The Arab Spring has now begun to spread in unusual and unpredictable ways.
The long-simmering Tuareg war in the north of the West African country of Mali mushroomed in recent days, leading to a military coup in the capital Bamako and the seizure by rebels of the ancient trading city of Timbuktu. The rebels just declared independence as thousands streamed south toward safety out of the scorching Sahara.
This likely wouldn’t have happened if Moammar Qaddafi was still in power in Libya.
Qaddafi counted on significant support from hired Tuaregs, an indigenous people of the Sahara who long predate the arrival of Arabs to North Africa more than a millennium ago. With the Qaddafi regime defunct, many of his well-armed and battle-hardened Tuareg fighters drove hard across the desert and into Mali where they joined or re-joined the insurgency there.
Mali was a success story of sorts. It’s a Muslim county in Africa and one of the poorest on earth, but it nevertheless enjoyed a stable democratic system. Until now. The conflict, coup, and declared secession aren’t part of the Arab Spring, but they do seem to be one of its aftershocks. This time the upheaval did not lead to the downfall of a tyranny but has lead instead—at least for now—to the creation of two.
Photo Credit: Alfred Weidinger