Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Azawat

Mauritania?  An “Arab” State in West Africa? Where a Third of population are slaves?

Mauritania is a vast desert State in West Africa, bordering Morocco, Algeria, Mali, Senegal…and the Atlantic Ocean. Apparently, its population is barely 3 million, a third of them are slaves and mostly women.

Mauritania is a member of the “Arab League“, but the US State Department opted to group Mauritania smack in Africa, and this State is “administered” as such by the US Secretary of State…

Lucky Mauritania?  That the US has decided to forget this country as part of the “Arab”World”: It must have been saved plenty of humiliation and indignities heaved on the remaining “Arab States” by the US foreign policies…

 posted on May 23, 2012, under: “The Arab Spring you haven’t heard about — in Mauritania”:

“You may not have heard of it, but the West African country of Mauritania has what is probably one of the most vibrant and active protest movements in the world today.

Protests drawing tens of thousands of people take place almost weekly in the capital Nouakchott, with many smaller protests happening on a daily basis around the vast country.

Photo by Magharebia, via Wikimedia Commons

The protests are overwhelmingly nonviolent, even in the face of frequent violent suppression, and have been going on since February 2011.

It would be comfortable to file these protests as another part of the Arab Spring: Mauritania is on the southern reaches of the Saharan Arab belt, and large-scale protests here started with the self-immolation and subsequent death of Yacoub Ould Dahoud, an action mirroring the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi, which set off the revolt in Tunisia.

As in other Arab countries that experienced large-scale protests, Mauritania is governed by an autocratic regime whose leader, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, originally came to power through a coup d’état.

But while these similarities exist and the pro-democracy protests in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world surely have been a source of great inspiration for local activists, Mauritania merits a second look.

First, the range of participating actors in Mauritania are as diverse as their agendas. While a common concern of all protest movements is the end of the rule of Abdel Aziz, there are host of other issues that various groups want to have addressed, not all directly related to the country’s ruler.

(Saidou Wane, a Movement for Justice and Equality in Mauritania activist speaks during a protest against the government at Fountain Square in April. Photo via Cincinnati.com)

Chief among the issues is of slavery.

Some estimates say that up to a third of Mauritania’s population is enslaved (even though the practice has been formally abolished many times). Victims are overwhelmingly ethnic black Africans.

This creates racial tensions in Mauritania’s multi-ethnic society, but also religious ones, as certain interpretations of Islam are used to legitimize slavery.

These tensions have forced their way into the open in the context of current protests, with anti-slavery activist Biram Ould Abeid publicly burning Islamic legal manuals discussing the issue. Abeid was subsequently arrested by the authorities, and his case is controversially debated among other activists.

Another very active group, traditionally eyed suspiciously in Western societies, are the Islamists. Organizations like Tawassoul demand a State and society based on principles of Islamic law.

While not cooperating a lot with other protest movements, they have been incredibly persistent in their activities against the regime, including protests of Salafist women against democracy (which is seen as not compatible with Islam) and for the release of imprisoned husbands.

More familiar political standpoints are expressed by the traditional political opposition and various youth movements, the biggest of which has followed the modern tradition of naming itself after the date of the first big protest, 25F (February 25, 2011). These groups focus on democratic reform and an end of the reign of President Aziz.

With all these different actors and goals competing for internal support and attention, it is remarkable that protests have almost completely stayed peaceful for well over a year. While protesters frequently face violence from police (including kittling, arbitrary arrests, beatings, water cannons, tear gas and attack dogs), the protesters have employed a wide range of nonviolent tactics.

In addition to traditional rallies, marches, speeches and sitins, protesters have occupied public squares with tents and use social media and video live streaming to coordinate protests, document violence and communicate with the outside world.

As the growing momentum of the protests show, these nonviolent tactics have so far fulfilled their goal of mobilizing the general population against the regime. But President Aziz should not be counted out just yet.

