The CSS Blog Network

Africa’s Pastoralists: A New Battleground for Terrorism

Faces

Courtesy of Kris Haamer/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the African Center for Strategic Studies on 11 January 2017.

In January 2013, Hamadou Kouffa led Islamist forces from northern Mali south toward Konna and Diabaly, an act that precipitated an African and French intervention eventually driving the militants out of entrenched positions. Two years later, Kouffa reemerged on the international scene at the head of the newly founded Macina Liberation Front (Front de Libération du Macina, FLM). Since January 2015, Kouffa’s group has claimed responsibility for several attacks in central Mali, including assassinations of local political figures and security forces, as well as the destruction of an ‘idolatrous’ mausoleum.

In its goals and methods, FLM resembles other Islamist terrorists operating in the Sahel and Sahara, such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). What makes the FLM different is the attempt to rally nomadic Fulani herdsmen to its cause. Kouffa, a Fulani marabout, communicates to FLM members in the Fulani language, and the name Macina harkens back to a nineteenth-century Fulani state based in central Mali and governed under Islamic law.

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What Can Mali Teach the UN About Confronting Terrorism?

Dunes

Courtesy of Boris Savluc / Flickr

This article was originally published by the IPI’s Global Observatory on 18 October 2016.

There was little media coverage of last month’s United Nations ministerial meeting on Mali—opened by Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon—held on the sidelines of the General Assembly in New York. This was in stark contrast to four years ago, when United States presidential candidate Mitt Romney mentioned the conflict in northern Mali during a debate with Barack Obama. Does this mean that Mali is falling off a busy multilateral agenda dominated by the refugee crisis, Syria, and the transition to a new UN secretary-general?

The optimists would see it as a sign that the situation is not as bad as it once seemed, and that the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), deployed in July 2013, is—alongside French counterterrorist force Barkhane—helping to prevent terrorist groups reoccupying northern Mali. Yet this goes against observations of “a doubling in the number of attacks perpetrated by violent extremist groups in northern Mali” and the fact that “attacks have spread to the center of the country” as Ban noted in his most recent Mali report to the Security Council.

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Ethics on Film: Discussion of “Timbuktu”

Jihadists of the group “Ansar Dine” near Timbuktu, Mali. Image: Magharebia/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs on 25 February, 2015.

2014, 97 minutes. Nominated for Oscar for best Foreign Language Film.

For an American audience used to war movies with explosions, good guys and bad guys, and finite conclusions, the Oscar-nominated, Mauritanian film Timbuktu is a departure. The violence is never gratuitous, most of the jihadists seem like normal (albeit dangerously misguided) people, and, at the end, the fates of the eponymous city and several main characters are left hazy. The people who would most likely choose to see Timbuktu are already numbed by the constant stream of horrific news out of Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, etc., so this low-key approach is the perfect strategy. We know about the executions, suicide bombings, and coalition airstrikes. But what we don’t realize is, perhaps, the main takeaway from the film: This type of militant extremism, more than anything else, is soul-crushingly boring for the occupied populations. » More

Is Cantonment the Key to Success in Mali’s Negotiations?

Image: Magharebia/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by ISS Africa on 21 July 2014.

Peace talks between the government of Mali and northern rebel groups started in Algiers last week. If they are to succeed, the focus should be on effectively initiating the ‘cantonment’ of armed groups, a military process that involves removing them from the conflict zone and restricting their movements. » More

Nigeria Pulls Out of MINUSMA: Protest or Prioritisation of Domestic Security?

Nigerian SSS operative(s) with Tavor 21

Nigerian DSS operatives. Photo: Beeg Eagle/Wikimedia Commons.

During the 43rd ordinary session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on 18 July 2013 in Abuja, Nigeria, the Chairman, President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire, announced that the Nigerian government had requested the withdrawal of its troop battalion deployed in Mali as part of the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operation. According to Ouattara, the decision was based on the unstable security situation in Nigeria’s north.

However, the Nigerian government’s sudden decision to pull out of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) came shortly after the Rwandan Major General Jean Bosco Kazura was appointed by the UN Secretary General as commander of the mission. Kazura’s appointment sparked controversy, leading to speculation that Nigeria withdrew its troops in protest at the UN appointment. » More

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