Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mali civilians vow to take up arms against Islamist extremi

    Tuesday, December 04, 2012   No comments


Sitting on the roof of his mud-walled compound on a hillside near Bamako, Amadou Maiga is dreaming of war. As the spokesman for the Gando Iso militia, Maiga says Malians cannot wait for international help to reclaim the north of his country from Islamist extremists. So they are preparing to take matters into their own hands.

"If we wait… we will give time for these terrorists to occupy the area because, according to the information, on the ground, more terrorists are coming," he said, from his home in Boulkassoumbugu, a suburb of the Malian capital.

The UN security council is expected to meet on Wednesday to discuss plans for a 3,300-strong regional Ecowas force to enter Mali, but it is unlikely any sort of military operation will begin before next September. Last week the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said military force may be required as a last resort, but stressed the importance of dialogue over war.

The militias are angry about the delay, and about the suggestion that Mali's government will offer the minority Tuareg separatists autonomy in exchange for joining the fight against al-Qaida-affiliated insurgents.

"There is nothing to negotiate with these criminals who killed people, who broke everything, who looted everything on the way," Maiga said.

Gando Iso, meaning sons of the land, is one of three militia groups unofficially supported by the government which have been training fighters at army military camps in Sevare, outside Mopti, 400 miles north of Bamako. Since the coup in March that left power precariously shared between a weak interim government and military junta leaders, the militias have gathered around 3,000 men and women who are willing to start a rebellion. "We don't want to work outside the law but if we have to do it… then we will take the decision to go," Maiga said.


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