France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has stated that foreign powers will probably intervene militarily in Mali. Canada's government says our country is ready to provide humanitarian support if necessary, but will not send a military mission. Islamist fighters now control two-thirds of Mali's desert north, and have carried out attacks on ancient Sufi shrines (like the one pictured), some of which were classified as world heritage sites by UNESCO.
Rick Roth, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, said "Canada remains concerned by the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Mali, a country facing a political, security and humanitarian crisis". He also stated that Canada "remains ready" to provide assistance to West African nations, in consultation with other partners, "once the needs for support have been defined". John Baird himself spoke out today to clarify that there is no military option on the table for Canada: "Let me be clear that Canada is not contemplating a military mission in Mali".
So how did the unrest in Mali get started? Initially, secular Tuareg fighters joined forces with Islamists in a military coup to oust democratically elected president Amadou Toumani Toure. But according to Reuters, "a mix of local and foreign Islamists have hijacked" the rebellion, and are now pushing the secular rebels out of their positions and destroying ancient religious sites in the process.
Despite Fabius' assertion that foreign powers may be involved in an intervention, he stated that France would not lead any actions, since its colonial past in the country would complicate matters. He says the European Union and the United States are ready to provide support if necessary.
The African Union (AU) has also discussed military intervention in Mali, but only as a last resort. Heads of state from the AU are meeting this weekend in Addis Ababa to discuss their options, and AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra told reporters: "I think there is room for negotiations and room for moving to reconcile Malians among themselves."
Meanwhile, Mali's Justice Minister Malick Coulibaly says the government plans to ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate killings, rapes, torture, and attacks on cultural sites in the north of the country.
For more insight into what's unfolding in Mali at the moment, here are some interesting reads from around the web:
Foreign Policy: Timbuktu, Lost City by Peter Chilson on NPR
Northern Mali: A dying land by May Ying Welsh on Al-Jazeera
Mali refugees struggle to settle in Burkina Faso as food crisis deepens by Afua Hirsch on the Guardian
Mali's Dangerous Power Vaccuum by Penelope Chester on UN Dispatch
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