A standoff over how to restore government control in Mali’s northeast has highlighted discord between the African country and its former colonizer. France, which intervened in Mali earlier this year to help suppress an Islamist insurgency there, seeks a political rather than a military solution to reintegrating the Saharan desert town of Kidal, Tuareg separatists’ last stronghold.
Mali’s army has moved troops toward Kidal but France, which has its own forces camped outside, is seen as blocking their advance. It is urging Mali’s government to address the Tuaregs’ demands for increased autonomy instead and fears ethnic bloodshed if the African soldiers move into Kidal.
Much of Mali’s north fell into the hands of radical Muslim and Tuareg fighters last year, including members of Al Qaeda’s North African wing and the local group Ansar Dine, who declared an independent state in the area and imposed strict Islamic law. They had been able to seize on Arab and Western powers’ intervention in Libya a year earlier which caused the displacement of Tuareg mercenaries previously employed by the regime in Tripoli as well as Algerian counterterrorism offensives in recent years that pushed Muslim extremists south. Read more “France Seeks Tuareg Inclusion to Malian Government’s Chagrin”