Last week in Mali, mid-level military officers led by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo declared themselves the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State (CNRDR) and deposed democratically-elected president Amadou Toumani Touré in a bloodless coup. Known as the “soldier of democracy” Touré had himself launched a coup in 1991 against the military regime of General Moussa Traoré. Touré, then stepped aside the following year, allowing elections to usher in two decades of multiparty democracy. Having retired from the military, Touré was elected president in 2002, and was due to step down next month at the end of his second term. Presidential elections scheduled for April 29 would have marked the third successful transition of power from one democratically elected Malian president to his successor, and the further consolidation of the country’s democracy. Yet the spillover from the fall of the Qadhafi regime in Libya gave elements of the armed forces a pretext to oust Touré from power.
Battle-hardened and heavily armed Tuaregs who had fought in the military of the late Muammar al-Qadhafi began to return to their countries of origin – Mali and Niger – in the summer and fall of 2011. For those well-versed in the conflict dynamics of the Sahel, it was only a matter of time before the impact of this Tuareg exodus would be felt in the region. In January 2012, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) began to launch attacks in Azawad, a region encompassing the administrative regions of Gao, Kidal, and Timbuktu. Despite having fought two previous Tuareg rebellions (1962-1964 and 1990-1995) since independence, the Malian armed forces were caught off balance. In just over two months, the MNLA seized several northern towns and killed an undisclosed number of Malian soldiers, leading to the perception among lower ranking officers that Mali’s civilian government has mishandled its response to the conflict.
Touré has not been seen in public since last week’s coup, and much remains uncertain about the CNRDR’s seizure of power. However, there are three takeaways that are immediately apparent:
- The coup appears more opportunistic than it does rational. By seizing power a little over a month before scheduled elections, the military junta has precluded an alternative civilian approach to fighting the conflict in the north.
- As there have been no expressions of support from the upper echelons of the Malian armed forces, the coup may be a setback in terms of the military’s cohesion and effectiveness at dealing with the Tuareg rebellion. This may allow the MNLA to capitalize on the current state of affairs, and could similarly create a security vacuum for Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to exploit.
- The rationale for the coup is in direct contradiction to the CNRDR’s stated objective to defeat the Tuareg insurgency and restore constitutional order. Due to the CNRDR’s unconstitutional actions, several countries and international organizations have suspended assistance to the Malian government until civilian rule is restored. Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. State Department suspended non-humanitarian assistance to Mali pending a resolution of events on the ground. According to Section 7008 of the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, the U.S. government restricts security assistance to the “government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.” Under this determination, it appears that Mali is now subject to Section 7008, making it illegal for the U.S. government to continue the International Military Education and Training (IMET) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) that Mali received, as well as Mali’s participation in the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP). Ironically, although the CNRDR claims to lack adequate arms and supplies to confront Tuareg rebels, they have disqualified Mali from receiving security assistance from the United States and other key partners – without which it may actually be more difficult to reverse the momentum of the MNLA. This is significant, because it means that Mali’s return to civilian rule may be prolonged, which prompts the question of how long the CNRDR will be able to stay in power before it must resort to the use of force in order to quell civilian discontent.
(Originally published in World Politics Review on March 12, 2012)
Since the spring of 2010, South Sudan has been facing an onslaught of militia activity in Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei states. For the most part, the government has pursued an “amnesty and integration” policy toward these militias, whereby members are offered amnesty for their past actions and integrated into the Southern People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the former rebel group that now comprises the majority of South Sudan’s official security forces. The notable exception to this approach was George Athor, the rebel general who arguably posed the greatest internal threat to the government. Having refused multiple government overtures to persuade him to return to the fold, Athor was killed in December by the SPLA. Last month, soldiers loyal to Athor signed a cease-fire with the government and agreed to integrate into the SPLA, marking the last of this type of militia movement to lay down its arms. Nonetheless, South Sudan’s struggle with militias may not be over.
During Sudan’s second civil war from 1983-2005, successive regimes in Khartoum used divide-and-rule tactics to weaken the SPLA by funneling arms, food and other supplies to the SPLA’s rivals in Southern Sudan. By the time the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in 2005, more than 50,000 men were members of up to 60 so-called Other Armed Groups, which included rivals to the SPLA such as the South Sudan Defence Forces. Notably, representatives from these groups were excluded from the North-South peace negotiations that culminated in the CPA. Recognizing the potential for these groups to become spoilers to the peace process, Salva Kiir, president of the then-autonomous region of Southern Sudan, issued the Juba Declaration in January 2006. The declaration initiated the government’s amnesty and integration policy, offering members of various Southern militias amnesty for all war-related activities in exchange for their loyalty to the government of Southern Sudan and integration into the SPLA. Though not all militia members chose to integrate into the SPLA, this policy provided a measure of stability in Southern Sudan between 2006 and 2010…
(You can find the rest on http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com or at http://www.cna.org)
(Originally published in the Journal of International Peace Operations, Volume 7, Number 5 – March-April 2012)
SINCE the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991, Kenya has opted to pursue a multilateral and primarily diplomatic approach to addressing the many problems in Somalia. Yet by the fall of 2011, the persistent instability emanating from Somalia had crossed Kenya’s threshold for large-scale military intervention. In October 2011, the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) commenced Operation Linda Nchi – a conventional invasion of southern Somalia. Kenya’s objective, according to a government spokesman, was to dismantle the al-Qaeda-affiliated Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen without maintaining a prolonged presence in Somalia. There has since been speculation that Kenya also seeks to disrupt al-Shabaab’s finances by expelling it from the port city of Kismayo, which is the group’s greatest source of revenue. Although Kenya has one of the most professional militaries in Africa, prior to Operation Linda Nchi the KDF’s only recent combat experience had been a byproduct of its involvement in African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations. As a result, the KDF had limited experience conducting joint expeditionary operations and virtually no experience fighting an unconventional adversary like al-Shabaab. With approximately 2,000 troops involved in this operation, Kenya joined the ranks of the UN, AU, United States, and Ethiopia – all of which have tried (and largely failed) to stabilize Somalia over the course of the past two decades. Together, Somalia’s long-standing challenges and the KDF’s limited combat experience prompt the question of whether Kenya might be the next country that fails to stabilize Somalia.