[Diplomacy] Mali Crisis, Taureg rebels, French Troops, Algeria Hostages: Background, implications explained

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Unacademy Plus Mrunal Economy for Prelims and Mains UPSC!
  1. What is Mali?
  2. Players in Mali crisis?
  3. Who are the Tuareg?
  4. Gaddafi Angle: 2011
  5. Azawad: Jan-April 2012
  6. Mali President overthrown: March 2012
  7. Entry of French Troops: Jan 2013
  8. Back to Northern Mali
  9. What is AQIM?
  10. Implications of Mali Crisis?
  11. Algeria Hostage Crisis
  12. Mock Questions

What is Mali?

Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa, Earlier it was a French colony. Mali gained independence in 1960.
Players in this crisis?

Faction Teams What do they want?
Rebels Islamist
  1. Ansar Dine
They want to impose Islamic law across Mali
  1. AQIM
Same. They earn ca$h by kidnapping westerners and drug-traffic. They’re the ‘richest’ among all rebels.
“Secular” Tuaregs
  1. MNLA
Earlier they wanted to create a separate nation for Tureg people, but now they just want autonomy.
  1. Mali Government
–doesn’t have enough firepower to match rebels.
  1. French Government
Sent troops because it Mali’s official army is ill-equipped to fight the rebels.

Who are the Tuareg?

  • Nomadic people who live in Sahara and Sahel regions of Libya, Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.
  • In medieval times, they used to run Camel caravans across Sahara- trading gold, spices, salts and dates.
  • Sometimes called the Blue People because they mostly wear dark blue / indigo colored traditional garments.

What is their problem?

  • We reside in Northen Mali.
  • While capital city = Bambako = located in South.
  • Government sits there and does nothing for our development.
  • We’re “light skinned”. And all good positions in Government and bureaucracy  manned by black people.
  • We are not getting any jobs, education etc.
  • Villages getting displaced due to mining activities, and the subsequent land-degradation =bad for our farms, cattle.

So Tuareg people had been rebelling against the “South” since a long time.

Gaddafi Angle: 2011

  • Colonel Gaddafi (of Libya) had been hiring Tuareg tribesmen in his army.
  • 2011=Uprising in Libya, Colonel Gaddafi gets killed.
  • So these Tuareg tribesmen (from Libyan army) formed their own new rebel group called “MNLA”.
  • They took possession of powerful weapons, surface-to-air missiles etc. from Gaddafi’s fallen army and decided to come back home.
  • They came back home (Northern Mali) and started fighting against the Mali Government. (+Other Islamic militants were also active in the region so they got help.)

Azawad: Jan-April 2012

  • From January 2012 onwards, there is heavy fighting between rebels and Mali army, in the Northern areas of Mali.
  • But the army did not have powerful weapons. so They had to flee.
  • Thus MNLA rebels took control of Northern Areas of Mali and declared it a free country called “Azawad.” (in April 2012)
  • However, this Azawad country has not been recognized by UN or any powerful country (US/China etc.)

Mali Crisis: President overthrown, March 2012

So far you know that

  • Tuareg people = unhappy.
  • Some of them served in Libyan army but came back home after death of Gaddafi. (+brought heavy weapons.)
  • These rebels fought against Mali army and threw them out of Northern Mali.
  • So, now Mali army= unhappy.
  • Army blamed President Toure for this fiasco.
  • Why? Because USA was giving truckload of ca$h to President of Mali to fight off the Islamist terror groups.
  • But this President was just using that money for his personal “aiyyaashi” (=buying sports cars, Rolex watches, diamond studded i-phone1,2,3,4,5, consuming desi liquor and… you get the picture.)
  • That’s why Mali army did not have good weapons, tanks, gadgets to fight with the rebels..
  • One army officer named Captain Sanogo gathered the soldiers and staged a coup against this President and threw him out. (Although later this Captain handed over power to next President Traoré.)
  • So right now Mali army is divided into factions – one of them supports the old ousted President Toure and wants to bring him back in power.

Entry of French Troops: Jan 2013

  • While all this mess was going on, the extremists groups from Northern Mali, started capturing the areas in Central Mali region. (such as Timbuktu)
  • New President panicked and called up French President:
New President of Mali please help us. Our army is ill-equipped, divided into factions.
We’ve neither the weapons nor the morale to fight these rebels. So come help us.
French President Francois Hollande I cannot allow a “terrorist state” to emerge in Mali.
Ungoverned spaces in Mali could provide a launch-pad for Jihadist attacks in Europe and elsewhere.
But USA, UN or African Union are doing nothing!
So I’ll send my own French army to fight against these terror groups.
AQIM (Extremist group) @French President, buddy you’re making a grave mistake.
Now we will retaliate by striking back at the heart of France (Paris). You just wait and watch.

