders have left and joined the MNLA.

itself from Iyad Ag Ghali and forms MIA after French intervention.

MIA

Alghabass Ag Intallah, Founder of MIA Tuareg: Ifoghas M’Bah Ag Moussa A.K.A. Ba Moussa: Military Commander Tuareg: Ifoghas Malian military deserter

Sanda Ould Bouamama Spokesman in Timbuktu Region Moor/ Arab

Son of the Ifoghas tribe leader. Previously gave allegiance to the MNLA, but joined Ansar Dine to protect his family’s power. Considered a moderate religious Muslim.

Mohamed Ag Aharib Cheick Ag Aoussa Spokesman Military Chief Tuareg: Ifoghas Tuareg: Ifoghas

Hamada Ag Bibi Tuareg: Ifoghas


20 | Understanding Who’s Who in Northern Mali

AL-QAEDA IN THE ISLAMIC MAGHREB (AQIM) Aims – Ostensibly, the overthrow of the Government of Algeria and establishment of their interpretation of an Islamist state.

from sub-Saharan Africa to the Mediterranean coast and onto Europe.

Leadership – Algerian. Abu Musab Abdel Origins and character – The group was formed, in 1998, as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), itself a breakaway of another group, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). GSPC re-branded itself al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in 2007. In spite of the group’s declared Islamist and jihadi goals, most of their activities can be more accurately described as criminal. Apart from attacking Algerian military and police posts, and killing those manning them, AQIM has been active in the kidnap for ransom business since 2003. They have kidnapped individuals and small groups in the Saharan Desert of Algeria, Tunisia, Mali and Niger, netting anywhere between US$ 40 and US$ 90 million in ransoms from foreign governments and private funding sources. Elements are active in other lucrative businesses, including smuggling and the extraction of “tribute” from smuggling rings in exchange for safe passage. The multimillion dollar smuggling business in North Africa includes cigarettes, cocaine from Latin America, hashish from Morocco and, in a more ad hoc fashion, people moving north

Wadoud, a.k.a. Abdelmalek Droukdel (b.1970). Other heads include Abdelhamid Abou Zeid (born Mohamed Ghadir, 1965-2013) and Mokhtar Belmokhtar (b.1972). The last two were rivals in a leadership bid, which Belmokhtar lost, at which point he formed yet another breakaway group. Also formerly with GIA and then GSPC, upon leaving AQIM, Belmokhtar formed the Masked Brigade, or Those who Sign Their Names in Blood. It was this new entity that was responsible for the January 2013 attack against the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria, which resulted in the deaths of about 40 hostages and 30 hostage-takers. B e l m o k h t a r ’s a l i a s e s i n c l u d e t h e Uncatchable, the One-Eyed, and Mr Marlboro, the last in recognition of his extensive career as a smuggler of cigarettes and other contraband. Claims that he was killed by Chadian troops in March have not been independently verified. Another AQIM commander, Hamada Ag Ghali, is a cousin of Iyad Ag Ghali, head of Continued on page 22


21 Armed Islamic Group (GIA) Salafist Group for Preaching & Combat (GSPC) Split from GIA and formed in 1998 by Hassan Hattab because he did not believe in GIA’s policy of killing Algerian civilians.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) GSPC rebrands and formally changes its name in 2007.

An “Afghan Arab” veteran. He fought in the Afghan Civil War after the Soviet departure.

ABU MUSAB ABDEL WADOUD A.K.A. ABDELMALEK DROUKDEL; THE GRAND EMIR Algerian

Seen in Timbuktu after the Islamist takeover of northern Mali, he has kept a low profile in Northern Algeria since the French arrived. Condemning some of the excesses, such as destroying Sufi shrines in Timbuktu, he believes that these acts are counterproductive and do not help the overall cause.

AQIM Top Commanders MOKHTAR

MOHAMED GHADIR A.K.A ABDELHAMID ABU ZEID Algerian

BELMOKHTAR A.K.A. MR MARLBORO;

Senior commander of the Tareq Ibn Ziad brigade. Imposed a violent form of shari’a law and destroyed Sufi shrines in Timbuktu.

