Subscribe to SIAWI content updates by Email
Home page > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > The `Mess in Mali’: The Logic of Unintended Consequences

The `Mess in Mali’: The Logic of Unintended Consequences

Sunday 15 April 2012, by siawi3

By Ramzy Baroud

Source : Toward Freedom, April 13, 2012

The intentional misreading of UN security council
resolution 1973 resulted in Nato’s predictably violent
Operation Odyssey in Libya last year.

Not only did the action cost many thousands of lives
and untold destruction, it also paved the way for
perpetual conflict - not only in Libya but throughout
north Africa.

Mali was the first major victim of Nato’s Libyan
intervention. It is now a staple in world news and
headlines such as "The mess in Mali" serve as a mere
reminder of a bigger "African mess."

On March 17 last year resolution 1973 resolved to
establish a no-fly zone over Libya.

On March 19, Nato’s bombers began scorching Libyan
land, supposedly to prevent a massacre of civilians.

The next day, an ad-hoc high-level African Union panel
on Libya met in Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania,
and made one last desperate call to bring Nato’s war to
an immediate halt.

It stated: "Our desire is that Libya’s unity and
territorial integrity be respected as well as the
rejection of any kind of foreign military

The African Union (AU) is seldom considered a viable
political player by the UN, Nato or any interventionist
Western power.

But AU members were fully aware that Nato was
unconcerned with human rights or the well-being of
African nations.

They also knew that instability in one African country
can lead to major instabilities throughout the region.

Various north African countries are glued together by a
delicate balance - due to the messy colonial legacy
inherited from colonial powers - and Mali is no

It is perhaps too early to talk about winners and
losers in the Mali fiasco, which was triggered on March
22 by a military coup led by army captain Amadou

The coup created political space for the Tuaregs’
National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA)
to declare independence in the north merely two weeks

The declaration was the culmination of quick military
victories by MNLA and its militant allies, which led to
the capture of Gao and other major towns.

These successive developments further emboldened
Islamic and other militant groups to seize cities
across the country and hold them hostage to their
ideological and other agendas.

Ansar al-Din, for example, had reportedly worked in
tandem with the MNLA, but declared a war "against
independence" and "for Islam" as soon as it secured its
control over Timbuktu.

More groups and more arms are now pouring through the
ever-porous borders with Mauritania, Algeria and Niger.

Al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad, along with al-Qaida in the
Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are now making their moves
across Mali.

New alliances are being formed and new emirates are
being declared, making Mali a potential stage for
numerous permanent conflicts.

Speaking to The Guardian, former UN regional envoy
Robert Fowler railed against Nato.

"Whatever the motivation of the principal Nato
belligerents [in ousting Gadaffi], the law of
unintended consequences is exacting a heavy toll in
Mali today and will continue to do so throughout the
Sahel as the vast store of Libyan weapons spreads
across this, one of the most unstable regions of the

Considering that the inevitability of post-Libya
destabilisation was obvious to so many from the start,
why the insistence on referencing a "law of unintended

Even "chaos" has its own logic. For several years, and
especially since the establishment of the United States
Africa Command (Africom) in 2008, much meddling has
taken place in various parts of Africa.

Writing in Foreign Policy magazine, Gregory Mann tried
to undermine the fact that Sanogo "had American
military training, and briefly affected a US Marine
Corps lapel pin."

He said that these details "are surely less important
than the stunning fact that a decade of American
investment in special forces training, co-operation
between Sahalien armies and the United States and
counter-terrorism programmes of all sorts run by both
the State Department and the Pentagon has, at best,
failed to prevent a new disaster in the desert and, at
worst, sowed its seeds."

The details are hardly "less important," considering
that Sanogo called for international military
intervention against the newly declared Tuareg
republic, referencing Afghanistan as a model.

True, regional African countries and international
institutions have strongly objected to both the
military coup in the capital Bamako and the declaration
of independence by the Tuaregs in the north, but that
may prove irrelevant after all.

The Azawad succession appears permanent and the US,
although it suspended part of the aid to Mali following
the junta’s takeover, has not severed all ties with

After all, he too claims to be fighting al-Qaida and
its allies.

It is difficult to believe that despite years of US-
French involvement in Mali and surrounding region, the
bedlam wasn’t predictable.

The US position regarding the coup was precarious.

"The Obama administration has not yet made a formal
decision as to whether a military coup has taken place
in Mali," wrote John Glaster in

According to US military definitions, this is still a
"mutiny, not a ’coup’" and US army personnel - referred
to as "advisory troops" - were in fact dispatched to
Bamako after March 22, according to Africom spokeswoman
Nicole Dalrymple.

What is clear is that the "mess in Mali" might be an
opportunity for another intervention, which mainstream
media sources are already rationalising.

A Washington Post editorial on April 5 counselled:
"Nato partners should perceive a moral obligation, as
well as a tangible national security interest, in
restoring Mali’s previous order. The West should not
allow its intervention in Libya to lead to the
destruction of democracy - and entrenchment of Islamic
militants - in a neighbouring state."

Unintended consequences? Hardly.

Ramzy Baroud ( is an author and
editor of His work has been
published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies
around the world. His is the author of The Second
Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s
Struggle (Pluto Press, London). His latest book is My
Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story
(Pluto Press, London).