The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has started to move to stem the unfolding refugee and war crisis in the country of Mali where ethnic Tuareg militants of the north have again launched a war against the Mali government which they perceive as tyrannical or apathetic towards Tuareg/northern needs. ECOWAS hopes to bring both government officials from Mali and Tuareg leaders to the negotiating table to end the violence and the refugee situation.
ECOWAS plans to back its actions with support from the United Nations along with the African Union so that a general ceasefire can be achieved before the horrid situation becomes even more horrible.
The Tuareg militant groups are well-armed and well-trained after many of their members gained experience and weapons in Libya during and after their service under the now deceased Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
These fighters-for-hire, along with other mercenaries, have returned to the country of Mali after the successful Libyan revolution in 2011 to make war as predicted by numerous political analysts and people.
The return of the hundreds of old and new militants was predicted to stir up old hatred yet again leading to violence between those who want an Azawad region independent of the Mali officials down in the south.
These Tuaregs who have taken up arms call themselves the Azawad National Liberation Movement.
The modern history between the ethnic nomads and the government is bitter and violent with countless uprisings and wars being fought around the issue of greater autonomy from what the Tuaregs perceive as a repressive and marginalizing Mali government.
Few amenities exist between the two sides despite a brokered peace deal in 2009 and an attempt at a disarmament talk in 2011.
Dozens of defections were reported by the military of Mali, mostly the defections of ethnic Tuareg soldiers who were serving in the Mali military.
The conflict has been expanding from around the towns of Aguel’hoc, Tessalit and Menaka to the outer and central regions where Mali’s military, once brazen and confident, now battle the rebels with tenacity.
Meanwhile, the conflict has already forced over 200,000 civilians in the northern parts of Mali to flee to neighboring countries or down to the southern parts of the country.
The United Nations Refugee Agency, expecting the worst, scheduled cargo flights carrying substantial amounts of aid and relief supplies.
Truck convoys loaded with blankets and food supplies arrived at their respective destinations as well with more to come.
The European Union at the beginning of the conflict pledged 63 million euros in financial aid to Mali so that the country can control its domestic situation and hopefully get back on track.
(Cover Photo: OCHA/Nicole Lawrence)