THE UNCATCHABLE; THE ONE-EYED Algerian An “Afghan” Arab veteran, heavily involved in smuggling cigarettes and other contraband.

2012 leadership battle Abu Zeid promoted by the Grand Emir. Leader of Belmokhtar loses the leadership battle, AQIM. Killed by Chadian troops in February 2013. splits and forms his own group. Pledges alliance to and takes direction directly from Al-Qaeda central. DJAMEL OKACHA A.K.A. YAHIA ABU EL HAMAM The Masked Brigade, or Those Algerian Who Sign Their Names in Blood Appointed as AQIM’s top commander by the Grand Emir.

January 2013 - Attacks the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria.


22 | Understanding Who’s Who in Northern Mali

Ansar Dine (See Leadership section for Ansar Dine above).

involved in kidnapping, smuggling and armed attacks against government forces.

Membership – With roots in the Algerian

They are now thought to be recruiting young men from the refugee camps in Tindouf, western Algeria. These more or less permanent camps hold thousands of Sahrawi people, exiles from Western Sahara. This territorial dispute has been ongoing since the end of the colonial era, and sees the native Sahrawi demanding independence from Morocco, and Morocco claiming the area as an integral part of its Kingdom.

war of the 1990s, much of the membership is drawn from that country, with other, diverse Saharan communities also involved. These include both Tuareg and Arab Berabiche from northern Mali.

Range and Activities – AQIM operates in the Sahara. Covering Algeria, Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, they are

©2010. A view of the "27 February" Saharawi refugee camp near Tindouf, Algeria. Photo ID 443292. Tindouf, Algeria. UN Photo/Martine Perret.


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HOW IS AQIM CONNECTED TO ALQAEDA CENTRAL? It is easy for a group to adopt the al-Qaeda label, in spite of the fact that the brand has become severely tainted. (Even Osama bin Laden saw this, suggesting in later life that groups avoid using the al-Qaeda tag.). But what actual connections exist between AQIM and al-Qaeda central?

Ideological Long before AQIM was formed, al-Qaeda had goals for Africa. These included: • Liberating African Muslims from apostate regimes • Attacking African governments that had Western political ties. This included opposing UN and other international peacekeeping efforts in Muslim-majority countries, such as Sudan and Somalia. • Destabilising oil-producing areas in order to harm the global economy. The targeted areas included Algeria, Libya and the Gulf of Guinea.

Operational Tactics – Suicide bombings, improvised explosives devices (IEDs) and car bombs

reflect the adoption of al-Qaeda tactics by AQIM, tactics that were not part of the group’s modus operandi in the 1990s in Algeria. Funding – It is widely believed that al-Qaeda central gave several hundred thousand dollars in seed money to AQIM, helping them start up and establish operations. It is possible that this loan would have been repaid to al-Qaeda central, AQIM using a portion of their ransom money to do so. N.B. At this time, there is no publicly available evidence of this.

Rhetorical AQIM and al-Qaeda both use the rhetoric of global jihad even while most of their activities are criminal, rather than ideological. This rhetoric is used to recruit and justify what they do, e.g. “We are doing this for Palestine / Gaza / to kill crusaders in Iraq / Afghanistan.” There were a disproportionate number of North African recruits in extremist-jihadist groups in Iraq some years ago, and in Syria today. Many were recruited by AQIM from both the Sahel and Europe, where North Africans had gone seeking a better life, which failed to materialise.


24 | Understanding Who’s Who in Northern Mali

MOVEMENT FOR UNITY AND JIHAD IN WEST AFRICA (MUJWA)

Aims – The promotion and spreading of

Range and Activities – In spite of

violent jihad across West Africa.

aspirations to fight across West Africa, so far MUJWA’s operations have been limited to Algeria and northern Mali.

Origins and character – Formed in October 2011, MUJWA (also MOJWA and MUJAO) is a breakaway of AQIM, who, it was argued, was focussing too closely on the Maghreb.

