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Mali: Protests Call for National Unity in Gao and Timbuktu

Following protests against al Qaeda in Timbuktu in April 2012, citizens of the city of Gao have taken to the streets to protest about demands and orders imposed by the groups currently occupying northern Mali. The following video shows the impact of Sharia law on Timbuktu [fr]:

Oumar Diakité described [fr] his impression of events, after having spoken with a Gao correspondent on Mali news website abamako.com:

Les rues sont occupées par la jeunesse de Gao avec en main des drapeaux maliens…Les uns sont sur des motos et brandissent le drapeau du Mali…D’autres sont habillés aux couleurs du drapeau malien… », a rapporté notre source hier vers 12 h avant d’ajouter : « On n’entend que l’hymne national du Mali et des slogans comme « Le Mali est un et indivisible ! », « A bas l’Azawad ! A bas le MNLA ! Vive le Mal »…»

“The streets are occupied by the young people of Gao, holding Malian flags in their hands… Some are on motorcycles and are waving the flag of Mali… Others are dressed in the colors of the Malian flag”, reported our source around 12 noon yesterday, before adding: “All we can hear is the national anthem of Mali and the shouting of slogans, such as ‘Mali is one and indivisible!’, ‘Down with the Azawad! Down with the MNLA! Long live Mali’…”

The Tuareg Survival blog, temoust.org, offers a different account [fr] of events:

  Les manifestants, parmi lesquels des jeunes, ont brûlé des pneus dans les rues, voulant ainsi exprimer leur exaspération contre la mainmise de ces groupes sur la ville, notamment l’interdiction qui leur est faite par les islamistes de jouer au football ou de regarder la télévision. Des hommes armés ont riposté, tirant par moments à balles réelles contre les manifestants.

The protesters, including young people, burned tires in the streets to express their frustration with the hold that these groups have over the city, in particular with the ban, imposed on them by Islamists, on playing football or watching television. Armed gunmen retaliated, at times firing live ammunition at the protesters.

Malians have made emotional comments on these events in several media outlets and in the blogosphere. Wangou left the following comment after an article [fr] in the weekly Jeune Afrique:

La majorité des populations du Nord Mali est Songhay, une race guerrière qui a construit le plus grand des empires ouest africains. Il ne faut pas les provoquer. ils n'adhéreront jamais à la cause des mouvements armés. Ce qui rend impossible toute indépendance ou toute partition de cette partie au profit des touaregs…

The majority of people in northern Mali are Songhay, a warrior race who built the greatest West African empires. Do not provoke them. They will never adhere to the cause of armed movements. This makes impossible any notion of independence, or any partition of the region to the benefit of the Tuareg…

Cheikh also commented [fr] on this article:

De grâce vous les autorités maliennes faites quelque chose. Cette situation est insupportable. Capitaine Sanogo prends de la hauteur la question à traiter est au nord, ces jeunes ont besoin de leur armée. Frères touaregs du MNLA, faites votre bilan. Est ce que réellement vous avez libérer les peuples du Gao, de Kidal de Tombouctou?.

Thanks to the Malian authorities for doing something. This situation is intolerable. Captain Sanogo sees that, in the big picture, the question at hand is in the north, those young people need their army. Tuareg brothers of the MNLA, assess the situation. Have you really liberated the people of Gao, of Kidal, and of Timbuktu?

The following video shows the impact of Sharia law on Northern Mali [fr]:

An article on Maliweb.net also elicited [fr] many comments, including those of Yamoussa, who wrote [fr]:

 Quelle honte !quelle honte !!mais quelle honte!!
Qu’attendent les maliens qui étaient sortis nombreux pour débarquer le G.M.T [le Général Moussa Traoré] en 1991 sortir et marcher sur Kati et empecher les militaires de
 monopoliser la Télé malienne. 
La premiere des choses importantes pour un miltaire c’est la sauvegarde de l’intégrité territoriale de son pays ensuite le protection des personnes et leurs biens ! Mais où sont nos militaires dans le Nord ?
Mais où sont-ils ? Ces braves soldats à Bamako à la recherche du pouvoir! ! Vous faites honte aux Maliens !

What a shame, what a shame, what a shame! 
Many Malians came out in 1991 to get rid of G.M.T. [General Moussa Traoré], so what are they waiting for? Why don't they march on Kati, and stop the military from monopolizing Malian TV? 
The first priority of a military is to safeguard the territorial integrity of its country, and next, to protect the people and their property! But where are our troops in the north? 
Where are they? Brave soldiers in Bamako, looking for power, you are a disgrace to Malians!

