Monthly Archives: February 2012

Update on Unrest in Mali

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    Was at #Niger #Mali border today: thousands of Malian refugees survive in makeshift shelters. Fear returning to unsafe #Azawad Mali region
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    #Malian#refugee Zoulfa in #Ayorou, #Niger:”Several armed men entered our village in #Mali & stole everyth. We fled w our children, cattle”
  3. UNHCR reports that more than 44,000 people have fled fighting into neighboring countries Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.
  4. Like populations in many other Sahel countries, Malians are particularly vulnerable in times of civil unrest because they already live a subsistence lifestyle – without reserves of food or funds. As they enter similar subsistence economies in neighboring Sahel countries, they put additional strains on limited resources.

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  7. The violence is also putting strain on democratic institutions in Mali. According to Amnesty International, the Malian government is both arresting suspected Tuareg participants without due process and failing to protect Tuareg people threatened during protests in Bamako, the capital:

    “During the demonstrations, the Malian security forces failed to prevent an angry mob from attacking homes and properties owned by Tuaregs and other ethnic groups – including Arabs and Mauritanians – living in the capital.”  
  8. Violence is spreading out of the Sahara and into the Sahel. Yesterday, armed groups entered Hombori, in Central Mali, and killed the village chief. While some reports attribute the violence to Tuareg rebels, others attribute the murder to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which is also active in northern Mali. 
  9. Meanwhile, Malian president Amadou Toumani Toure has announced that the scheduled presidential elections in April will go forward, despite the violence. 

Touareg Rebellion & Unrest in Mali

  1. The history of the Touareg people: a trans-border nation, traditionally nomadic, with no country and unrepresented by the governments that govern them. 

    In the past few weeks, Touareg groups in Northern Mali – newly invigorated, perhaps, by their participation as paid mercenaries in the Libyan conflict – have engaged in armed conflict with the Malian government. The Touareg seek an autonomous region in their homelands in the Sahara.

    As a complicating factor, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM) has a strong presence in Touareg areas of Mali. The seriousness of the relationship between AQIM and the Touareg is not clear, but the Al Qaeda in Northern Mali are a growing problem – with kidnappings of westerners and conflicts with neighboring groups. Rumors are rife, reporting is minimal, but civilians are fleeing to neighboring countries and refugee camps are growing. 

    Here’s a summary of news and first hand reporting from Mali. 

  2. The New York Times shares reporting and photos on the ground in Northern Mali, where Touareg rebels are attacking army bases and taking control of villages and towns.
  3. After the Touareg rebels participated in the Libyan conflict, they are better-armed and battle-tested: 

    “They had the advantage of being more numerous, being better armed and having better logistics, including satellite phones,” a Malian government soldier told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “It is the sad truth.”

  4. As a result of violence, civilians are fleeing the area, moving south within Mali and into neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso. The International Committee of the Red Cross reports: 
  5. “”People are fleeing the violence in large numbers, in great haste, and in utter destitution,” said Jürg Eglin, the head of the ICRC’s regional delegation for Niger and Mali. “We are joining forces with the Mali Red Cross and the Red Cross Society of Niger to provide them with food and shelter, and to improve their access to water. The latest assessments made by our staff in northern Mali are particularly alarming.”
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    8,000 #Touareg #refugees have fled #Mali and reached neighboring Burkina Faso. bit.ly/zRhAPX
  7. In an area plagued by drought and famine, neighboring countries are unprepared to support refugee camps.

    Translation of tweet below: “In the camps of Malian refugees in Burkina Faso, one lacks everything.”
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    #Mali Actu : Dans les camps de réfugiés maliens au Burkina Faso, “on manque de tout” tinyurl.com/87p8lh6
  9. Reports of war crimes and summary executions follow the violence.
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    #Mali Mali: Mali says soldiers, civilians executed during Tuareg clashes bit.ly/wVtti4 #crisismanagement
  11. Meanwhile, the Malian president, Amadou Toumani Toure, answers to complaints from military supporters and “searches for a solution” through regional mediation. 
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    Mali /Burkina Faso : Amadou Toumani Touré et Blaise Compaoré cherchent une issue à la crise malienne: rfi.my/wl5iPO” #Mali #Burkina
  13. In more quotidien concerns, the Malian musical group Tinariwen was unable to accept their Grammy award as a result of the violence.
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    RT @philinthe_: 4,000 displaced from #Tessalit, #Mali, including band @TINARIWEN who were unable to accept grammy yesterday bcos they are living in desert

What Happened to Electability?

Where did “electability” go as a top criterion for primary voters?

Last night, Rick Santorum won three primaries (although one was a beauty contest, apparently). This is a fascinating shift from primary voters – some from just a few weeks ago – who viewed electability as a compelling concern.

Perhaps this is because Romney supporters thought he had it in the bag? Or because only the far-to-one-side voters show up when the election appears to be in the bag?

At this stage, Republican candidates are focused on appealing to the base, and that base is fractured. With Santorum appealing to evangelical voters, Ron Paul bringing libertarian and Tea Party supporters to the table and Gingrich appealing to … someone, the most centrist (and most electable) candidate – Romney –  is appealing to voters who aren’t listening.

Recent skirmishes about abortion, birth control and foreign policy issues (like Iran) are airing Republicans’ dirty laundry to a gawking public. The evangelical and Tea Party voters turning up for the primaries don’t represent most of American voters’ views – and for both the GOP and for civil society at large, that’s a pity.

This race to the base – a battle of extremes – is destructive to either party’s ability to lead real change. It sets unrealistic expectations, hampers representatives’ ability to negotiate compromise and belies a rich American history of the politics of the middle. Where do we go from here?  More broken politics and dying discourse.