As the Tuareg rebels gained full strength and control in Northern Mali, the state military in Mali appears to be weakened and rapidly losing control. Such events raise important questions, “Will Mali’s fate resemble that of Sudan? Is Mali heading for a split?”
The key actors in the Malian crisis are the Islamist soldiers dominating the North, also known as the Tuareg rebels, the Malian state military, and as of January 28, 2013 the French military(1).
The Tuareg Rebels, known to be Islamist rebels in Northern Mali with claimed affiliation to Al-Qaeda(2), face an opposing army of organized state military and a militarily advanced NATO member, France. However, the military superiority of the French does not mean a short and easy win. As the crisis unravels, signs of an end to the conflict are far from sight. In fact, the conflict seem to inflict colossal damages on Mali.
The Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) army never historically intervened in conflicts within its members, however, it decided to suspend Mali’s membership. It diplomatically condemned the events in Mali in a statement, “We strongly condemn the misguided actions of the mutineers and warn that we will not condone any recourse to violence as a means of seeking redress. We remind the military of its responsibility under the constitution and reiterate ECOWAS’ policy of ‘Zero Tolerance’ for any attempt to obtain or maintain power by unconstitutional means.” (3)
Actively, the French military intervened in the conflict convinced in its ability to win and drive Islamists out of captured territories. In the first month of French intervention, the joint military (Malian and French) achieved considerable successes in gaining back cities that fell under the control of rebels. (4) However, the progress seemed to slow down and escalate as the French military utilizes air strikes and other tactics to end the conflict. While the French army hopes to inflict damage on the rebels, however, the air strikes will leave costs that Mali will have to adjust to throughout and after the conflict is over. These costs could include the possibility of split, shortage in water and energy resources, famine, and long-term political tension and instability.