20.000 euro for the „white march“ from Mopti to Douentza

Grass-roots initiatives in Mali demand a conversational solution despite impending military escalation in the north of the country (11.01.2013)

The initiative is impressive: In the end of january or the beginning of february about 5.000 people are supposed to set out for a multi-day peace march from Mopti to Douentza – that is from the last city in the north of Mali which is not held by islamist melitia to the first one, which is under islamist occupation. It is the aim of the „white march“ (marche blanche), as the initiators of the section of Afrique-Europe-Interact in Mali call it, to clearly reject military intervention against the islamists as it is demanded mainly by the West African economic union ECOWAS, the EU and parts of the government of Mali – although the offensive of islamist forces towards the south, which started on the 9th of january, has enormously icreased the pressure on such a political peace initiative. The march will at least cost 40.000 Euro (despite the expenses that people pay individually), not least for the elaborate logistics in a desert-like environment as well as catering and transport. At least half of the money has to be raised in Europe – therefore we call for tax-deductable donations, be they small or big. Because the white march could turn out to be a real chance for the population in Mali, who would be affected even worse by a war-like conflict as it is already affected today. And also could the project of a conversational solution after numerous failed interventions – especially in Afghanistan and Somalia – show up to be a lighthouse-like alternative to the „war against terror“, which is up to today in the „west“ perceived as having no alternative to it.

Donation account of Afrique-Europe-Interact: Name: Globale Gerechtigkeit e.V. +++ Account number: 2032 237 300 +++ Bank: GLS Gemeinschaftsbank +++ Bank code: 430 609 67 +++ IBAN: DE67 4306 0967 2032 2373 00 +++ BIC: GENODEM1GLS +++ code word: marche blance

The donations for Afrique-Europe-Interact are, as we said already, tax deductable; in addition donors get our newest material of the network such as films, brochures or newspapers as thank-you sent to them (at least in case we have the actual address). More information with several background analyses can be found under: www.afrique-europe-interact.net, for example in a mass newspaper of Afrique-europe-interact, which was published in the beginning of december as a supplement for the newspaper 'taz', which can be ordered in small or big circulation.

More background information about the white march:

Since the end of June 2012 the whole north of Mali is ruled by three islamist militia – Ansar Dine, Aqmi (Al Quaida in Maghreb) and MUJAO. Before this there had been a rebellion of the newly founded Tuareg organization called MNLA as well as a coup d'etat against the long-term president Amadou Toumani Touré on the 22 of march 2012, which was welcomed by big parts of the population of Mali. The consequences of this multiple crisis are quite dramatic: Firstly since the beginning of the conflict about 500. 000 people had to flee, be it to the neighbouring countries and be it to the south of Mali. Secondly the already quite tense situation concerning food has massively escalated: At the moment about 4.6 million people are threatened by a lack of food safety, while the World Food Program can reach only 360.000 people in the south and 148.000 people in the north. Thirdly the islamist militia have build up a brutal regiment of Sharia, which is almost unanimously rejected by the population – with catastrophical consequences especially for women and girls. Forthly the whole economy of the country, which is already extremely poor respective made poor is negatively affected – among other reasons because the rich industrial countries have – in the course of the coup d'etat – cut back the so-called development aid: Alone in the capital Bamako 20 percent of the factories had to close down, 60 percent had to make redundencies. Overall several tenthousands of people have lost their job, while at the same time the prices for fuel, gas and goods for the daily needs have increased massively, in parts by 100 percent.

Latest against this background it should become understandable, why the initiators of the march are strictly against a military intervention in the north. Because war would only mean new suffering for the civil population. What the dreaded direct consequences are concerned we want to quote the estimations of aid organisations close to the UN, according to which a military conflict in the north of Mali could lead to further 700.000 refugees – which is by the way the reason while Algeria has cynically begun to build a high-tech-fence for 1,5 billion dollar at the border to Mali. In addition there is the fear of a never-ending guerilla war – including terrorist attacks in the south of the country, especially in the large city of Bamako. When looking at comparable examples such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Irak or Nigeria also the experience plays an important role that islamist movements have often come out from armed conflicts strenghtened. Because it comes to effects of polarization and solidarization as soon as civil victims are to be mourned.