Leadership – Mauritania, Malian and Algerian. MUJWA is led by a Mauritanian, Hamada Ould Mohamed Kheirou (alias Abu Qumqum). One of his deputies, the group’s chief of staff, is Omar Ould Hamaha, a Malian ArabTuareg. Also known as red beard, which is achieved with henna, and Hakka, after the French pronunciation of AK, as in AK-47, Hamaha was formerly Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s deputy in AQIM (See Leadership section for AQIM above).

Membership – Like its leadership, MUJWA members come from Mali, Mauritania, Algeria, and Niger, making the group far more international than AQIM, which remains largely an Algerian entity.

In their first advertised act after their founding, MUJWA abducted an Italian and two Spanish aid workers from a refugee camp in Tindouf, Algeria. The group demanded €30 million for their safe release, but released all three hostages in July 2012, after receiving payment of US$18 million, or €13.5 million. Even before their violent extremist activities, authorities in Mali and Mauritania had issued arrest warrants for a number of MUJWA’s now senior leadership, on drug-smuggling charges. It should be noted that there are numerous and frequent claims that members of the governments of both countries are likewise involved in smuggling.


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AQIM ABU MUSAB ABDEL WADOUD A.K.A. ABDELMALEK DROUKDEL; THE GRAND EMIR Algerian Leader of AQIM

Various AQIM “staff” become disgruntled with their leadership and form break-away groups.

MUJWA Formed in October 2011.

HAMADA OULD MOHAMED KHEIROU A.K.A ABU QUMQUM Mauritanian Joined AQIM in 2009 Critical of Abdelmalek Droukdel’s command and unhappy about AQIM’s Algerian dominant leadership and their heavy focus on the Maghreb.

MUJWA’s Military Commander, Chief of Staff. Formerly in AQIM, he was Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s (aka Mr. Marlboro) deputy. In 2012, he left AQIM to join OMAR OULD HAMAHA Iyad Ag Ghali’s Ansar Dine. A.K.A. RED BEARD; HAKKA Subsequently, he left Ansar Malian Arab-Tuareg Dine to join MUJWA.

The Masked Brigade and Those Who Sign Their Names in Blood (see page 21)


26 | Understanding Who’s Who in Northern Mali

ARE EVENTS IN NORTHERN MALI A THREAT TO THE WEST? Yes … and no. First, let us consider what possible threats exist:

Terrorism The possibility of a terrorist attack being launched in a North American or European city by a group now operating in Mali is slight, which does not mean it is impossible. The fact is, AQIM and its splinter groups in and around northern Mali tend to have a more domestic, North, Saharan, Sahelian and West African focus. Attacks against Western interests in the region are, however, likely to increase. The January 2013 attack against the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria is a good example of the sort of action we are likely to see more often, although most attacks will not be on such a large scale. The joint French-African intervention in northern Mali has caused disruption to the terrorist and other violent extremist networks operating there. Dislodged – however temporarily – from Mali, they have moved on, and have already launched attacks in Niger and beyond. If an attack against the United States were to take place, and be claimed by AQIM or a local affiliate, it would likely be on a small-

scale, limited by the support network required to plan, coordinate and successfully launch a sizeable attack. AQIM et al in northern Mali simply do not have such networks. A socalled lone wolf attack is the more probable threat. In Europe, the threat of an attack from an individual or small cell is greater because of sizeable diasporas from Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and their neighbours. North and West African immigrants in Europe, legal or otherwise, do not fare very well. With a poor

AQIM and its splinter groups in northern Mali tend to have a more domestic, North, Saharan, Sahelian and West African focus. economy resulting in limited employment opportunities, those on a downward spiral of despair and poverty would make ideal targets for recruitment officers from AQIM and similar groups.

Political Instability In spite of what many observers have said, Mali since 1992 was not a model democracy. It is true the country made significant improvements in many Human Development


27 Indicators, but this did not occur nationwide. Too often, the north of the country was neglected or sidelined by officials in Bamako. Also, when one starts from such a very low baseline, any improvements are quantified as phenomenal. The March 2012 coup led by Captain Sanogo did not make the country more democratic or more stable. The elections set for 28 July 2013 are equally unlikely to restore order in northern Mali, nor will they herald the start of a period of universal political participation across the country. Corruption is endemic in all levels of government. This is widely ignored by foreign powers, who are keen to see the restoration of democracy in the shortest time possible, irregardless of the harm premature elections will do. Maintaining the status quo, the populous will continue to have little or no faith in politicians and other officials who are supposed to represent them. A change of attitude and behaviour is required that will take time, must be affected locally, and for which there seems no serious desire to implement, either at home or among the international community.

