News from Mali, North Africa and India

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on October 30, 2012

MALI – U.S. seeks Algeria’s support in possible Mali move

Large swathes of Somalia are already under the control of al-Shabaab, a Somali al-Qaeda affiliate. (Reuters)

ALGEIRS, Algeria  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sought Algeria’s assistance on Monday for any future military intervention in Mali, pressing the North African nation to provide intelligence – if not boots on the ground – to help rout the al-Qaida-linked militants across its southern border.

Clinton, on the first stop of a five-day trip overseas, met with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as the United States and its allies ramped up preparations to fight northern Mali’s breakaway Islamist republic.

When Mali’s democratically elected leader was ousted in a military coup in March [due to his handling of a Tuareg rebellion in which the Tuaregs fought for independence], Tuareg rebels seized on the power vacuum and within weeks took control of the north, aided by an Islamist faction. The Islamists then quickly ousted the Tuaregs and took control of half the country.

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously approved the idea of an African-led military force to help the Malian army oust Islamic militants, but its details are still unclear. [U.N. Security Council powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action. There are 15 members of the Security Council, consisting of five veto-wielding permanent members (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States) and ten elected members with two-year terms.]

One plan would see Mali’s embattled government in the south and its West African neighbors taking the military lead to battle with the militants, with the United States and European countries in support.

Any military intervention would likely require Algeria, whose reforms have headed off the Arab Spring tumult experienced by neighbors such as Libya and Tunisia and left it with the strongest military and best intelligence in the region.

Clinton said she and Bouteflika spoke at length about Mali, with the Algerian leader appearing to caution against any rash action.

‘‘I very much appreciated the president’s analysis based on his long experience as to the many complicated factors that have to be addressed to deal with the internal insecurity in Mali and the terrorist and drug trafficking threat that is posed to the region and beyond,’’ Clinton told reporters.

She said they agreed to continue discussions with the U.N. and African nations ‘‘to determine the most effective approaches that we should be taking.’’

NORTH AFRICA – North African states at risk of being overrun by al-Qaeda

North Africa

Al-Qaeda is poised to overrun five states in North Africa and the Middle East, creating terrorist safe havens from which the network can launch attack on the West, Europe and the US have been warned.

Mauritania, Mali and Niger have seen a steady escalation of al-Qaeda activity targeting Western aid workers and experts. Somalia, to their east, has disintegrated in the face of Islamist assault. In Yemen, across the Red Sea from Somalia, security forces have been waging a losing battle against resurgent jihadist armies that have claimed the lives of dozens of troops.

Amadou Marou, the President of Niger’s National Consultative Council has been in Europe with a grim message for governments. “Somalia got away from us”, he said, “and northern Mali is in the process of getting away from us”.

Mohamed Abdillahi Mohamed, Somalia’s new Prime Minister, has also called on the US and Europe to “step up to the plate”. Aid to Somalia, he said, “is not an option, it’s a necessity. We are dealing with al-Shabaab, who are extremists and seeking to take their war throughout the world”.

Al-Qaeda’s regional affiliates have expanded dramatically throughout this belt of states, exploiting the administrative weaknesses and corruption of their governments.

Large swathes of Somalia are already under the control of al-Shabaab, a Somali al-Qaeda affiliate, which is known to have hundreds of US and UK citizens among its ranks. Western intelligence services say they have evidence that those recruits are preparing for attacks on the West.

Last month, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, its north African branch, kidnapped seven people, including five French citizens, from a uranium mine in Niger. AQIM has demanded a ransom of £5 million and a rollback on France’s burka ban for the lives of the hostages Mauritania has been engaged in pitched battles with AQIM, and the country’s air force has been bombing jihadist targets in northern Mali the region where British tourist Edwin Dyer was executed by terrorists last year.

Mauritanian jihadists also murdered an American aid worker last year, and earlier attacked Israel’s embassy to the country.

Yemen, which is home to another al-Qaeda affiliate called al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has served as hub for several plots targeting the West, often carried out by western citizens inspired by the militant Islamist TV preacher Anwar al-Awlaki.

INDIA – Government launches ‘no lavatory, no bride’ campaign

The Indian government has launched a ‘no lavatory, no bride’ campaign, telling women to reject potential suitors if they cannot provide an inside lavatory.

The comments were made by India’s…rural development minister, Jairam Ramesh, who recently angered Hindus by pointing out there were more temples than [bathrooms] for the country’s 1.2 billion people.

In a speech to villagers in Rajasthan, he said it wasn’t enough for families to check astrological charts to decide if a young man is suitable, they should also inspect his closet.

“You consult astrologers about rahu-ketu (the alignment of sun and moon) before getting married. You should also look whether there is a toilet in your groom’s home before you decide – don’t get married in a house where there is no toilet,” he warned.

His comments are part of a series of speeches and plans to increase the number of indoor bathrooms in a country where more have a cell phone than a bathroom.

More than 900 million – 75 per cent of the population – has a cell phone subscription in India, while only half of its households have a bathroom, according to last year’s census. Only 11 per cent of homes have a bathroom connected to the sewerage system.

The shortfall means India is the world’s “largest open-air toilet,” the minister said earlier this year.

