In the recent years some of the West African states faced a number of armed conflicts and rebellions caused by various ideological differences and growing dissatisfaction of the citizens with the work of their governments. These conflicts occurred due to a number of various factors and included the involvement foreign influences. Ibrahim (2014) notes that Mali and Mauritania are the Sahelian countries that are located on the frontlines of what might be called a Sahel-Saharan Islamic insurgency.
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The armed insurgents in Mali started as a separatist movement of one of the country’s districts called Azawad. Ethnically this district of Mali is populated with people called the Tuareg. Historically the Tuareg used to be nomadic and independence loving people; they have been occupying their territories ever since the fifth century. In the fourteenth century the Tuareg officially converted to Islam and continued to travel and trade in Sahara. The Tuareg’s independence was limited when Mali was colonized by France that established districts and borders within the country (Devon 2013). Ever since that time, even though Mali became independent in 1960, the Tuareg kept initiating rebellions trying to gain self-independence for Azawad in 1916, 1960, 1990, 2007 and 2012. The latest rebellion involved Islamist groups that initially supported the Tuareg nationalists, but in the end clashed with them and took over their occupied territories. The clash happened due to the differences of future plans and visions of the leaders of both organizations for the further development of the territories they struggled for.
The growing popularity of Jihadist movements on the territories of West African states caused some serious territorial and social ruptures. For example, the Civil War in Libya because one of the main reasons of the influx of illegal weapons to the regions of Mali that armed the rebellions from Azawad and allowed them to start the insurgent. Although, according to the amount of weapons employed during this conflict it is seen that these resources have been stored in Mali for years, and the rebellion was planned and prepared for a long time.
Political and social instability in the nearby states directly affected Mauritania, which seemed to be the first Sahelo-Saharan frontline country to achieve the post – Islamic insurgency. Mauritanian leaders spent years fighting Jihadist movements and ideologies on the territory of the country. The crisis period for Maurithania happened between 2005 and 2011, when the country experienced extreme vulnerability due to high levels of jihadist activism (Ibrahim 2014). The conflicts in Mali also threatened the weak stability in Mauritania, yet to stay away from the war Mauritanian troops were given an order not to intrude into the threat coming from AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) unless they would set their camps closer than two hundred kilometers from the Mauritanian boarder (Oumar & Gueye 2012).
Since the insurgent in the North East of Mali ended with the defeat of NMLA (National Movement of Liberation of Azawad) and the renouncement of the independence claim, there is a good chance that the rebellion might repeat again within several years, because the Tuareg have been trying to obtain independence for decades now. The influx of weapons on the territory of Northern Mali makes the possibility of another conflict greater. These factors put jihadist-free Mauritania under a constant threat as its territory and its frontline position would always be an attractive strategic zone for terrorist attacks.
Devon, D. B (2013). The Crisis in Mali: A Historical Perspective on the Tuareg People. Web.
Ibrahim, I. Y. (2014). Managing the Sahelo-Saharan Islamic Insurgency in Mauritania. Web.