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Security Humanitarian Issues Conflict

Intervention in Mali: Does R2P Apply?

Mali refugees in Niger
Mali refugees in an inofficial refugee camp in Niger. Photo: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection/flickr

Six months ago, a coup d’état toppled President Amadou Toumani Toure (“ATT”), the democratically elected leader of Mali, and soon thereafter ATT went into exile; armed groups in the north, inspired by a strict and austere interpretation of Islam and the desire to impose Sharia law on the entire country, have engaged in jihadism, terrorism and arms trafficking; and many of Mali’s cultural treasures and riches have been destroyed by the same armed groups who consider much of modern civilization – i.e., the West – to be decadent and depraved and thus in need of purification.

Lamentably, most of these developments – marauding and irredentist Islamists linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the destruction of cultural relics and objet d’art, threats to World Heritage sites – have been overlooked or ignored. To be sure, some outlets – notably The New York Times and the BBC – have done their part to sound the alarm, and Alain Juppé, the former foreign minister of France, was told in March that if these groups gained control of the north, Mali would be turned into another Afghanistan.