Mali: the fight for the north

Published on The Africa Report, by Patrick Smith and Pietro Musili in Mopti, December 5, 2012.

An exclusive report from the city of Mopti ahead of the international military intervention that hopes to push out Islamist rebels from northern Mali in 2013. A military victory would only be a first step, as the country must elect a new government and rebuild the trust destroyed by the north-south divide … //

… Finally, deputy camp commander Colonel Khalifa Sodogo ushers us into his office at the edge of the camp and courteously explains why he is not authorised to talk about preparations for the military campaign. Many things are changing in the army and we will soon see positive results, he assures us without going into details about confusing developments in the capital, Bamako.

There, the army appears to be under a divided command. Captain Amadou Sanogo, leader of the 22 March putsch against President Amadou Toumani Touré, has been put in charge of the reform and restructuring of the 7,000-strong Malian army. Those plans are said to include the arrival of a training squad from Europe, lots of shiny new military equipment and better communications and surveillance equipment.

But there is none of that here in Sévaré, just a few senior officers driving around in battered Mercedes. A frisson of excitement had swept through town the day after we arrived with reports that soldiers near Mopti had arrested a French national, Ibrahim Ouattara, from Aubervilliers. Ouattara and another French national had sneaked into Mali to set up a jihadist cell in Timbuktu, perhaps to help fend off the intervention or extend jihadist rule further south …
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Mali Gambles on Warlord as Peacemaker: Winning Over Key Regional Commander Stands as an Attractive Way to Make Inroads in the Fight Against al Qaeda, on Wall Street Journal, by DREW HINSHAW, Dec. 6, 2012;

Mali civilians vow to take up arms against Islamist extremists: Militias train male and female recruits for possible offensive amid anger over delayed international intervention, on The Guardian, by Tamasin Ford and Bonnie Allen in Bamako, December 4, 2012.

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