Friday 18 January 2013.
Mali made headline news in Senegal this week; at least one would think so from the news on news channels in the country. The Malian Crisis which started in earnest in 2012 intensified this week leading to an announcement by its parental country, France that they will be sending troops to the embattled country as a matter of urgency, in a couple of days in fact. French officials said the situation in Mali is now completely unacceptable in a speech he gave to a seemingly disinterested audience at the United Nations (Security Council meeting). Close to 2000 french troops are now in Mali after initial air strikes to diffuse the threat by jihadists attacked, the BBC reports today that Islamist fighters have withdrawn from two towns in central Mali. A year ago (2012) France was just as passionate and unwavering in its position not to intervene in the Malian crisis as they have recently proclaimed regarding the current crisis in Central Africa. There, calls by the government and it’s citizenry to France “Our brother, mother” to intervene were met with a stern no! France would not be sending troops to Central Africa to help its government diffuse the encroaching terror of the rebel groups () which is taking over the country. Even though France has troops deployed in Central Africa, they are only there to protect their own interests, they announced to the media.
So now with France agreeing to send troops to Mali, one has to wonder what has changed. France clearly has interests in Mali which are now being threatened hence the announcement to send troops there. To an untrained eye, France had every reason to intervene in Mali last year; when the army which deposed then President Amdou Tumani Toure, was losing the battle against the Taureg fighters who have now taken control of key towns and cities including the historic town of Timbaktu in the Northern parts of the country declaring the north an Independent Azaawad state governed by strict Muslim Sharia law. Fighting ensued between the break-away army groups led by Captain Amadou Sanogo – they wanted a new leader, whom they hoped would be decisive in augmenting more fire power to the country’s army to defend its sovereignty. Captain Sanogo announced that though they were willing to defend the country from the Taureg Rebel groups they had no ammunition to do so successfully. They were losing men in battle. TFM, the second largest media group in Senegal, screened a mini-documentary by the television station’s chief editor Bacar Ba this week. The film showed images of a new group of armed Jihadists saying they are fighting against French Imperialism in Mali. The film was followed by a panel discussion which discussed some of the issues at play in Mali. What is the role of France, Islam, and the Arab influence in the country, the role of ECOWAS including the role of Senegal is in the whole debacle. Mali and Senegal as we say in isiZulu “Abantwana boMontu “(they are of the same parent: France) and before they were granted their independence circa 1960, they lived together as a unit under the Malian Federation.
So if anything, Senegal has more of an interest in restoring peace to its sister country which it borders to the east. However, Senegal has not pronounced much on what action it’s taking to assist in the unfolding crisis, Blasé Campoare Burkina Faso’s president has been playing a central role in peace negotiations there. In reality, Senegal has sent more troops that any other country within Ecowas, ( 500 according to news reports here) panelist during the discussion also agreed that Senegal was key in stabilizing the crisis Liberia and in fact too many other countries on the continent including the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Senegal it would seem has also adopted the policy of quiet diplomacy which one hopes will have better results than that of South Africa and Zimbabwe.
In other news that have left me feeling a little cold; the airwaves are abuzz in Senegal following South Africas refusal to grant 10 Senegalese journalists visas to travel to South Africa for the African Cup Of Nations (AFCON) which opens tomorrow. I am saddened by their refusal. Football is important in Senegal, much like the desert needs the rain, let alone the strained foreign relations that will happen as a result. South Africans will in the future now require Visas to come into Senegal ( reports say from, July ) something which they never required before. One hopes for the sake of Africa that the issue will be resolved without any permanent damage.