Hogon Malien wrote angrily [fr]:

De toutes les façons, on se rends compte que Bamako s’en fout du Nord. Nous prendrons notre destin en main. C’est la triste réalité. J’ai l’impression que nous ne connaissons plus notre priorité. Les populations de la région de Mopti vont se joindre au Nord pour lutter contre le MNLA, et les terroristes, et ensuite on prendra notre indépendance vis à vis de Bamako.Trop c’est trop.Tenez bon, la libération en proche. A bon entendeur

Anyway, we have realized that Bamako does not care at all about the North. Our destiny is in our own hands. That is the sad reality. It seems to me that we no longer understand our own priorities. The people of the Mopti region are going to join with the North, to fight against the MNLA and the terrorists, and then, we will win our independence from Bamako. Enough is enough. Hold on, liberation is coming soon. You have been warned.

Another article, by Adam Thiam of www.malijet.com, prompted several readers to express their feelings [fr] on the situation in Mali, including Oumou Dilli, who commented [fr]:

Merci les enfants pour le drapeau VERT JAUNE ROUGE, merci pour ces cris de Vive le Mali!
Vous obtiendrez votre liberté par vous-même car le pire ennemi du Mali fait diversion a Bamako, bloque l'entrée DES troupes de l'union, arrête les citoyen, empoisonne ORTM et radios libres! … SANOGO, il est plus toxique que MNLA et Aqmi …

Thank you, young people, for the GREEN YELLOW and RED flag, thank you for these shouts of ‘Long Live Mali’!
You will win your freedom by yourselves, since the worst enemy of Mali is preoccupied in Bamako, blocking the entry of union troops, arresting citizens, poisoning ORTM and the free radio stations! … SANOGO is more toxic than the MNLA and the AQMI

Meanwhile, an Azawadian reader did not conceal his feelings in favor of independence [fr] for northern Mali:

Mr Thiam, ne nous parlez pas de la nation malienne qui n'a jamais existé. Pour que l'Etat existe il faut un minimum qui est la volonté de vivre ensemble. Avant l'indépendance formelle du Mali les autochtones de l'Azawad ont demandé à la France de ne pas les inclure dans le Soudan français. Depuis 1963 à nos jours des soulevements ont vu le jour dans le nord pour s'insurger contre le pouvoir incapable de Bamako.

Vous parlez des jeunes de Gao et de leur révolte, ils sont insignifiants, leurs ainés les gandakoy et les ganda iso ont été laminés en une journée par un groupe armé venu d'un seul campement Daoussahak , dans les environs d'Ansongo. Personne au Nord ne voulait plus du désordre de l'Etat voyou du Mali.

Mr Thiam, we are not speaking about a Malian nation, which has never existed. The minimum requirement for a State to exist is the willingness to live together. Before the formal independence of Mali, the indigenous people of the Azawad demanded that France not include them in French Sudan. From 1963 to the present, there have been uprisings in the north to revolt against the ineffectual power of Bamako.
You talk about the young people of Gao and their revolt, but they are insignificant. Their elders, the Ganda Koy and the Ganda Iso, were wiped out in one day, by an armed group which came from a single Daoussahak camp, near Ansongo. Nobody in the North wants the mess of this rogue state of Mali anymore.

The site bamanet.net published a statement [fr] by the Collectif des Ressortissants du Nord, COREN, expressing their concern about the deteriorating economic, social, and security situation in the Northern region.

In an interview [fr] published on the site malijet.com, Moctar Mariko, president of the Malian Association of Human Rights, expressed his concern about ongoing political instability:

La classe politique doit oublier les postes juteux et faire face au problème du Nord. Qu’est-ce qui empêche les rebelles de venir aujourd’hui à Bamako? Je pense qu’on doit avoir le même objectif. Je suis un peu désolé parce que je ne pensais pas que le Mali pouvait atteindre cette phase dans la crise. Au début, je pensais que ça allait être passager, mais ce que je constate ne me donne pas beaucoup de confiance.

The political class needs to forget about their cushy positions, and face the problem of the North. What prevents the rebels from coming to Bamako right now? I think that we all need to have the same objective. I am somewhat distressed, because I had not thought that Mali could reach this stage of crisis. At first, I had thought it would be temporary, but what I see now does not give me much confidence.

Indeed, considering the confusion that reigns in the Malian army, one wonders how it could resist, if the Islamists decided to conquer the whole country.

This post was sub-edited by Jane Ellis.

  • Jerusalem Center

    Jacques Neriah an Israeli Intelligence official has written about the situation in Mali.

    “As has been the case in Tunisia, Egypt, and to a lesser extent in Syria lately, the Tuaregs’ struggle for an independent homeland has been hijacked by better-organized and armed Islamists from Mali and abroad, creating a safe haven for militants in the Sahara – a west African Afghanistan. The implications of such a development could become a new nightmare for the West.”

    http://jcpa.org/article/a-second-afghanistan-in-mali/ for more details.

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