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World Citizens Call for Renewed Efforts for a Mali Federation

In Africa, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on April 29, 2012 at 10:10 PM







In an April 29, 2012 message to H. E. Mr. Ramtane Lamamra, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, Prof. René Wadlow, President of the Association of World Citizens, called upon the African Union to facilitate the creation of a federation of north and south Mali rather than having the country split into two independent states with unresolved frontier issues.

President Wadlow highlighted the recent meeting of representatives of the 15-member Economic Organization of West African States (ECOWAS) on April 26-27 in Abidjan which set a 12-month deadline for a transition period in Mali after the March 22coup of military officers led by Captain Amadou Sanogo. In response to strong, negative reactions by the international community, on April 7 there was a return to a civilian transitional government. However, the northern half of the country is now controlled by two rival Tuareg groups, the Mouvement national de libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) and the Ansar Dine. The MNLA has declared the northern half to be the independent state of Azawad.

“12 months should be long enough to work out a new constitution which maintains the unity of the country while at the same time providing the needed autonomy to the north and a preservation of the Tuareg way of life.” World Citizens believe in cooperation and in finding solutions based on respect for the positions and values of all the parties in the conflict.

“The Association of World Citizens believes that the Commission for Peace and Security of the African Union is well placed to help in drafting such a new federal constitution, especially as the Commissioner is a former Ambassador of Algeria to the United Nations. In the past, Algeria has played a mediation role between the Tuareg who also inhabit south Algeria and the governments of Mali and Niger where there are larger Tuareg communities.”

The declaration of the independence of north Mali by the MNLA is the first time such a formal proclamation has been made, although the independence of Azawad has always been among the Tuareg demands. Thus, it may be difficult for the Tuareg leadership, now in a position of force, to return simply to promises of greater autonomy within a unified Mali. A federation with clear divisions of authority could be a measure acceptable to both the MNLA and the government in Bamako.

“A crisis is a time for creative efforts. The Association of World Citizens is prepared to be of help with expertise in federal-confederal forms of government in this process.

“A transition period of 12 months may seem like a long time, but given the deep divisions of attitudes among leaders of north and south Mali, the sooner such efforts get underway the better. Support for the goal of a Mali federation on the part of the African Union’s Commission for Peace and Security could be an important part of creating a positive atmosphere in which such constitution drafting could be carried out.”

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A New Mali Federation?

In Africa, Anticolonialism, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on April 21, 2012 at 9:55 PM


By René Wadlow


Since the fall of northern Mali to the forces of the Tuareg at the end of March 2012, the situation has grown in complexity. The group of young officers, more or less led by Captain Amadou Sanogo, had taken control of the government buildings of the Central Government in Bamako on March 23, but they had little idea of what else to do.

There was an immediate counter-reaction on the part of Western States such as France and the USA who provide most of the financial and technical assistance to Mali. Both France and the USA cut their aid to Mali—a country currently facing a severe drought and food shortages.  Likewise, the 15 states of the Economic Organization of West African States (ECOWAS) called for a speedy return to the civilian government. Captain Sanogo saw the “handwriting on the wall” and agreed to turn over the government to the President of the National Assembly who is the constitutional replacement when the President is absent.

In the meantime, the country is divided into two roughly equal areas—a north with the Tuareg holding the two major cities of Timbuktu and Gao, and the more populated south whose population provides most of the civil service, the army and the agricultural wealth of the country.

The Tuareg along with various armed groups probably from Mauritania, south Algeria and fighters who had been recruited for Libya are divided on what strategy to follow. There are two broad options. The largest group, Mouvement national de libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) wants an independent state of northern Mali (and probably part of the Tuareg-inhabited Niger) to be called Azawad. The second faction, called Ansar Dine, is smaller but is more heavily armed and contains the bulk of armed foreigners. Their stated aim is to take control of all of Mali and to install Islamic law.

Tuareg rebels near the Sahara desert

Both options have difficulties. Northern Mali as an independent state of Azawad has no natural resources, a small population and few educated people to administer a state or to develop any economy beyond that of camel nomadism. In addition, most African states are opposed to carving up existing states or changing frontiers—a Pandora’s box as many states could be redrawn on ethnic lines and frontiers changed. Thus “territorial integrity” is an article of faith.

Ansar Dine’s option of an Islamist Mali is also difficult to realize. The Bambara and the Malinké are the largest groups in the country and hold economic, military, and political power. Ideologically, they are opposed to the Islamic vision of Ansar Dine, being more Sufi-influenced with a large measure of traditional African beliefs and practices mixed in.(1) Thus the possibility of Ansar Dine gaining support in the south of Mali is slight.  However, they may be able with force of arms to impose their views on Timbuktu and Gao but not on the northern countryside.  The Tuareg are not Islamist by tradition.  Yet in the two cities, the Ansar Dine may be able to force women to cover their hair, prevent the sale of wine and cut the hands of robbers—these three practices being the extent of their knowledge of Islamic law.