Criminality and Regional Insecurity While not wholly responsible for all criminal activity and regional insecurity, corruption and its attendant political instability permit,

and in many cases are directly invested in, the spread of highly profitable and well organised, regional criminal networks. The evidence is clear both from the extravagant lifestyles of certain officials and the periodic release and pardoning of prisoners arrested for involvement in smuggling, in spite of abundant evidence and sound convictions. Corrupt border officials, policemen and soldiers who are in the pay of criminal networks, whether working on the country’s borders or in Bamako, all help to increase criminality and feed regional insecurity. Links between trans-national crime and regional instability are well established, and arouse the interest and concern of Western law enforcement agencies. Smuggled goods take many routes even before they reach North Africa and travel across the Sahara. The journeys are typically long and hard to trace with any degree of accuracy. The difficulty is due to a number of reasons including the distances involved, a lack of resources for law enforcement, and the difficulty of multi-cross-border, transoceanic cooperation. Cigarettes made in Richmond, Virginia, cocaine produced in Columbia, or Moroccan hashish all feature in the global outlook of Twenty-first century smugglers.


28 | Understanding Who’s Who in Northern Mali

WHAT TO DO? CONCLUSIONS & SOLUTIONS Life in northern Mali is as tough as it gets anywhere on earth, and opportunities beyond mere subsistence without resorting to criminal activity are limited.

north, stop the cycle of mistrust and start rebuilding trust.

Implementation of the following proposed solutions will not be easy, but nor are they impossible. They are challenging and ambitious, and offered here with an honest appreciation of the difficulties they present, and the rewards if successful.

Certain foreign governments have added to the regional instability by paying millions of US dollars in ransoms, undercutting the efforts of honest officials to enforce the law, and empowering smugglers and kidnappers.

Short Term

Rebuild Trust and Good Governance In spite of the vastness of the Sahara and the Sahel, they are not ungovernable, just hard to govern effectively. This is even truer when central government has, over decades, lost legitimacy in the eyes of the local populations. This lack of trust is not the only reason for the success of AQIM and other criminal enterprises, but it has made things worse. Bamako has to be take responsibility and, starting with some small-scale projects in the

Create an Anti-Kidnapping Force

Ransoms must not be paid. At the same time, the international community - the West and Africa - should form a dedicated antikidnapping force with cross-border authority. Based in the region, this unit would track and retrieve victims and go after perpetrators, bringing those responsible to justice, and making kidnapping a far less attractive proposition.

Medium Term

Introduce Smart Aid Since the Sanogo coup, US law has prohibited the US Government from sending aid to Mali. After elections, aid can begin to


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flow again. Ironically, holding elections in July will convey legitimacy on Mali for the international community, but do little to reassure Malians. Unrest following the coup means greater food insecurity as fleeing farmers abandon their land and fields are left unplanted and unharvested. At the very moment the country needs support, aid is withdrawn, exacerbating the current situation and setting the scene for greater calamities in the future.

provinces - Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu - are destabilising and wasteful, producing little besides corpses and uncertainty. An honest and open dialogue must be encouraged, with all parties able to talk without preconditions, to air their grievances and consider all possible futures for the country.

Long Term

Restructure the Army Equitable distribution of aid is not easy, but must strive to not make a crisis even worse for a civilian population already fighting for survival.

Hold Reconciliation Talks Elements of Malian society have felt resentment towards central government since before independence, but this has not been dealt with in the 60 years since then. The failure of successive administrations to sincerely address the often-legitimate concerns of some Malians is a cycle that needs to be broken. Periodic outbreaks of violence, which occur mainly in the country’s three northernmost

A serious problem with regard to Malian national security is the country’s own Army. Under-funded, poorly trained and inadequately equipped it may be, but more seriously, after decades of alleged abuses in the north by soldiers from the south, it is wholly discredited as a national force. Instead of an Army made up of units used to pursue their own regional interests, the Army must be rebuilt around an inclusive, nationwide model. The African Union and the West can offer expertise and support, but the challenge of rebuilding the Army only has a chance of success if the government is committed to such change.


