Transition to Stability in Mali

mali French troops mobilizing across Mali

Timbuktu, 03/21/2013 – Yesterday, it was reported that another French soldier has died in the ongoing conflict in Mali. A suicide bomber strapped a vest of explosives to himself near a French military checkpoint in Timbuktu and, upon detonation of his device, killed one French soldier. This marks the fifth death of a French soldier since their direct involvement began on January 10th of this year, and will certainly give France further motivation to end the conflict in Mali as soon as possible.

The struggle began with a military coup that dislodged the democratic leadership that had controlled the country. The military claimed that they were not being supplied with enough equipment and arms to combat the Tuareg rebels. Since Mali gained its independence in 1960, the Tuareg have staged many rebellions in an attempt to create their own country called Azawad, in northern Mali. Ironically, when the military took control of the government, they did not have the power structure to continue the governance of the country, creating a power vacuum that the Tuareg quickly took advantage of. With the Malian military occupied with the south and keeping power there, the Tuareg finally seized control of many northern cities. However, being that their fighting force was not incredibly strong, they were taken out of power by al-Qaeda linked radical Islamist groups. Once these groups had established themselves in northern Mali, they governed the area with a very strict interpretation of Sharia (Islamic law) that has caused many humanitarian inquiries. Among the new restrictions were bans on music, drinking, and smoking. They had also begun to destroy historical landmarks, calling them idolatrous due to their strict interpretation of the Qur’an, creating outrage in many cultural organizations worldwide. Since the cities then came under direct rule of radical militants, floggings, public executions, public stoning,and amputations had become commonplace. They also cut off access to utilities in many of the cities that they occupied, compounding the humanitarian disaster.

International Response

This succession of events led to the involvement of the international community and France in particular. The day after the military had declared control of the country, France sent a military force into the region that consisted of 2,150 troops. The United States supplied intelligence, air support, and monetary assistance, as the threat of a new haven for al-Qaeda is in direct conflict with their foreign policy. Many other countries combined including China, India, Senegal, and many others combined to donate hundreds of millions of dollars to the cause, with the EU contributing around 67 million euros.

mali Malians in Timbuktu before the civil war

The mission to re-establish a stable government to all of Mali has been incredibly successful thus far, mainly due to the French military presence in the region. They successfully took back control of Timbuktu, Gao, and finally Kidal, all of which were massive strongholds for these radical Islamist militants, and thus sites of immense humanitarian abuses. Kidal was the last major city to be controlled by the militants, and was a huge step for the French initiative.

Potential U.N. Involvement Moving Forward

Marc Fonbaustier
Herve Ladsous (left) with Marc Fonbaustier (right)

Now that the bulk of the conflict is over, France looks to the UN to take over with the peacekeeping force that had been suggested earlier in the conflict once it was a more stable situation. U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous (pictured above with French diplomat Marc Fonbaustier) had said that the UN would deploy a peacekeeping force “at the appropriate time.” He continued “I think that the Security Council will be looking at a resolution in the next two or three weeks and then we will move ahead for full deployment.” The force (expected to number around 6,000 members) is expected to be in place well before the July 31st elections as the country looks to restore the democracy that had stood since 1992. Some Malians, however, are uneasy about the force, fearing that it will create a divide between the north and south like Sudan. The international community hopes that they will accept the resolution so that Mali does not fall into chaos like many other African countries have when the French soldiers inevitably leave, which may be sooner rather than later given the latest death of one of their own and the stir that it has caused.


Infrastructure Development Necessary in the Maghreb


March 14, 2013 – Two years and two months ago, the people of the Maghreb showed that they had had enough of the socio-economic conditions that were crippling the region. It began in Tunisia with their revolution, then spread like wildfire, igniting revolutions driven by hope of a secure political and economic landscape that would bring them out of the mess that their governments had created. Just over two years later, Tunisia is no longer at war, but the political and economic landscape is far from stable because nothing concrete has been done to ameliorate the collective situation of its people.

