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Mujahideen flock to Mali

By Jemal Oumar and Raby Ould Idoumou for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 25/10/12

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As Mali braces for military intervention, growing popular discontent over Islamist governance is expanding well beyond the embattled country's borders.

Foreign fighters have begun arriving in Mali, but these are not the long-awaited African military forces come to liberate the country from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the MUJAO and Ansar al-Din.

"Hundreds of jihadists, mostly Sudanese and Sahrawis, have arrived as reinforcements to face an offensive by Malian forces and their allies," AFP quoted a Malian security source as saying on Tuesday (October 22nd).

"They are armed and explained that they had come to help their Muslim brothers against the infidels," a Timbuktu resident said.

Sanad Ould Bouamama, official spokesperson for Ansar al-Din, says, "The arrival of hundreds of young mujahideen from different areas across the Islamic world to support us in our war against the infidels and crusaders is not strange or surprising."

"The same thing happened in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, Somalia and Iraq," the Ansar al-Din official tells Magharebia.

Ould Bouamama adds, "The war that the world is planning to wage against us is a war against Islam and all that is related to Islam. Its goal is to combat God's Sharia, and therefore, all mujahideen have to stand by our side."

Abdelhamid al-Ansari, an analyst specialising in terrorism, recognises "the same scenario that the world lived in Afghanistan before the fall of Taliban, and in Baghdad before the fall of Saddam's regime".

"In Afghanistan, mujahideen from different nationalities flocked to the country in search of death for what they believed to be a sacred goal, while in Iraq, Arab nationalists were looking for lost Arab glory, which they believed was represented by Saddam Hussein," he says.

Mali is now seeing the same influx of disaffected youth "from countries suffering from poverty, marginalisation and wars", al-Ansari adds.

Malian citizens are struggling to come to terms with their new leaders.

In an effort to curry favour with the locals, the Islamists removed taxes on many basic goods, fixed some food prices, looted stores and World Food Programme warehouses to resell the merchandise at low prices, and began providing free public utility services, the UN news agency reported on October 18th.

"There are no electricity or water bills… Before, I paid 15,000 and 8,000 CFA monthly (23 euros and 12 euros) for my electricity and water but that’s now free," said Issa Mahamar, a French teacher in Gao.

The Islamists also offer enlistment bonuses and monthly stipends to families of child soldiers.

"They are buying loyalty. They have tremendous resources to buy loyalty because they are now having kickbacks from narco-traffickers in the region," UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovic said in New York on October 10th."There is also substantial ransom money that is being controlled by them."

"The overwhelming majority of people in the north are not supportive of the rebels and dislike what is happening," the UN official said. "Children can't play soccer."

Mali is not the only country where the population is questioning the efficacy of Islamists.

According to Maghreb analysts, Islamist parties that came to power through the Arab Spring are suffering from a crisis of confidence and may lose the next electoral event.

Two years have passed since the start of the Arab spring revolutions. Still, the Islamists' ability to manage the countries that embraced their movements is tenuous at best.

"It was natural that Islamist parties and groups in the Arab world benefit from the Arab Spring," Mauritanian political analyst and taqadoumy.com director Hanafi Ould Dehah tells Magharebia. "This includes Maghreb countries where they rose to political stardom and dominated the electoral scene in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and now lead the government in Morocco."

"Many factors contributed to their success, including an emotional, religious discourse in the face of systems that can only be described as secular extremist," he says. "This is what made the collective mind in these countries see in the election of Islamists a definitive break with the governing style that had prevailed."

Ould Dehah adds that upon reaching power, "Islamic leaning regimes failed to fulfil the aspirations of the voters."

"There are definitely problems that have arisen under this kind of rule," he adds. "These problems include women's freedom - no sooner had the Libyan Revolution succeeded than it legalised polygamy - and freedom of personal activities."

He also points out that tourism has suffered under Islamist governance. "Security deteriorated as well as freedoms, and the creativity of authors, writers and directors was stifled. Development regressed too, and prison torture made a comeback. Dreams were broken as well. Hence, a setback is expected for Islamists in the first round of votes to come in, given that they killed the dreams of their constituents," the journalist adds.

In Tunisia, a video circulating on social networks and attributed to Islamist leader Rachid Ghannouchi, head of the Ennahda party, is causing a substantial debate. Ghannouchi is talking about the movement's future plans for security forces, the army and the administration.

Algerian secularists are also turning on Islamists. This could portend further political strife in a country that needs stability more than ever in light of tense regional conditions.

In Morocco, now that the government of Abdelilah Benkirane is close to blowing out its first candle, there is a slowdown in economic growth. Meanwhile, the Economic and Social Council warns, "Social deficits and slowness in containing these deficits might negatively affect social cohesion."

In Libya, it is clear that the Islamists are trying to be more open by co-operating with the liberals, but this relationship is risky because of the basis upon which it was built.

"The agreement that took place between these parties was a need dictated by the current situation, since everyone fears a constitutional vacuum," press analyst Said Farhat wrote in Al-Ahram newspaper.

