Back to Africa
- Posted by Robert Sinn
- on July 14th, 2012
The situation in Mali has grown more concerning to outside observers over the last few months. The entire northern part of the country is now in the hands of Islamist fighters who recently defeated the Tuareg rebels (MNLA). It is worth remembering that the recent turmoil in Mali really began when heavily armed Tuareg fighters who had fought alongside Ghadafi forces returned from Libya and set out to free their tribal regions from Malian government forces. The Tuareg fighters succeeded in quickly achieving their goals as they sent the government forces into full retreat to the south, however, the Islamists (including an Al-Qaeda splinter group) have since won several battles against the Tuaregs and seized control of much of the region.
The Islamist victories have caused alarm throughout many African capitals and western governments, with some calling Mali “the next Somalia”. ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) has stated that it will send 3,000-5,000 troops to intervene in Mali over the coming days – a quote from Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS Director for External Relations:
“The problem is that we are going to have to engage in urban warfare because they have occupied the major centres of northern cities, they are not wearing uniforms, it is going to be very difficult to separate them from the locals.”
Expect this to not end well and for the ECOWAS troops to take heavy casualties before retreating. In fact, French President Hollande is already setting the stage for Western intervention in Mali:
“In the north of Mali there is organized terrorism……..(a group that) wants to engage in terrorism not only locally but on the African and possibly European level,”
Mali is a former French Colony and France has business interests (agriculture, mining, etc.) in the southern part (government controlled) of the country. Remember that France was the key catalyst in the western intervention in Libya, however, Libya was a much different situation: It was filled with hard targets that could be hit from air strikes and most importantly there was a highly motivated well numbered opposition force on the ground. Mali has none of the above and any western intervention will be messy and the results unclear. Simply put, expect to hear a lot more about Mali over the coming weeks as nobody wants to see another Somalia emerge in the heart of Africa near already tenuous situations in Algeria, Egypt, and Libya.
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Robert Sinn is a professional trader and market analyst who focuses on multiple asset classes including equities, futures, options and currencies. He integrates fundamental and technical analysis. More »