While the Tunisian politicians debate which party will have the most power, governmental structure, and whether or not they will officially be Islamic, the people who fought the revolution are being made to wait. Since the politicians are preoccupied creating the structure, it is up to the private sector to create the body that will occupy it when it is ready. Public works projects should be the first step in bringing Tunisia, and its revolutionary counterparts across the region, back to stability. It will supply jobs for civilians of all socio-economic situations, while providing immense benefits to the people and easing unrest.

“Preparing to welcome 200,000 people within three years, Kilamba has become one of the largest development projects in Africa…”

Since the economic situation in these areas is perilous, they may need to call upon foreign investors to aid them in accomplishing these projects. Pierre Falcone and Pierson Capital, an investment firm based in Chicago, funded the trans-maghreb highway in 2010. They have also taken the lead in the creation of an entire city called Kilamba outside of the capital of Luanda. By following this example of foreign direct investment, it will be much easier for these (and any recovering or developing country) to jumpstart their economies, and in politically charged areas like the Maghreb, appease the masses calling for progress. After two years of turmoil, if the population continues being denied any concrete progress, the government is liable to fall once more in favor of the chance that a new regime could provide it.

Although it may be up to private companies to take up the mantle, the governments of the Maghreb have significant pull over such corporations, as they have the ability to write policies that would make it more advantageous to build in their country than in others. If businesses see that building in North Africa is a good investment with favorable policies towards foreign investors, they are infinitely more likely to choose it as the location of their next project but it is up to the governments to choose the right path that will take their country out of the muck and towards a prosperous future.

Daunting Outlook for the AIDS Crisis in South Africa



Thursday, the Health Minister of South Africa announced that the number of people infected by AIDS, especially among young girls, is on the rise. The latest study shows that a shocking 28% of school-aged girls are currently infected with AIDS. The numbers among boys of the same age group is much lower, only 4%. This suggests that it is not the fault of young boys having unprotected sex, it is much older men. A disturbing trend has emerged, with young girls prostituting themselves to much older “sugar-daddies,” as health minister Motsoaledi called them. Not only is the age difference and prostituting of young girls alarming from a moral standpoint, it is also contributing to the spread of a debilitating virus.

Although South Africa has the strongest AIDS treatment program in the world, the demand (about 6 million of 50 million are infected) may prove too great to support. Since the financial crisis began in 2008, countries have focused more and more on stabilizing their own economies, and are contributing less to charitable causes. Notably, the United States, who provides around 500 million dollars in support each year is enduring budget cuts that will force them to cut that number in half by 2017. Thus far, the South African government has been able to provide services such as voluntary testing and awareness presentation, while encouraging condom distribution in schools. However, it remains unknown what programs will be cut when funds drop so significantly in the near future.

In spite of the difficult situation that they find themselves in, there is an encouraging side as well. Since these services are readily available, it appears that students are taking advantage of them. The low number of infected males suggests that they are using protection, which has been backed by a recent study showing that 80% of males in the area and age group are in fact using condoms on a regular basis.

The problem remains in the cultural numbness to the idea that older men sleeping with young girls is wrong. If that were to change, the AIDS crisis would be cut off at its source and save a generation of suffering. However, with rising costs and demand, the outlook is not encouraging. AIDS remains the most common cause of an early death in Africa, causing nearly 50% of all premature deaths. 20 Years ago, it was the 12th leading cause, but it has dramatically increased since then and continues to do so today. The organizations combating the virus will have to bolster their resolve and find a way through the financial crisis and the falling contributions that it represents, but there is still hope for those affected by the pandemic.

