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  Middle East & Africa
Op-Ed Special
What Is Happening in Mali Is Not an Arab Spring
Special Contribution
By Prof. Abdelkader Zerougui
American University
Soldiers stage a military coup in Bamako, Mali in March of 2012.

Mali-an impoverished Francophone state on North West Africa is in process of becoming a failed state, like Somalia. The weak civil and state institutions have been fragmented by ethnic and clan rivalries over the meager economic resources of the country. Mali once a center of learning and pacifist Suffism is now turning into a rigid Wahhabi version of Islam.

The threat of theTalibanization of the region has brought strong concern from West African countries and Europe to address the impact of such decent into radicalism that can threaten the security of the region.

The coup d’etat of 22 March, 2012 by the regular army displease with how the central government of Amadou Toure of Bamako dealt with the Tuaregrebellion. However, the strong international condemnation and the pressure from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in April 2012 the Junta stepped down and allowed a transitional government headed by a parliament speaker Dioncounda Traoré. Meanwhile the Tuareg under the National Movement of the National of Azwad (NMLA) continued their separatist agenda against the weak central government.

In this chaotic atmosphere, the Islamists who do not share the secular goals ofthe NMLA launched their operations and took control of the Ansogo and Gao. The three main cities -Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal - which represent 50 percent of Mali is under the control of Mujao, Ansar Eddine and Al Qaeeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Three hardline Islamists groups are engaged in a “holy” mission to Islamize the Malians and purify the country from all forms of un-Islamic practices and beliefs. The new masters of Mali are under the impression that they are ordained by God to propagate a medieval version of Wahhabi Puritanism, and builda new Islamic Caliphate to be the core for future adventures in the region.

The Tuareg led several separatist rebellions in the 1960s, but failed to rally support for the cause, and most rebels joined Al Gaddafi’s militias. However, with the collapse of the Libyanstate in 2011, the fighters returned to Mali and destabilized the central government of Bamako, and thus precipitated the Islamic groups’ take over. Already, the Taliban of Mali have introduced the Sharia law by forbiding drinking or selling alcohol, and questioning unaccompanied women, and executing members of the secular NMLA.

The transitional government in Bamako is weak and do not have the human and military resources to defeat the Islamists, and is in desperate need of foreign assistance. Condemnations from the US and European countries did not deter the Islamists from a massive destruction of Muslim shrines and Marabouts and World Heritage Sites in Mali that go back to the 15th and 16th century, whenTimbuktu was the center of learning the region.

There are confirmed reports that indicate the role of some regional countries in supplying the Islamists with arms and money, and providing them with a political umbrella to build an“Islamic” state. Mali seems to attract very little attention despite the atrocities committed by the terrorist groupsnow installed in Northern Mali.

Minimizing and downplaying the dangers in Malior looking the other way, will only strengthen the hands of the armed Islamists,and provide a perfect climate for a new breed of terrorists, and Jihadists who do not believe in borders, and co-existence. Another Afghanistan at a proximity of Europe will be a nightmare for West Africa, but the whole region. The world cannot allow another incubator for terrorism, and a breeding ground for a medieval dogmatic culture that not only rejects the other, but seeks to eradicate the tolerant Suffi Islam with a Jihadist doctrine that calls for wars and destruction.

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Prof. Abdelkader Zerougui is an adjunct professor of sociology at American University in Washington DC, where he received his MA and PhD in sociology. Prof. Zerougui’s writings have appeared on many respected media including the Washington Times and The Seoul Times.






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