Originally posted on Stand Your Ground on June 21st 2012
Since Ansar Dine and MNLA fighters took control over northern Mali, also known as Azawad, tensions between the two forces are rising. The basis for those tensions lie in the different objectives MNLA and Ansar Dine seek to achieve. MNLA fought for the liberation of Azawad and Ansar Dine wants to impose sharia law on the whole of Mali by taking control of as much area as possible.
When starting their operation, MNLA and Ansar Dine fought side by side against the government forces of Mali. But when the whole of Azawad was occupied in April and Timbuktu fell in the hands of Ansar Dine, both groups came into conflict with each other about who had the real power in the area. However, on May 25th, after weeks of negotiations, they merged their forces into the National Army of Azawad. The success of te merge is uncertain and recently forces of MNLA and Ansar Dine clashed.
This week some troops of MNLA and Ansar Dine ended up in a mêlee about a flag the MNLA troops had on their vehicle when they were on a road near Goundam. Ansar Dine troops, stationed at a check-point on the road, demanded that the MNLA fighters removed their flag since they only allow the black Islamic flag in their area. A fight broke out and one Ansar Dine and four MNLA fighters got injured. One MNLA member died of his injuries last Saturday.
It seems Ansar Dine is trying to take full control of the area and securing that control for the future by indoctrinating children living in the area. Ansar Dine builds schools and trains young Arab kids (the article states “white skinned”, I presume they mean lighter skinned than the average Malian and they probably mean Arabs), 7 – 12 years of age and make them dress like Islamic fighters, wearing traditional clothing, letting them move around the town in small groups.
Ansar Dine also took control of all the government buildings and has raised the black flag on all of them. They also use a truck they’ve confiscated from the town hall to burn documents and archives outside the town.
It seems that there is a power struggle going on in Azawad and the outcome is far from clear. MNLA have completed their objective and they seem to have lost the initiative to Ansar Dine who’s objective is far from completed and are keen on expanding their power base to be able to continue their struggle for the imposement of sharia law on Mali. It seems unlikely that the MNLA will give up the land they’ve been fighting over for decades and an escalation of the conflict with Ansar Dine in time seems inevitable.
Meanwhile the government of Mali does not seem to take any real action in taking back control of the northern part of their state. They’ve been massing some troops but they do not seem to be able to do anything on their own as a result of the lack of logistics and means.
On June 14 the African Union and ECOWAS have addressed the UN Security Council to make a military intervention possible. UNSC approved but is cautious. Meanwhile some 4.000 Malian forces seem to be preparing for an attack on a few important crossroads.