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Mali: A Golden Devolution


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December 2, 2022: Mali is slipping back to its corrupt and chaotic past. That condition led to a 2011 rebellion in the north which in turn led to a military coup in Mali and the military intervention of France to keep the north part of Mali. Without the French intervention in 2012, Mali would have lost its northern territories to a coalition of Islamic terror groups and their Tuareg allies.

What divides Mali more than anything else is ethnicity and geography. The dry (desert and semi-desert) north contains more than half of the territory but only about 12 percent of Mali's 20 million people. In the southern third of Mali, where 88 percent of the population lives, the population is quite different from the northerners. While most Malians are Moslem there are some sharp ethnic and tribal differences. The Tuareg are the majority in the north and are North African while over 80 percent of Malians are various black African tribes. Most Malians live south of the Niger River (the “Nile of West Africa'') in areas that are more prosperous because they have more water. The hostility between the army, which is almost entirely composed of black Africans from the south, and the Tuareg goes back over a thousand years. Before 2012 the rebellious Tuareg around Timbuktu tried something different and adopted Islamic terrorism as a promising tool to help their fight for autonomy or a separate Tuareg state. That has often failed in the past because the Tuareg have been unable to unite. Islamic radicalism has not solved that problem either.

This changed when the French arrived in the 19th century and over the next 68 years created (for administrative purposes) a united "Mali". The black Africans in the south (along the Niger River) prospered and generally ignored the Tuareg in the desert north. But after the French left in 1960, and Mali became independent, the more populous south was forced to deal with the Tuareg dominated north they now “owned” and were not willing to give up. This has not worked out well for either side.


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