Prime Minister Omer Beriziky declines invitation from Richard Branson

Beriziky at JNNBritish billionaire Richard Branson, owner and founder of Virgin Group, visited Madagascar last week to attend the first tourism fair organized by the National Tourism Office in Madagascar (ONTM), and to also work on a project to protect endangered lemurs. Although Branson enjoyed his time in the country, and even took an opportunity to play golf, he also had something else in mind. Branson wanted to open an air route between London and Antananarivo, and seek a lodge on the Big Island to come on Holiday.

To discuss these ambitious plans, Branson hoped to meet with Prime Minister Omer Beriziky during his stay. Before returning to London, Branson invited Beriziky to dinner; however, the Madagascan Prime Minister declined the invitation because he had planned a trip to Toamasina on June 9 to celebrate the 7th annual National Day of Nutrition (JNN), followed by a visit to Sambava on June 11 to meet with vanilla producers.

Beriziky’s priority to tour the provinces over meeting with Branson tells us a lot about his intentions to run in the upcoming presidential election, especially if Transition President Andry Rajoelina and his rival, former President Marc Ravalomanana, are prevented from running.

Source: Indian Ocean Newsletter
Photo Credit: Primature

President Andry Rajoelina and former Marc Ravalomanana: meeting after June 26, 2012

Pierrot RajaonariveloAnosy, June 12, 2012 — At a press briefing, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pierrot Rajaonarivelo (pictured on the left), gave journalists the following statement:

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Madagascar shall inform the public that the heads of state and government of the South African Development Community (SADC) met in a special session in Luanda (Republic of Angola) on June 1, 2012.

Addressing the Malagasy question, the Summit mandated the mediator of the SADC and Troika of the organization to facilitate the dialogue and urgently convene a meeting between Mr. Andry Rajoelina, President of the Transition, and Mr. Marc Ravalomanana, former President of the Republic. This meeting will ensure full implementation of the roadmap and create a climate conducive to holding elections, free and fair.

Taking note of this proposal from the SADC summit, the Government of the National Union had no objection to issuing such a meeting in a third country, after June 26, 2012. It is in fact desirable that everyone can prepare for this national holiday with some peace of mind.

Source: Andry Rajoelina Action
Photo Credit: MadaGate

Six soldiers shot dead by dahalo cattle thieves

People's Armed Forces in MadagascarSix soldiers were shot dead last week by a group of dahalo bandits in Madagascar’s Southeastern Anosy region.

After a series of cattle thefts occurred at gunpoint last month, where just about 1,000 oxen were stolen by over 400 dahalo bandits, initial measures were taken to capture the thieves.

Fifty armed military soldiers set off to dismantle the large criminal group in an attempt to reclaim the stolen cattle. During the pursuit, 19 of the soldiers were able to recover 106 cattle, while the other 31 soldiers continued their search for the perpetrators as they fled to the Befotaka region. Following after the bandits, the soldiers found themselves ambushed, with dahalo bandits open firing on the soldiers, spraying them repeatedly with heavy fire arms. Six soldiers were shot to death, with several others severely injured.

In response to the violent shootings, Transition President Andry Rajoelina took action by organizing one hundred more soldiers to return to Befotaka to break up the dangerous group of bandits, and continue recovering the remaining cattle.

Source: Third Report
Photo Credit: MadaGate

Euro 2012: Rajoelina pays for broadcasting in Madagascar

Euro-2012-MadagascarWith initially only 8 of the 32 Euro 2012 matches scheduled for national broadcasting, the predominant question circulating amongst many Malagasy football fans was, “why only 8?”

Recognizing Madagascar’s lively football culture, Madagascar’s Transition President Andry Rajoelina generously decided to pay, out of pocket, to have the remaining 24 matches from the Euro 2012 games broadcast throughout the country.

In spirit of Madagascar’s upcoming 52nd anniversary of independence (June 26), Rajoelina’s benevolent gesture demonstrates thoughtful consideration for his country. The games will air on TVM (Televiziona Malagasy) throughout this month (June 8-July 1), satisfying previous anxieties for Malagasy fans.

Source: MadaGate
Photo Credit: Andry Rajoelina