Making Sense Of Mali and the Tuareg

Just when I think I am getting a handle on the situation in northern Mali, comments like this appear in news articles.

“Negotiations between Bamako and representatives of six northern Mali armed groups, among which the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) is the strongest, kicked off in Algiers on July 16″ (Mali: Touaregs Seek Secular and Democratic Multi-Ethnic State)

These negotiations are with SIX armed groups. Are you kidding me? 
I am assuming
AQMI (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), MUJAO (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa), a splinter group of AQMI and Ansar Dine are among them.

So who are the the remaining two groups?  Armed groups from the Shongays and Peuls ethic groups I assume?

“We are not for a Touareg state but for a secular and democratic multi-ethnic model of country. We, Touaregs, may be a majority among Azawad population but there are also Arabs, Shongays and Peulas and we´re working in close coordination with them.”

This interview with the Tuareg representative left me with some questions. There are huge gaps in his story.

1. If this Malian take-over was about setting up a secular state of Azaward, claiming their own territorial sovereignty, why was an armed group heading for Segou and Bamako in the south? (Which prompted immediate French intervention with Jets and later a ground force)

2. If this armed movement was/is about establishing an autonomous secular multi-ethnic state, isn’t Mali already that? Why was a form of Shiria Law imposed in the major northern towns of Timbuktu,  Gao, and Kidal by occupying soldiers? The amputations,  deaths, and public beatings of women not properly covered or deemed not properly married, happened. Where was secularism then?

Where is the certainty the like will not occur again? Who among their ranks permitted and promoted this? Why was this not stopped?
If the MNLA claims it was not them, then who among them has these Jihadist visions of forcing local people to follow these practices and enough power to usurp the huge Tuareg secular sentiment in every major town? Where are they now?

3. In the interview, he claims the MNLA were fighting AQMI…?????? When and where?

Anyway, six armed groups at the negotiation table. Wow.  Mali is a huge mess right now. I don’t understand much anymore.

I personally hope Mali remains united in the end. Or is it like Sudan, headed to become two nations?

This would be heartbreaking to me.

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