Stand-off in Northern Mali
An AJE Opinion about the struggles between the secular and Islamist strands within the Tuareg Independence movment and the ramifications of the post-Qadhafi fallout for Mali — Stand-off in Northern Mali: Two groups wage a bitter fight for control over the West African nation.
The stakes couldn’t be higher – both for Mali and West Africa as a whole. If the Islamists in Ansar ud-Dine and their quietly Machiavellian leader Iyad Ag Ghali fail to come to terms with the nationalist and secular NMLA, then the prospect is either a protracted civil war in the north or a rapid defeat of the NMLA by the better-equipped and better-funded Ansar ud-Dine and their allies in al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The wheeling and dealing between the two parties has revealed serious flaws in the political and military structures of the NMLA, flaws that Ag Ghali has exploited masterfully. That’s not surprising; he knows the arcane political mechanisms of the southern Sahara better than anyone else. The NMLA’s political wing in exile, based mainly in Nouakchott and Paris, is comprised of geopolitically savvy “internationalists”, with connections in the foreign ministries and governments of Europe and North America.
Blood ties tend to override ideological ones in Tuareg society. The NMLA’s leaders come predominantly from a distinct and rival tribe called the Idnane. The fight for supremacy between the Ifoghas and the Idnane in the Adagh, the name the Tuareg give to the far northeast of Mali, has been going on for a long time. For Iyad Ag Ghali and others like Alghabass Ag Intalla, son of the traditional Ifoghas chief Intalla Ag Attaher, the Ifoghas are the divinely ordained rulers of the region and no one has the right to try to usurp them. The NMLA’s struggle with Ansar ud-Dine is underpinned by a complex tribal conflict.