Africa Notes: Now that Timbuktu has been taken, will more of us pay attention?

The crisis continues to unfold in Mali. And maybe the coup leaders are seeing that EVERYTHING is going against them.On Saturday the pledged a quick power handover.

  • First, the coup leaders are increasingly unpopular in West Africa.
  • Uncertainty is the word Camilla Toulmin used to described the situation.
  • The view from the West
    • The UK tells its citizens to leave.
    • Walter Russell Mead continues in his Afro-pessimist vein in describing the situation. As he says, the Financial Times described Mali as “one of west Africa’s most stable countries”. So, he tells us, “This casts serious doubt on the mainstream press, NGO and foreign policy establishment line on Africa.”
  • Meanwhile, the average Malian is in for some major problems.
    • As Baz Lecocq notes, the hot season is starting in Mali and food is going to be a big issue. What is more, he suggests, the Malian army is not prepared to handle the heat of the hot season in the extreme parts of the country the rebels currently hold.
    • Oxfam has this press release on food shortages (here) (via Sahel Blog)
  • And the Mali army is losing more and more ground to the rebels. I am certain by now they must realize that former President Toure likely did not have any more resources to give them before the coup. Perhaps that was why he already was willing to step down on his own.
    • So they lost the northern town of Kidal.
    • And rebels reportedly entered and then took Gao. (and here)
    • And then on Sunday (today) they apparently surrounded Timbuktu and then planted their flag there.. Which is probably the only city most Americans have heard of. So we might finally start to see greater press attention.

    If you examine this map of Mali (via Wars in the World), you can quickly see how rebel advances place them in control of a large swath of territory. Indeed, draw a line between Gao and Timbuktu, extend it, and you will see about half the country in rebel hands. Of course, it is the less-populated, poorer half. But it is very significant.