Faced with the difficulties of having a northern Malian state—Azawad—accepted by the power-holders of Mali and the neighboring states, there have been some discussions among Tuareg leaders and a former Malian government leader in Nouahchott, Mauritania. There have been no official statements coming from these talks, in part because both north and south Mali are in administrative disorder.  No one knows how much authority the persons involved have.  For the moment, it is probably at best “Track II” diplomacy, trying to see what are the aspirations, the limits of the acceptable, and the degree of the willingness to compromise. In the past France and Algeria have mediated disputes between the Tuareg and the central government of Mali. There have been past agreements on autonomy for the Tuareg.  However, these agreements have rarely held and more centralized government was slowly restored. I believe that this is due more to the incapacity of the Tuareg to provide trained people to run a decentralized administration than ill will or a desire of control on the part of the central government.

Yet, in the past, a “declaration of independence” for northern Mali was never proclaimed. Now that a powerful segment has declared the independence of Azawad, can they go “backward” and accept greater autonomy within a unified Mali?

Echoes from the current Nouachott talks have spoken of a “Federation of Mali”. The name has already been used. The Mali Federation with Senegal was achieved briefly on the eve of independence and lasted for 506 days from April 1, 1959 until August 19, 1960 when it fell apart during the conflict between the President of Senegal, L. S. Senghor and his Prime Minister Mamadou Dia, largely over the division of authority between the two posts.

Because of the way these events occurred, Mali was deprived of its principle outlet to the sea —Dakar, for three years.  Attempts to revive federalism between Mali, Guinea, and Ghana, two other states which had also chosen an anti-colonial “socialist” policy, proved futile.(2) Mali, which had been known as Soudan during the French colonial period, took the name Mali on the suggestion of President Senghor of Senegal from the 14th century empire which covered much of what is today Senegal, Mali and part of Niger.(3)

Can a new Mali Federation of the two sections of the current Mali work better than the earlier Federation of Mali?  With good will and imagination, federalist structures should be able to be worked out. Yet there are times when good will and imagination are in short supply.


Rene Wadlow is the President and Chief Representative to the United Nations, Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.


1) See the classic study: Germaine Dieterlen, Essai sur le religion Bambara (Paris,:Presses Universitaires de France,1951)

2) See: Ruth Schachter Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-speaking West Africa (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964)

William J. Foltz, From French West Africa to the Mali Federation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965)

3) Raymond Mauny, Tableau géographique de l’Ouest africain au Moyen Age (Dakar: IFAN, 1961)

World Citizens Call for Protection of Timbuktu, UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site and Center of Trans-Saharan Cultural History

In Africa, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Development, The Search for Peace, World Law on April 8, 2012 at 8:47 PM





By René Wadlow


In an April 8, 2012 Appeal to Irina Bokova, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), René Wadlow, President of the Association of World Citizens (AWC), welcomed UNESCO’s speedy effort to prevent damage to Timbuktu and called for negotiations between the Mouvement national de libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) and the Ansar Dine, a rival Tuareg group currently holding separate parts of the historic city.  The MNLA, led by its Secretary-General Bilal Ag Cherif, is the larger group and focuses on the creation of an independent state, Azawad, comprising northern Mali and possibly part of the Tuareg-inhabited area of northern Niger.

Ansar Dine, a smaller faction, is led by Ag Ghaley. It claims to want to create an Islamic state within all of Mali. Within or alongside Ansar Dine are Islamists from Algeria and Mauritania and probably other countries.  Some had been fighting in Libya and are heavily armed.  The aim of moving south toward non-Tuareg areas is, no doubt, unrealistic as Ansar Dine has no support in the more densely-populated south, inhabited by Bambara and Malenke ethnic groups. However, there could be an armed struggle for power between the MNLA and Ansar Dine in which the fragile, backed mud building of Timbuktu could be destroyed or badly damaged.

Timbuktu, a jewel of African culture and history, stands proud and tall in the desert sands of Mali.

While Timbuktu was once a metaphor for the middle of nowhere, it was an important city for the trans-Sahara trade from about 800 until 1591 when Moroccan troops destroyed the then Songhai Empire of Mali and Portugal and others developed a sea-going trade that largely replaced the trans-Sahara trade. (1). During the time that trade flourished, scholars and religious preachers were attracted to Timbuktu and Gao, the other trans-Sahara “port” and learning was highly developed.

The protection of Timbuktu’s cultural wealth may depend a good deal on the role of non-governmental organizations to facilitate negotiations between the MNLA the Ansar Dine and possible other armed groups. For the moment, the political situation in Mali is confused, and the protection of cultural sites in Timbuktu must not rank very high on the list of priorities.