If one speaks of a conversational solution of the conflict, then this has originally referred to the negotiations which have been going on until the beginning of january in Burkina Faso and Algeria of the government of Mali with Ansar Dine as well as the Tuareg organization MNLA. Because other than Aqmi and MUJAO Ansar Dine consists maily of fighters from Mali. Many of them are Tuareg, even more: Ansar Dine was founded by the former (at that time not yet islamist orientated) Tuareg leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, who has for decades been a central figure in the political life of Mali. It was therefore expected that it should be possibly in the short or in the middle-long run to drive a wedge between Ansar Dine on the one side and Aqmi and MUJAO on the other side and therefore politically and militarily isolate the latter and therefore – as a first step – drive them back to the extreme north of the country, where they have had a say in the Transsahara smuggling business ( among other things with cocaine and cigarettes) for years.

This hope which had been shared by many people in Mali has been dashed on the 3rd of january, after Ansar Dine has spectacularly revoked the willingness to negotiate, which it meanwhile held out in prospect and has instead – together with Aqmi and MUJAO – looked for armed conflict with the Malian army at the southern demarcation line (including military intervention of french soldiers). It should therefore be not surprising, that this has fundamentally changed the political starting situation of the white march. This is not only the case because there is de facto war at the moment, but also because in the meantime the atmospshere in the population has noticeably changed towards a broadly rooted readiness for war. But the initiators of the white march are still campaigning for a conversational solution of the conflict. Because whatever will happen in the next days and weeks, it is a fact, that radical islamists can hardly be conquered in the long run by force of arms – and this is not only shown by the already quoted examples of Somalia or Afghanistan. Against this background there are mainly two aims which the march is pursuing: On the one hand side the political and moral strenghtening of the civil resistence of all those, who on a daily base are exposed to the islamist terror in the north – be it (naked) demonstrations of women and girls, mass gatherings of young people or statements of the local notables. On the other hand side the initiation of the anyway necessary negotions with the relatively most moderate movements in the islamist camp (also beyond political players such as Ansar Dine or the MNLA). We want to explicitly refer to the fact that already in 1996 the civil war taking place at the time between the malian army and tuareg rebels could be ended due to an initiative of players of the civil society by the famous burning of weapons in Timbuktu, the so-called 'flame of peace'.

The contenwise demands of the white march are also very plain – no matter with whom the dialogue will take place: Firstly the rejection of the sharia without any concession. Secondly the rejection of the construction of new borders, which is at the moment the case because of the occupation in the north and thirdly the rejection of (neo-colonial) landgrabbing which the current secession of the north is at the moment – a formulation which hints at the fact that the north of Mali is not only dusty desert, but a geostrategically embattled territory, also concerning natural resources such as uranium, oil and rare mineral ores. Beyond this the white march is promoting a real sustainable understanding with the Tuareg in the north of the country – not only, because the MNLA is participating in the negotiations, but also because the islamist Tuareg associated with Ansar Dine have a substantial interest in such a peace agreement (more about the decades-long conflict between the Tuareq population and the central state of Mali can be found on our website or in the already mentioned newspaper supplement of the taz).

At last: Other than the impression which is conveyed by the local media coverage, a conversational solution actually enjoys remarkable sympathy by the population of Mali – although the atmossphere has clearly shifted in the past days. Because the undoubted strong wish, that finally something should happen is one thing – including the considerable openness concerning a military intervention by the army of Mali (of which everybody knows that it cannot accomplish such an operation alone). The other thing is the fear present in big parts of the population of a warlike escalation including the consequences on the whole country. In addition many are worried, that a stationing of ECOWAS troops could be used by parts of the old political elite in order to roll back the democratic renewals which have been driven forth since the coup d'etat. However, this ambivalence is almost completely blanked out in the media coverage in Europe; here almost only people in favour of a military internvention are quoted, who of course can be found everywhere – today more then ever. In this sense it is no surprise that the call initiated by the well-known globalization critic and former minister of culture of Mali Aminata D. Traoré „women in Mali, say NO to the proxy war“ has barely found resonance here. The call, which is backed by several women rights activists and which is also documented on our website settles a score that once more in the name of women rights war is led against islamist terrorists. Because in wars its always the women, who have to bear the burden caused by war, as is elaborately explained in the call.