Chapter 7: Mali – the second decade catalyst
Mali, with its population of just over 14 million, of whose population 90 per cent are Muslim and over 50 per cent are illiterate, has a fragile economy. The 10 per cent Tuareg minority have periodically created disturbances, in their campaign for recognition of their rights and even independence for the northern region (Azawad), with compromise peace agreements being brokered between the moderate Tuaregs and the government in 1991 and 2006, and the militant Tuaregs being finally defeated in 2008. Despite these factors, for a period of over 20 years Mali was a stable, even democratic, state in a region of unpredictability. However, during the period 2011–2012 this stability rapidly deteriorated. This was caused by a combination of the weakness of the political system and of security institutions, the pent up historical grievances in the north of the country, and the external factor of the regional impact of the Libyan conflict. In April 2011 unconfirmed reports indicated that many of the Tuareg minority of combat age had left to join the pro-Gadhafi forces in Libya. During and after the civil war, the Tuaregs, now better armed as a result of their combat experience in Libya, united their two movements, the Northern Mali Tuareg Movement and the National Azawad Movement, into the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). Open rebellion by the Tuaregs in the north of the country started in mid-December 2011. The rebellion brought forth another element, al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM had a long pedigree.
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