While the diversity of the protesters and their goals shows that a vibrant civil society and widespread discontent exists in Mauritania, their disunity may still allow Aziz to carry the day.

Already, the affair around the Islamic book burning by anti-slavery activist Abeid has allowed President Aziz to portray himself as a defender of Islam.

Given the incompatibility of demands by pro-democracy activists and Islamists, it is easy to imagine President Aziz discovering his inner zealot to rally support from this part of society (a strategy tried and tested on the other side of continent in Sudan).

Another possible development could see Aziz taking advantage of the regional situation.

There are large parts of neighboring Rep. of Mali controlled by Islamist groups who proclaimed the Independence of Azawat in the northern region (see link in note). And the fear of an “African Afghanistan” is running high in European, U.S. and African capitals.

President Aziz could implement some feigned democratic reforms and present himself as a beacon of stability in the region, hoping for (and probably getting) Western military support and closed eyes, ears and mouths in the U.N. Security Council and the African Union.

Given the level of mobilization in Mauritania so far, the pro-democracy movements in Mauritania have a good chance of succeeding against such moves. Looking at successful nonviolent struggles elsewhere, activists in Mauritania could enhance the likelihood of success by working to undermine the foundations of the regime.

Actions like strikes and boycotts can be incredibly effective, if well employed. Additionally, the protest movements could reach out to security forces, trying to convince at least elements of them to turn over to their side.

After all, police and soldiers need to feel that they will be part of a better future as well, otherwise many of them will go with the devil they know instead of with the change they mistrust.

Note 1: Since, France has engaged troops to stop the Islamist forces marching toward south Mali, and so far, a few African contingents are participating, lukewarmly.

Note 2: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/western-africa-rep-of-mali-azawat-tuareg-south-sahara-al-qaeda-sahel-whats-going-on/

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Famous Jet Propulsion Lab. scientist President of Rep. of Mali: Who is Modibo Diarra?

I wrote recently a post on the Rep.of Mali in western Africa that witnessed a short military coup and the proclamation of the insurgents in the north of the independent State of Azawat…

Currently, the chairman of the Parliament, Cheick Modibo Diarra, was appointed temporary prime minister of the republic with mission to resume the election task that is to be held in late May.

Cheick Modibo Diarra is an astrophysicist who was made renowned on July 1997 by placing his designed robot Pathfinder on planet Mars. Pathfinder moves and collect data and take pictures of Mars, and analyzes the data…

Diarra worked previously on the interstellar Magellan probe at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena (Los Angeles).

Born in the town of Nioro in north-west Mali in 1952, Diarra lived and studied in the city of Segou (central Mali). This mathematician and physicist resumed his graduate studies in France (Pierre and Marie Curie Univ.) in 1972 and received a PhD in aerospace engineering in Washington. He got his USA citizenship and was planning to teach in Mali.

In 1989, two scientists from NASA proposed to Diarra to integrate a team at Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL).

In 1999, Diarra returned to his home country and created the Pathfinder Foundation association in the Capital Bamako, and meant to incite girls to scientific studies. Diarra installed a solar research laboratory and left in 2006 to Johannesburg to head the Africa Microsoft department.

Father of three children and wed to the daughter of former President Moussa Traore (1968-1991), Diarra launched into politics on March 2011, and founded a political party “Rassemblement pour le developpement du Mali (RPDM)” (Gathering for the development of Mali).

Diarra is vying to be a Presidential candidate in the May election 2012 on the ground that “doing politics” means resolving the problems of the city.

Probing the space is turning a far easier undertaking than probing stability and progress in underdeveloped States and creating the necessary opportunities for citizens to grow and achieve the best they could.

And Diarra has a long journey to ” resolving the problems of his city” and surrounding radical movements.

Note: Post inspired by a piece from Celia d’Almeida published in the Journaldumali.com (Bamako)

Western Africa, Rep. of Mali, Azawat, South Sahara Al Qaeda…What’s going on?