30 | Understanding Who’s Who in Northern Mali

Adopt Local Solutions Mali’s problems are driven by local circumstances and so too should be any solutions. There is a place for the international community to assist in any recovery plan, but cooperation must be just that, cooperation between local partners and foreigners who can hear – not just listen to – the ideas, aspirations and concerns of the locals. Foreign aid must also be introduced carefully and distributed evenly to avoid reinforcing the north-south divide. Not all rebuilding tasks are expensive or complex. There are countless jobs that could be tackled now, leading up to more ambitious, long-term development. Malians have said there are many projects they could use some help with, for example,

- months after the Islamists were chased from Timbuktu, the mayor’s office is still without electricity for most of the day, hindering efforts to restore local government - many of the regions banks and petrol stations have yet to reopen, complicating the return to normal trade and transport - for those too scared to go home today, conditions in refugee camps need to be addressed. This is important for both moral and practical reasons. Discontented young men are easy targets for recruiting officers from AQIM et al. - farmers who fled the fighting must be encouraged to return, in order to avoid a food crisis this year, and next.

©2008 Yann Arthus-Bertrand via Zentolos.


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PARTING THOUGHT Even at the best of times, life in northern Mali is very hard indeed. There is a Tuareg proverb that says, “A good husband is one who brings enough water.” As bad as things are in Mali, failure to rise to the challenge of rebuilding the country will only see the situation getting much worse very soon.

© 1983 Woman carrying drinking water near Bamako. Mali. UN Photo/Kay Muldoon.


32 | Understanding Who’s Who in Northern Mali

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS Eamonn Gearon is a Professorial

Rida Lyammouri is an Analyst at the

Lecturer at the University of Johns Hopkins, School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS), a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), and co-Founder and President of The Siwa Group, an information provider and consultancy firm specialising in the Middle East.

Navanti Group specializing on security in northern Mali and the Sahel. He has written extensively on AQIM, Ansar al-Dine, MUJWA and the MNLA. Lyammouri’s Navanti Group clients include Special Operations Command – Africa (SOCAF), which supports AFRICOM and SOCOM.

Living and working across the Greater Middle East for nearly 20 years, Gearon assists government, military and private sector clients to operate wisely, effectively and securely, from Kabul to Casablanca.

Lyammouri’s research has included extensive interviews with key on-the-ground actors such as members of Malian Tuareg rebel groups, Ansar al-Din, Malian elected officials, and individuals accused of or arrested in connection with illicit trafficking in Mali and Morocco. rlyammouri@navantigroup.com

Gearon is also an accomplished solo camelpowered Saharan explorer and author of “The Sahara: A Cultural History,” which the BBC called, “vital background reading for anyone who wants to understand the deep roots of the Arab Spring.” egearon@thesiwagroup.com


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Michael Shurkin is a Political Scientist at

Larry Velte is an Associate Professor at the

the RAND Corporation. He joined RAND after serving as an intelligence officer, with a focus on the Sahel and, later, Afghanistan.

NDU’s Near East and South Asia (NESA) Center where he specialises in the Maghreb and Mediterranean. Velte served for 13 years in the Pentagon as Deputy Chief of the Middle East Division in the Joint Staff’s Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate (J-5), where his duties included providing information, analysis, and policy recommendations about the Middle East and North Africa to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and senior military leadership.

Prior to his government service, Shurkin taught history as a lecturer at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. He received a PhD in history from Yale, and he also studied at Stanford and at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, in Paris, France. michael_shurkin@rand.org

During his 37-year military career, Velte was a Middle East Foreign Area Officer and served tours of duty in Tunisia, Israel and Jordan as well as assignments in Washington, DC, with the DIA and Army Staff. veltel@ndu.edu


34 | Understanding Who’s Who in Northern Mali

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Understanding Who's Who in Northern Mali: Terrorists, Secessionists, Criminals