Mali is my favorite soap opera

The tallest building in Mali (all of 20 storeys), seen here alongside the river Niger.
The tallest building in Mali (all of 20 storeys), seen here alongside the river Niger.

(I apologize beforehand for failing to make the narrative roll off the reader’s tongue)

Mali, a land-locked country in West Africa, got independence from the French in 1960. There followed military coups- hallmark of an African state- and consequent undermining of the military by the suspicious rulers. It was their way of getting rid of the Damocles sword, if you may. This paranoia and basic incompetence engendered a weakly trained and weakly equipped military susceptible to the smallest of threats.

The Tuaregs had always wanted to secede from Mali. They had made bids in the past but at at no time in the past were they as armed as when they had returned from Libya. The West in its eagerness to topple Qaddafi had flooded the entire region with weapons and the Tuaregs happened to pick up a few. With the army being as incompetent as it was, the Tuaregs barely broke a sweat in capturing their desired region of Azawad. With their desired region in their grasp, they called halt on their offensive. The Tuaregs were unwittingly aided by the military which during the moment of crisis, blamed the government for failing to deal with the Tuareg rebellion and went on to orchestrate the latest coup! On the one hand, we had the rebels capturing territory and on the other, the military, unable to stop the rebels, turned against the government, which was both a less formidable opposition and a handy face saving scapegoat.

With the military and the government knocking each other out, the Tuaregs could have brought out the celebratory champagne, if they were into such a thing- but no sooner had they accomplished their target, they were overrun by the Islamists. The local Islamist group, Ansar Dine, joined hands with Islamists from neighboring States, and their combined strength was too much for the Tuareg rebels who had to desert their victory spoils. The weapons of these Islamists were also sponsored by the anti-Qaddafi working group.

While the Tuaregs wanted to establish a separate country, Ansar Dine wanted an Islamist Mali- one where there was no place for music and unveiled women. Also, while the Tuaregs were content with the Azawad region, the Islamists wanted the entire country and began to move towards the capital Bamako. ECOWAS and other multinational organisations which were earlier taking their own sweet time in helping Mali against the Tuareg rebellion, had to come up with a swift response, but being African 😛 and more importantly, with Nigeria, the dominant power of the region, being embroiled in its own war against another Islamist group, they couldn’t come up with a response. In walked France, the big daddy from the past. Other countries looked on in appreciation and cheered from the sidelines as France began a ground and air assault on the advancing Islamists. In a further interesting twist to the narrative, the original belligerents, the Tuaregs, have now shown an inclination for a political settlement with the government and also help in driving out the Islamist insurgents.

Not all countries were chuffed about France swooping in time and saving the day though. The Nigerians, for instance. Being the present big daddy, they naturally don’t like any developments which bring the former power to the fore. There have also been a couple of civil wars in the past, where Nigeria and France had supported opposing factions. So, it would be, to say the least, interesting to see these two countries working together.

In summary, we have a government under siege getting stabbed in the back, we have a victorious rebel group being unceremoniously overrun , we have an awkward collaboration between two countries, we have an aggressor turning into an ally, and most significantly, we have the West trying to undo its own doing. The Mujahideen, Christopher Stevens, and now Mali.

Replace the countries and the warring factions with gangsters and we’ll have a series several times more explosive than Boardwalk Empire! What surprise is it then when I call it my favorite soap.

ps: I fell in love with the series during the second episode when the victorious Tuaregs were unceremoniously vanquished.

Also, writing movie scripts based on world affairs seems like a good idea, no?

Further ps: Read about the fascinating Niger river.


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