…A spokesman for the minister agreed that if all young women backed his call, there would be far fewer weddings. But he said Mr. Ramesh will continue making his call in a series of speeches throughout the country.  “We need to remove the system [of going to the bathroom outdoors]. This is a continuing campaign to eradicate it,” he said. …

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at Boston.com on Oct. 29 and London’s Daily Telegraph on Oct. 21 and Oct. 22.)

Questions

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1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information:
a) location/the countries that share its borders
b) the religious breakdown of the population
c) the type of government
d) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch]e) the population
NOTE: For Northern Africa, answer only a) b) and e). 

[For Mali and India, find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings. 

For North Africa, find the answers at wikipedia under the “North Africa” entry.]

2. For MALI:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What led to the takeover of half of Mali (the North) by al Qaeda terrorists?
c) What plan has the U.N. Security Council approved to oust al Qaeda from its hold over half of Mali?

3. For NORTH AFRICA:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) List the 5 countries that are in danger of being taken over partially or completely by al Qaeda.
c) Do you think the U.N. will be effective in destroying al Qaeda in these (or any) countries?  Explain your answer.
d) What do you think should be done to destroy al Qaeda?  

4. For INDIA:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Compare the population to the number/percent of bathrooms to cellphones in India.
c) How many homes in India do not have bathrooms?
d)  Brindeshwar Pathak, founder of the sanitation non-profit Sulabh International suggested that the government should offer cheap loans to help people build lavatories and going to the bathroom in the open “should be a punishable offense.”  Do you think these two suggestions are a good way to solve the problem? Explain your answer.


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Background

MALI:

Brief history of Mali:

  • The Sudanese Republic and Senegal became independent of France in 1960 as the Mali Federation.
  • When Senegal withdrew after only a few months, what formerly made up the Sudanese Republic was renamed Mali.
  • Rule by dictatorship was brought to a close in 1991 by a military coup that ushered in a period of democratic rule.
  • President Alpha KONARE won Mali’s first two democratic presidential elections in 1992 and 1997.
  • In keeping with Mali’s two-term constitutional limit, he stepped down in 2002 and was succeeded by Amadou TOURE, who was elected to a second term in 2007 elections that were widely judged to be free and fair.
  • A military coup overthrew the government in March 2012, claiming that the government had not adequately supported the Malian army’s fight against an advancing Tuareg-led rebellion in the north.
  • Heavy international pressure forced coup leaders to accelerate the transition back to democratic rule and, to that end, Dioncounda TRAORE was installed as interim president on 12 April 2012. (from the CIA World FactBook)

Al Qaeda imposes Islamic Sharia law on Mali:

  • Human Rights Watch spokeswoman Corinne Dufka reported at the end of September: “The Islamist armed groups have become increasingly repressive as they have tightened their grip over northern Mali.  Stonings, amputations and floggings have become the order of the day in an apparent attempt to force the local population to accept their world view.”
  • The Islamists’ efforts to impose Sharia law has also extended to banning ring tones on mobile phones that are not Koranic verse readings, as well as prohibiting cigarettes and alcohol.
  • Women who wear jewelery or perfume, or fail to cover their heads can also face punishment, Human Rights Watch said in its report on Sept. 25.
  • Human Rights Watch said it had documented at least eight amputations since the radical Islamists seized power earlier this year in the north of Mali, a predominantly moderate Muslim country in western Africa. Other elderly residents collapsed after being flogged as punishment, the group said.

World reaction to al Qaeda takeover in Mali: NOTE: The Maghreb is usually defined as much or most of the region of Northwest Africa, west of Egypt.

Washington [wants] to eliminate northern Mali as a haven for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which may have been involved in September’s attack on the U.S. Consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi. Mali even came up in the U.S. election campaign, with Republican challenger Mitt Romney citing the African nation’s instability in a foreign policy debate with President Barack Obama.  As further evidence of the U.S. intensifying its diplomatic work in Mali, Maria Otero, an undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights, was to travel to Mali on Monday. She is the highest-ranking Obama administration official to visit since the coup. She’ll meet with Mali’s prime minister, human rights activists and internal refugees.

The 15-nation West African regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, has discussed sending 3,000 troops to help oust the Islamist militants from the north. Many, though, question how Mali’s weak military could take the lead on such an intervention and analysts believe more ECOWAS soldiers would be needed to take and hold the France-sized desert area now controlled by the militants.  While the U.S. wants to see the rebels routed, it has no interest in active involvement in the military mission, unless Mali and West African states explicitly ask for such assistance, a senior American diplomat in Africa said. The official demanded anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter. (from the boston.com article)

  • NORTH AFRICANOTE: The Maghreb is usually defined as much or most of the region of Northwest Africa, west of Egypt.

    Local efforts to address the problem of al Qaeda have had little success. Amisom, the African Union’s 7,000-strong peacekeeping force in Somalia, has been unable to restore government control over even the capital, Mogadishu. Peacekeepers received no wages for six months last year. Poor security conditions have made aid work all but impossible.

    Experts say aid should be focused not just on upgrading regional counter-terrorism forces, but also addressing the poverty and poor governance that have helped al-Qaeda gain ground in the region.

    Britain is a key member of Friends of Yemen, an international consortium that has committed to pumping millions of pounds into the country. But although Yemen has committed to economic reforms and anti-corruption measures, there are still doubts about just how much the aid has achieved on the ground. (from the telegraph article)