From March 22 until April 6, 2012, a military group of young officers had taken control of government buildings in Bamako claiming that the government of President Amadou Touré was incompetent in the struggle against the Tuareg.  The coup was more or less led by Captain Amadou Sanogo, who had been trained by the United States (U. S.) Marine Corps, but Sanogo was probably acting on his own and not on behalf of the U. S. Marines.  The negative reaction to the coup was speedy.  Led by France, the former colonial power, the United Nations Security Council decided on April 4 to issue a President’s Statement (less strong than a resolution but on which all states must be in agreement) calling for a restoration of the civilian government.  It is not likely that the civilian-led government of President Touré will be restored.  Touré was himself a former general who had come to power in a coup, then governed in a fairly democratic way but without making many socio-economic advances.  The country now faces a food crisis due in part to drought and in part to the lack of improvements in the agricultural production and distribution system.

While the UN Security Council was meeting, the 15-member Economic Organization of West African States (ECOWAS) also met, calling for a return to a civilian government and closing the frontiers.  During the ECOWAS meeting, it was decided to activate the Anti-Terrorism Centre which is located at Tamanarasset in south Algeria and to place some 2000 soldiers on alert. Captain Amadou Sanogo saw the “handwriting on the wall” and agreed to turn over the government to the President of the National Assembly who is the constitutional replacement when the President is absent.

President Amadou Touré of Mali (left) and his rival, Captain Amadou Sanogo of the Mali military (right).

The states in the UN Security Council and in ECOWAS refused to recognize the creation of the Tuareg state of Azawad, so it is unlikely that they will provide any mediators to negotiate between MNLA and Ansar Dime or to facilitate the protection of historic sites. There is on the part of many governments a dislike of carving up existing countries in order to create new states. It took fighting from 1982 to 2005 for there to be an agreement to create the new state of South Sudan and for other African states to agree to the division.

The military in Bamako do not seem organized or willing to die to retake northern Mali, especially since most of the Mali military are from the Bambara ethnic group with little attachment to northern Mali in any case.

Much of the initiative for the protection of educational and cultural institutions has come from the NGO world and world-mined artists. Early efforts were undertaken by Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) a Russian and world citizen.  Nicholas Roerich had lived through the First World War and the Russian Revolution and saw how armed conflict can destroy works of art and cultural institutions.  For Roerich, such institutions were irreplaceable and their destruction was a loss for all humanity.  Thus, he worked for the protection of works of art and institutions of culture in times of armed conflict. He envisaged a universally-accepted symbol that could be placed on educational institutions in the way that a red cross had become a widely-recognized symbol to protect medical institutions and medical workers.  Roerich proposed a “Banner of Peace” — three red circles representing the past, present, and future — that could be placed upon institutions and sites of culture and education to protect them in times of conflict.

Roerich mobilized artists and intellectuals in the 1920s for the establishment of this Banner of Peace.  Henry A. Wallace, the US Secretary of Agriculture and later Vice-President was an admirer of Roerich and helped to have an official treaty introducing the Banner of Peace — the Roerich Peace Pact — signed at the White House on April 15, 1935 by 21 States in a Pan-American Union ceremony. At the signing, Henry Wallace on behalf of the USA said “At no time has such an ideal been more needed. It is high time for the idealists who make the reality of tomorrow, to rally around such a symbol of beauty, science, education which runs across all national boundaries to strengthen all that we hold dear in our particular governments and customs. Its acceptance signifies the approach of a time when those who truly love their own nation will appreciate in addition the unique contribution of other nations and also do reverence to that common spiritual enterprise which draws together in one fellowship all artists, scientists, educators and truly religious of whatever faith.”

Nicolas Roerich (1874-1947), the man who opened the drive to make protection of works of art a full-fledged part of the law of armed conflict.

After the Second World War, UNESCO has continued the effort, and there have been additional conventions on the protection of cultural and educational bodies in times of conflict.  The most important is the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The spirit of the Hague Convention is clear and the protection of cultural and educational institutions should be a priority in conflicts among States or in civil wars even if no State recognizes Azawad.

Therefore we, as World Citizens, all have a duty to articulate more clearly the crucial link among human rights standards, humanitarian law, and world law to protect educational and cultural institutions in times of conflict.  As Nicholas Roerich said in a presentation of his Pact “The world is striving toward peace in many ways, and everyone realizes in his heart that this constructive work is a true prophesy of the New Era.  We deplore the loss of libraries of Louvain and Oviedo and the irreplaceable beauty of the Cathedral of Rheims.  We remember the beautiful treasures of private collections which were lost during world calamities.  But we do not want to inscribe on these deeds any words of hatred. Let us simply say: Destroyed by human ignorance — rebuilt by human hope.

In 1914, a shell explosion at the Cathedral of Rheims in the early times of World War I.
Almost a century later, can the world possibly let Timbuktu become a "casualty of war" too?


René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.


(1)   See  Raymond Mauny Tableau géographique de l’Ouest africain au Moyen Age (Dakar, IFAN, 1961, 587 pp.)

In English : Horace Miner, The primitive city of Timbuctoo (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953, 297pp.)

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