Mauritanian journalist and researcher Abul Abbas Aberham argues, "It is too early to judge the Islamists' experience in the Maghreb, but we can make some quick observations such as: the promised break with the previous regimes did not occur, and the process of democratic transition that brought Islamic governance derived not from the modern national state, but from state favouritism."

Terrorism analyst Hamadi Ould Dah sees "a real crisis experienced by the Islamic movements that benefited from the Arab Spring revolutions and are turning stricter by the day".

"The rapid pace of events, and the evidence of political indicators, reveals the contradictory discourse of political Islam," Ould Dah continues. "If we look at the slogans of the application of Sharia, from a narrow standpoint referred to for almost half a century, they are against tourism, art, freedom of expression, and freedom of women."

"At the same time for economic reasons, these religious movements cannot apply these positions on the ground because they contradict world trade, globalisation and political openness," Ould Dah adds.

What do you think of this article?


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  1. Anonymous thumb

    Imran 2013-1-14

    i will say "dogs are barking and carwan is moving".......go and fight for sharia and islam


  2. Anonymous thumb

    عبد الرؤوف 2013-1-14

    You are attacking people who want to implement the sharia of God. You consider it normal that a force made up of disbelievers comes and crushes your Muslim brothers in Mali. God is sufficient for me and He is the best disposer of affairs against such people! O Lord support your men in Mali!


  3. Anonymous thumb

    محمد الهاشمى 2013-1-12

    I can say to inhibitors that the intervention of the West and France in particular is considered a continuation of the series of attacks against Islam since the fall of Andalusia, the discovery of the the Americas, the occupation of Egypt, Africa and the beginning of its christian missionaries. All this is meant to fight your true religion which will spread all over the world, God willing! Go to Jihad O believers!


  4. Anonymous thumb

    papa 2012-12-14

    Because of the sabotage of secular economies and the secret economic war.


  5. Anonymous thumb

    محمد ليبيا 2012-11-10

    I don't know which Islam they are talking about! Is it Taliban rule with Islam and at the same time dealing in drugs? Is it Saddam who killed 3 million Iraqis and Iranians, and displaced Iraqis? I don't know why Arab young people go to die in the desert of Mali and say they are martyrs. By God, I say they will be in the fire of hell which is the worst fate. So they should let these millions of poor people live in their country and these criminals who claim to be mujaheddin should go away.


  6. Anonymous thumb

    Mohamed EL BAKI 2012-11-10

    Always jihad. Always the jihadists here and there. Killing, damaging, breaking and burning people’s property—Is this jihad? Killing, wounding and robbing people—is that jihad? Razing and destroying tombs, mausoleums, mosques and even marabouts—is that jihad? In my opinion, it’s just a name. Using religion and religious dogma for one’s own ideology in order to get revenge or satisfy some government is simply blind totalitarianism like in so many other countries. Islam, true Islam, is far from all of this and from all these people. True jihad means being in the service of the citizens, men and women, without wanting anything in return. True jihad is teaching, educating and training people in order to give men and women dignified and honest work. True jihad is building hospitals and dispensaries. True jihad is building wells, fighting against desertification and natural catastrophes. Yes, this is true jihad!


  7. Anonymous thumb

    زهرة 2012-11-2

    Have these Islamic movements succeeded socially, economically, commercially and even religiously? My reply is no. Quite the opposite. They have led to the total destruction of infrastructures. Look at Afghanistan, Somalia and even Sudan which was divided in two. As for Algeria, it has been suffering for over two decades. Now it is in the period of convalescence. God willing, it will recover soon. Algeria is internally strong and this is why it was not affected economically. As for Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan, they were totally destroyed. So what do you expect from the states of the Arab Spring? As the Tunisian proverb says “From his breakfast you can imagine his dinner!” These countries rose up against injustice, oppression, unemployment and marginalization. They didn’t rise up against Islam or against our master Mohamed, peace and blessings of God be upon him. We are Muslims and we are proud of this. As for those who allege any new Islam which we didn’t know, we don’t think there was a message after the prophet Mohamed, peace and blessings of God be upon him. The religion of these people is violence, oppression, torture and intimidation. However, our religion disavows this. Therefore, may God protect us from them and their evil!


  8. Anonymous thumb

    Tariq 2012-10-31

    A very pertinent point has been made in the article. The time for criticising the corrupt western supported leaders in the Maghreb is over. It is time to deliver good policies and governance in the countries which experienced the Arab spring. That they wont be able to deliver is a strong likelihood. This can become the focal point of the counter narrative of the moderates. Given the powerful social media it would not be easy for the radical Islamists to hide their failure.Till that happens let us keep our fingers crossed. But, we need to be vigilant about what is happening in these countries and document all significant developments for the long term countering of the violent extremists of Islam.


  9. Anonymous thumb

    Moudjahid el watan ... 2012-10-29

    They are anything but mujaheddins. They are druggies, criminals, gangsters, mercenaries, legionnaires, scoundrels and misogynistic perverts, but definitely not mujaheddins. The confusion of the terminology is an extension of the shady and morbid manoeuvres of the hegemonists, who employ these degenerates, who dare to invoke God! They are rotten to the core, I tell you!!!