We find ourselves in the world of the twenty-first century. Time marches on, and while we may feel reluctant, we need to take some account of the events in the midst of the continent of Africa. We have seen freedom and human rights actions in Egypt, and Libya; now we cannot ignore brutality in Mali and points in the Sahara region.
Until March of 2012, the nation of Mali, in a most vital region of Northwestern Africa, was under the direction of President Toure, he having been elected in a democratic, tricameral government with modern judiciary and a supreme court; a government allied with the US and the UN. But President Toure was forced to deal with a nomadic people, the Tuaregs, who herd camels, and are descended from camel-raising Arabs going back at least 2000 years. The Tuareg women don’t wear veils, but the men do, in order to ward off evil spirits, and for protection against sun and sand in the harsh desert of the Sahara. The Tuaregs forcefully oppose terrorists, but have been in opposition to the legitimate government of Mali, claiming that that judicial system unjustly executes civilians.
In March and April of 2012, the Mali military deposed President Toure just prior to elections, saying he failed in his effort to subjugate the Tuaregs. The Taureg rebels took control of the north of Mali, and declared it independent. Meanwhile, the military established an interim government led by one president Dioncounda Traore. The details are interesting. At that point supporters of the legitimate government, which had gone into exile, stormed the presidential compound, where they beat interim president Traore into unconsciousness.
Chaos was the order of the day, and Islamic extremists swarmed in to enforce their interpretation of Sharia principles such as banning music, smoking and drinking, even watching televised sports events. They murdered women for unchaste conduct; they insisted all women be veiled. They cut off the hands of those accused of robbery.
The Tuaregs let it be known that they would gladly accept aide from France, Mali is a former French colony, for overcoming the barbarian extremists. The French brought in warplanes and troops in an effort to restore order.
Fighting in this regional war for control of Mali is now at a stage where Malian and French military forces seem to be prevailing. These forces have liberated the city of Gao; they have hunted down and beaten Islamic terrorists who had not fled as the military moved in. Extremist Islamic control is slipping; the capitals of Gao and Timbuktu have come under government authority. It is thought the extremists are also losing in the city of Kidal. ABC News reports:
France, the former colonial ruler, began sending in troops, helicopters and warplanes on Jan. 11 to turn the tide after the armed Islamists began encroaching on the south, toward the capital. French and Malian troops seized Gao during the weekend, welcomed by joyous crowds. They took Timbuktu on Monday. The Islamists gave up both cities and retreated into the desert.
Sources told reporters on Tuesday that the Malian military is in control in Timbuktu. They have met little resistance, but the towns will be more difficult to hold than they were to recapture. The French military released photos showing jubilant residents greeting the troops.
“The Malian military is in control of Timbuktu,” Modibo Traore, whom the legitimate military emplaced as interim president, announced on Tuesday morning. The freeing of Timbuktu sparked celebratsion by thousands of Timbuktu residents who had fled the strict and pitiless Islamic rule.
The rebels intentionally destroy historical documents and irreplaceable manuscripts, some of which date back to the 12th century and are considered as important as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The United States is working with Niger to set up a base for surveillance drones which will be used to collect intelligence and to monitor the movements of the Islamic extremists. They will not be designed for combat, simply surveillance. The US says it will not place troops in Mali, but has provided France with support, including transporting troops and refueling warplanes. One unnamed official notes that establishing a drone base will require infrastructure, security, and support.