What of the Niger River? Looking at the map of western Africa (former French colonial region and still under French economic dominion), the Niger River starts on the borders of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and progress northward, crosses Bamako (capital of rep. of Mali), Segou, Tombouctou, Gao, and slant down toward Menaka (splitting  Mali in half).

And the river resumes its descent to the State of Niger, all the way to Nigeria and flows into the Delta in Nigeria (the Niger Delta, rich in oil production, particularly offshore).

The recent news reveal that the Tuareg independentists, men wearing “blue”, (planning for an independent Azawat State in north Mali) have captured the main towns and cities in north Mali, north of the Niger River, such as Gao, Kidal, Menaka

And that the Tuareg Islamic extremists and others from Mauritania and especially from Algeria (wrapped under the veil of Al Qaeda) have captured the historic city of Tombouctou and starting the process of imposing Islamic Sharia (gone the good time of music, dance and bare women faces…)

Minor officers in the army of Mali grabbed on the excuse of the army failure to confronting the advances of the militias up north by carrying on a military coup d’etat.

No States in Africa was pleased with this sudden coup and the rebellious officers had to bow down and promise to restitute power to the civilians.  The head of the parliament of Mali is to take over as interim President in order to organize the election in its due time by the end of Mai.

Azawat State?  

This desert region would constitute 65% of the area of Mali and populated with only 10% of the total of 14 million citizens.

The Tuareg tribes are estimated to be about 3 million people and criss-crossing a desert the size of Europe, sending caravans from and to Mauritania, Algeria, Libya, Niger, Tchad, and even to Sudan (the Darfur region)

What’s the story?

After the disintegration of Qadhafi Libya, around 400 veteran Tuareg soldiers had to return “Home”, and Algeria was happy to let its radical Islamists cross the border to north Mali (Algeria military was in constant battle with the Algerian Islamists for three decades after they won the election and the military refused to acknowledge the radical Islamists “democratic” victory).

What do you expect soldiers and people carrying arms to do in a desert region that no investments were done in schools, dispensary, hospitals, or any kind of infrastructure…?

The successive central governments of the poor State of Mali in natural resources had invested in the most populous region, the south, and let the vast north goes to hell…

The Tuareg were demanding investment in their region for the last 5 decades, but France failed to contribute any major assistance…

First, the Tuareg started taking hostages, European NGO and tourists, and it was a lucrative and brisk business…

After hell broke loose, the region lacked in tourists and in any financial aid, and conquering power was at hand…

Second, there are no military alternatives in these vast desert region…at most a few drone attacks, just to implicitly tell the rebels that the de-facto on the ground status will not be checked, but negotiations are needed that would satisfy Europe and the US economic future interest in oil and rare mineral exploitation and production.

(The later French military intervention didn’t bring tourists, safety and security. In fact, the new elected President of Mali didn’t dare yet visit the northern parts. And the virulent factions have spread and disseminated eastward toward northern Nigeria (Boko Haram connections), Cameroun, and Central Africa)

Third, most Western Africa Sates have artificial borders drawn by France, Spain and Italy, and the people on the borders come and go at will.

For example, Mali has an 800-kilometre border with Mauritania, and about 1,200 kilometres with Algeria, and as many with Niger...

Time to let minority people live in peace and enjoy their own language and life-style: A few million can go a long way in peace time, for basic necessity of survival…and basic preventive health care…

Note 1: This week, Jan. 12, 2013, France decided to come to the “rescue” of the government and army of Mali as the extremist jihadists advanced and captured a strategic city close to Mobti (key city separating north from south mali).

France is bombing the extremist jihadists and willing to send in 2,500 troops to aid the West African States military contingents.

Fact is, unless serious resources are secured to north Mali and political reforms are done in Mali, all of west Africa is liable to fall to the extremist Moslem jihadists.

Note 2: Take a look at this map of where resources are coming from to help France prosecute its war in north Mali. Is it a WW3 on Moslem Jihadists?


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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