March 10, 2013

    Did you ever wonder what and maybe where Timbuktu is? I always thought it was a code word for now where. Well, it is a town in West Africa in the country of Mail which is ranked as 24th in size of countries. Mail is a country that is land locked and with a history of sectarian violence which is mirrored throughout the, and it yet another example of the growing threat to peace and prosperity that sectarian violence brings world over. Mail is a member of the United Nations, and most recently has been aided by France’s President, Francios Holland, who sent troops to help the Mail president, Dioncounda Traoré, defeat Islamic rebels who sought to institute Shari Law. Both presidents, Holland and Traore, came together last month to Timbuktu to declare victory. Actually, probably no one would even care about Timbuktu or Mali except that it is resource rich in gold and uranium. Mail has all the problems of undeveloped countries - disease, depletion of the land, poverty, illiteracy (about half the population), and multiculturalism that make governing difficult. ( would reference World facts on this)


The issue of the lack of any real homogenous cultural grouping in the country is one of the major challenges to governing. Mali in the 21st century has a pro-western leaning to democracy, and Frances’s current aid of troops brings some stability for the moment; however, the challenges are not new or sudden to come. According to Alessandra Giuffrida, who has lived with the Tuareg rebels, claims the war could easily have been prevented by stopping the supplies coming into Mali from Algeria and also explains that the cocaine traffic which fuels the terrorist has been steady from Algeria into Mali for decades. Guiffrida, from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, says the Islamic label is just a cover for a disparate groups of disenfranchised and poverty stricken young men who have little education and no hope. ( need reference here, see video, will open outside the page link when you google her name)( reference the video here)


Ban Ki- Moon, secretary general of the United Nations, is calling for a meeting to discuss a peacekeeping mission in Mali to help end the government of Mali and bring stability. On Thursday (March 7, 2013), the United Nations unanimously passed a resolution to send in a force. Nii Akuettah, former director, Africa Action, says that the rebel forces in Mali are really after the US and France, of course. He also explains that this is fast becoming an international problem. So here we go, with one of the poorest countries in the world and one without any real stable government to support draws in so many major players. The United Nations along with the United States always seems to mean well; however, there is often little depth of knowledge in knowing how best to bring peace. In his article, Some Hard Lessons that may help in Mail, written for FP National Security, March 5, 2012, Thomas Ricks, sites other places where intervention has been unsuccessful. His basic thesis is that it is the lack of understanding of cultures that causes the attempt to bring stability and peace to fail. This lack of understanding, coupled with the idea that it is a one-step event and not seeing that evolution of a people is a process, adds to the high level of failure. Ricks uses Afghanistan as a case in point : “In Afghanistan, we continue to learn perhaps the most difficult lesson of all. To successfully help a host-nation government fight an insurgency requires that the host-nation government wants to address the root causes of the insurgency. The Afghan government never accepted that principle, and may never will. That does not mean that governance cannot be improvedin Mali. Good governance is not necessarily expensive. I have come to the conclusion through bitter experience that the more development money we throw at a country, the worse the government gets, as money breeds corruption. In Mali, we would be better advised to spend small amounts of money on rule of law training and local management techniques for local officials, particularly Tauregs and other local officials in the north. Insurgencies are like politics in that they are basically local.


It is just not about the fighter jets, and Mark LeVine in his article, France in Mali: The longue durée of imperial blowback, says as much when he writes for Aljarzeera. He says two things need to happen: the French intervention with planes and troops must get the rebels out of the populated areas. This is obvious to avoid killing citizens which means a security force must be established that can secure stability going forward. In other words, someone in place to keep the peace. LeVine says the second goal has to be a Malian government that is less corrupt and more representative and one that can negotiate with the winners and the losers. This is not a unique observation and is the formula for peace and stability any place in the world. (reference the article here)


While all cases of sectarian violence around the world are unique, there is a formula that seems always the same: a government of elites, who keep the people exploited and ignorant, that utilize the natural resources at the expense of the country, taking and not giving back, an uneducated population who are easily infiltrated and high-jacked for any cause that attracts with violence and promises of freedom or liberation.


I have heard it said that there are only two forces in the history of civilization that have the power and force to change anything: one is love and the other is education. Everywhere in the world where there is ignorance, there is oppression and a resulting violence because the peasants always revolt.


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