Via Meadia points to a great background article in the blog, “Africa is a Country.” Their post is France in Mali: the End of the Fairytale. Lots of good info to help understand what is happening there.
Mr. Mead introduces the post’s author this way:
Gregory Mann, a West African historian, Columbia University professor, and reporter for the blog Africa Is A Country, has been covering Mali for some time now, and in his latest piece he gives us the informed perspective that is often missing in the accounts of mainstream reporters, who are only now scrambling to catch up to a complicated story:
The article explains the context of the fighting over the last week or so. A few highlights (for me at least):
In local context, the French intervention over the last week has been very strong. It stopped the advance on Sevare, which had the only long runway other than in Bamako which is capable of supporting resupply flights. The fighting from the Islamists shows a surprising level of training and capability.
The internal political dynamics are extremely complex.
The article also reminds us that the vast majority of people in Mali are Muslim. As someone who is not a part of that faith, I’m looking in from the outside to see one branch of that faith who is quite upset with another branch of that faith.
Mr. Mann criticizes
…some truly reprehensible protesters at the French embassy in London, who refuse to believe most Malians are Muslims and don’t need religious instruction from Salafists.
What word to use in describing the group in the north that is in the process of taking over the country? Mr. Mann says:
For lack of a better term, I use “Islamist” to refer to the alliance of AQMI, Ansar Dine, MUJAO, and other foreign movements. Other terms are inadequate (“terrorist”) or inaccurate. I reserve the terms rebels or insurgents for the host of anti-government forces, which includes the MNLA, a movement now at odds with its former allies Ansar Dine.
While watching developments in Mali, I’ve realized how little I know. You are obviously interested if you’ve read this far in the post. In that case, I’ll keep sharing my tiny but growing knowledge. Together, maybe we can get a clue.