Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Double shot of instability: Mali and Cote d’Ivoire

Who says West Africa can still be mildly instable?

Mali has mostly avoided the issues with Tuaregs that has recently plagued the government of Niger. That may be due to the government’s more conciliatory approach to the situation. Have things taken a decidedly worse turn?

From IRIN:

Citizens are divided on what should be the next steps following the latest round of violence between Tuareg rebels and Malian army officers, which has led to the kidnapping of up to 30 Malian soldiers and the deaths of three soldiers and five civilians in Mali’s northern Kidal region.

Fighting broke out on 20 March 18 km from the town of Tin-Zaouatene when rebels ambushed a government military supply convoy capturing soldiers and seizing as many as eight vehicles.

"We do not know what to do. When the shooting began between the rebels and the army, the entire population had to hide out at home,” said Amadou Koné a government official in Kidal.

He continued, “people stop trusting each other because they don’t know who is who. It is like being in Iraq or Palestine.”

The fighting came two weeks after the Northern Mali Tuareg Alliance for Change (ATNMC) released 22 military hostages from the nearby town of Kidal, 1,200 km from Bamako.

Recently, western Cote d’Ivoire has seemed to be the most lawless area of the country. The reasons are plentiful: The number of internally displaced persons habituating this area along with the large number of Liberian refugees who sought safety there; or, perhaps it’s the former Liberian soldiers living in that part of the country and continuing to look for work.

Again, IRIN:

Two towns in western Cote d’Ivoire have been shut off by two days of riots by disgruntled Ivorian soldiers.

Troops started rampaging through the town of Duékoué, 400 km north west of the commercial capital Abidjan, on the morning of 24 March, protesting the murder of a low-ranking soldier by robbers the night before, Commandant Vazoumana, a gendarme in Duékoué told IRIN.

“We have been unable to leave our houses,” Flora Gbazé, a civilian in Duékoué, said on 24 March. “Since the morning soldiers have been shooting in the air.” Later the same day riots broke out in nearby Guiglo, army sources in the town told IRIN.

According to a humanitarian source in the region, one civilian death has been confirmed by stray gunfire.

Rioting continued in Guiglo on 25 March, however in Duékoué the soldiers spent the day in negotiations with government officials, a humanitarian official familiar with the situation told IRIN.

The soldiers were demanding the resignation of the governor in the region, the source told IRIN.

“The signals coming from both the government and military leaders are not at all clear,” the source said, noting that Ivorian soldiers had been petitioning the regional authorities to improve their security arrangements for some weeks.

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