Friday, March 30, 2012

Update Friday March 30th

A quick update of the whirlwind of important developments in Mali the past two days:

·         Former President Amadou Toumani Touré broke his silence and showed he’s still alive by doing an interview with RFI (Radio France Internationale) which I translated here on this blog.
·         ECOWAS (CEDEAO, In French) representatives Alassane Ouattara (Côte d’Ivoire), Blaise Compaoré (Burkina Faso), Thomas Boni Yayi (Benin), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia) and Mahamadou Issoufou (Niger) were scheduled to come to Mali for a meeting with the leader of the junta, but the plane was turned back when protestors in favor of the junta spilled onto the runway at the airport. Some, including myself, believe that the junta could have prevented protestors from reaching the runway. This is one example of the growing visibility of support for the junta and resistance to international involvement in Mali’s internal affairs.
·         Deliberating in Côte d’Ivoire, the disgruntled ECOWAS delegation handed down an ultimatum to the junta, giving it 72 hours to restore Mali’s constitution or else face a slew of unsavory consequences. These include the closing of borders and a diplomatic and financial embargo. This is some of the most worrying news we have heard, since it has the most potential to plunge the country into chaos if Sanogo does not concede. On the other hand, this could induce Sanogo to give in, although there is little reason to think he will compromise the demands of the junta and return constitutional order. Long queues at banks have started here.
·         Protests in favor of and against the junta, involving thousands of people, have turned violent in Bamako in the past few days. Several people have been seriously injured. There is a large movement supporting Sanogo and rejecting interventionism, and more supporters on this side seem to come out every day.
·         Journalists near Bamako, some foreign, have been arrested, threatened and released.
·         Stability seems to prevail in the rest of the country (including where I am) except the North, where the situation is rapidly degenerating.
·         The strategic Northern city of Kidal, which was under siege by Tuareg rebels, is said to have been taken by fighters from the Islamist movement Ansar Dine (which calls for the imposition of Sharia law in Mali). Fighters from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) may have been involved in recent rebel activities as well, according to a source from the AFP. Until now it has been difficult to confirm to what degree these groups were collaborating. The Tuareg rebels (the most numerous and best-armed of the groups) had previously denied collaborating with the other two. There now appears to be evidence that they are supporting each other military, which would significantly increase their capacities. I will be very interested to have confirmation of the relationship between these groups over the coming days. The taking of Kidal opens up the road to Gao and Timbuktu and puts these cities in real danger. So far the junta seems to be decidedly ineffective at managing the situation in the North, ironic since this was a central part of their justification of the coup.
·         In response to these advances by armed groups in the North, Sanogo has apologized on state TV to the delegation from ECOWAS and has requested military aid. It’s hard for me to say what ECOWAS will do at this point, since the stakes are indeed high in the North. The question seems to be who will give in first.

So what does all this mean for us volunteers? Do we stay or do we leave? For the time being there is no official indication one way or the other.

Also, added bonus: Another blogger has written a post on the subject of Twitter in the first days of the coup, drawing on some of the same information as mine.