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French invasion in Mali – 2013

Known by many, the Mali Empire was at it’s height in power and glory in Islam during the 14th century under the great Islamic ruler, Mansa Musa. Once the economic “global power” and one of the intellectual capitals of the world, Mali became a french colony in 1892. Even though they gained independence from France in 1960, it was in 1991 that a constitution and the establishment of Mali as a democratic, multi-party state emerged. In March 2012, mutinous soldiers in Bamako, the capital, rose up in a coup, overthrowing the elected government of President Amadou Toumani Touré.

The soldiers were angry over the government’s mishandling of a rebellion by nomadic Tuareg rebels in the country’s vast northern desert. But shortly after the coup, the Tuareg rebels first seized much of the north and then were themselves pushed out by what Western media calls “Islamists” (for lack of a better word).

I suppose the “Islamists” are supposed to be like the Taalibaan. I’m not sure how to describe them as Western media gives their own version of Islamist as terrorist or extremist. Oh and “linked to al-Qaeda”, that has to be thrown in by the West for some added panic. Our stance as Muslims is the sunnah of Nabi Muhammad (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) which is peace and inviting to Islam first before war. However what do you do when a foreign nation invades your country? You are going to protect it I’m sure. The main concern during invasions is as the concern of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) was- women and children, innocent civilians. If and I say “if” because I don’t always believe everything I read- If these “Islamist terrorists” as they are called are indeed causing harm to their people, then we pray that Allah remove them and replace them with better leaders. And by better, I don’t mean the French.

French invasion_Mali map

France began its intervention in Mali around the 10th January 2013 because of the rebel takeover of the town north of the capital, Bamako. Why did they invade Mali? According to France, there were worries around the world about the creation of a potential safe haven for terrorists. Again I think terrorist is becoming synonymous with Islamist. What is the difference between an Islamist and a Muslim? I can tell you that I am certainly NO terrorist but I shudder to think what Muslims should be called by the West. According to Web definitions, an Islamist is a scholar who is knowledgeable in Islamic studies.
[wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn] I don’t think every Malian opposing the French invasion is a scholar in Islamic studies, but then that is what the Western media calls people who are Muslim; show that they are Muslim and fight back. It is obvious that France would have concern about Mali coming under Islamic rule. I mean for the French it is a step backward from “democracy” and freedom of religion. This coming from a country who banned the head-scarf.

Back to the reason of France’s invasion… With Mali’s military reluctant to act, France began a military intervention in January 2013. After a round of air strikes failed to dislodge the rebels, the French military deployed ground troops and prepared for what it said could be a lengthy effort to retake the country’s north from the “Islamists” or opposition as I would rather call them.

18 January 2013
Earlier this week, French officials denied a claim by the Malian army that the government had regained Konna. Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency says it fears the fighting could force 700,000 people from their homes. Some 150,000 people have already gone to neighbouring countries. Reuters news agency quotes the UNHCR as saying that 400,000 more could flee Mali, with a further 300,000 displaced within the country.
The first 100 troops of an African force landed in the capital, Bamako on Thursday evening.

The soldiers from Togo and Nigeria are part of a long-planned West African force that will join the French and Malian armies in fighting the Islamist insurgents who took over northern Mali last year.
Nigeria says it will increase its forces to 1,200.
On Thursday, France said it was increasing its troop strength to 1,400 after intervening initially with air strikes to try to halt a rapid advance by the Islamic opposition.
Correspondents say a strong French contingent is at Segou, north-east of Bamako, to guard a major bridge across the Niger river, which the rebels would have to cross to threaten the capital.

In total, 3,300 regional troops will be deployed in the conflict under a UN Security Council resolution.
Defence sources say France is likely to boost its troop numbers to 2,500.
Nigeria will lead the West African force, with Chad, Benin, Ghana, Niger, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Togo also sending soldiers.

Chad is expected to send 2,000 troops; Nigeria will send 1,200 troops; Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger and Togo is expected to send 500 each, and Benin 300. UK is providing two C17 cargo planes for French effort. Belgium and Denmark are also sending transport planes and the US will provide communications help. [BBC World News]

A convoy of refugees arrived in Fassala, Mauritania, on Wednesday, 16 January 2013. There were over one thousand people in Wednesday’s procession, joining the more than 90,000 who have already fled Mali through this mud-brick village, the closest haven to the armed free-fall on the other side. [New York Times]. New arrivals are registered at the Fassala centre before being taken to Mbera camp, which is hosting more than 54,000 refugees from previous displacements last year. There are also an estimated 144,500 Malian refugees in the region, including 54,000 in Mauritania, 50,000 in Niger, 38,800 in Burkina Faso and 1,500 in Algeria. Small groups are also in Guinea and Togo. [UNHCR]

Malian refugees at the Mali-Niger border.UNHCR

Many of the IDPs (internally displaced people) in Mali have sought shelter in urban areas like Bamako, but life is tough. Like many IDPs, 40-year-old Oulamine is struggling to make ends meet. He fled from the Timbuktu region several weeks ago with his wife and three children and reached the town of Mpoti after travelling for 10 days by canoe on the Niger River. They then rented a car to reach Bamako. He pays the equivalent of US$60 a month to rent a room in the capital and says, “I will not be able to afford this for long.” He also has to pay for electricity while the family has no access to running water. “Medicine and food for the family is also expensive,” he said. [UNHCR]

May Allah bring relief to the people of Mali and ease their suffering and so many displaced people all over the world- Muslim and non-Muslim alike. We pray for peace and for Muslims around the world to follow the sunnah in it’s entirety. This will prevent extremism which destroys any good done. Peace before war, prayer and self-introspection before judging others and love. Lets spread this to be who we are, ambassadors of this beautiful way of life- Islam, because all the world sees is ugliness. Yaa Rabb grant us the beautiful character of Your Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam).

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