Mali Crisis French offensive map

Although some experts believe France is playing “big brother” only to get its hands on Gold and Oil reserves of Mali. (similar to USA in Iraq)

Back to Northern Mali

  • You know that MNLA= Tuareg rebels who previously served in Gadhafi’s army. They had returned back to Northern Mali.
  • But their influence in Northern Mali started declining after they ran out of money (spent in fighting against Mali Army, paying salary to mercenaries and for running propaganda.)
  • Hence, many of MNLA fighters left the gang and joined other Islamist groups. (like Ansar Dine, AQIM etc)
  • Why? Because the Islamists are far richer, earning truckload of cash by kidnapping Westerners for ransom and trafficking cocaine, marijuana and cigarettes.
  • So right now, AQIM (Islamist group) has control of Northern Areas, while MNLA’s grip has declined.
  • Given this changed power equation, now the MNLA says, “We support the French intervention, all we want is autonomy- we don’t want a separate nation for Tuareg people. We are “secular”, we are not associated with AQIM or other hardcore Islamist groups.”

What is AQIM?

  • Al-Qaida in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM)
  • something like a franchise of Al-Qaida + variety of hardcore groups operating in this region.
  • It offers a typical mix of jihadist activity + criminality (drugs, weapons trades, kidnapping, ransom etc.)

Mali Crisis Timeline

Implications of Mali Crisis?

#1: Afghanistan of Africa

  • If Bamako (Official capital of Mali) falls in the hands of Rebels then it would be like a repeat of the Taliban’s rise in Afghanistan in 1996= If the extremists take the capital, it’s game over.
  • The whole region will become safe-haven for terrorists, drug traffickers, hostage takers (like recall Kandahar episode).
  • This will further destabilize neighboring countries of Niger and Mauritania.
  • Therefore, international community must prevent Mali from turning into “the Afghanistan of Africa”.

#2: Iran wants to play big brother

  • Iran holds the chair of NAM (Non-Aligned movement).
  • Iran has offered to play role of negotiator between the Mali Government vs Rebel crisis.
  • Iran wants to use this opportunity to “expose” double standards of USA on Syria vs. Mali and to increase influence in this region and generate good will (by showing that it doesn’t support extremist element.).
  • Iran’s official statement regarding Mali crisis “We are against extremism. But we are also against the (western) interference in the domestic affairs of countries and military intervention.”

#3: African Union (AU)

  • African union= Secretariat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
  • In late January 2013, African Union held a summit to get a solution for Mali crisis.
  • French wants AU to quickly deploy soldiers. but so far only about 1,000 troops have arrived, and only few of them have taken up front line positions, where actual fighting is going on (between Rebels and French).
  • Chad has promised to send 2,000 soldiers and Burundi has confirmed its readiness to join without giving exact number of soldiers.
  • So this Mali crisis will be an acid test of African Union’s ability to tackle regional crisis.

#4: USA

  • U.S. says, “If African Union (AU) sends forces in Mali, we’ll support them with logistics. But we cannot fully engage in Mali until a new government is elected and the political crisis is solved.”
  • Experts believe President Obama wants to spend his second (and last) term fixing the “domestic issues” (economic crisis) so Democratic party can win next Presidential election.
  • Therefore, he is not much interested in pursuing aggressive foreign policy agenda anymore. Besides America has already burned enough cash on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Algeria Hostage Crisis

  • In early January, 2013, France sent its troops to Mali.
  • Just a few days after that, some Gunmen with al-Qaeda links attacked a gas plant in Algeria.
  • They took the workers as hostages (including foreign nationals.)
Gunmen in Algerian plant We’ve attacked this plant because of following reasons

  1. We want French troops to leave Mali ASAP.
  2. Algerian Government has allowed France to use its airspace while bombarding our gangmembers in Mali.
  3. Algerian Government has jailed our esteemed terrorist leaders. They must be freed.

Otherwise we’ll shoot down the hostages and blow up this gas plant.

Algerian Government This is pure ****** man, you’ve been planning for this attack since last two months, long before French decided to enter in Mali!
You’re just using “French angle” to get attention of international media. Otherwise Your main objective is to get ransom from foreign Governments and to free your terrorist leaders from our jails.
But guess what? We’ll not agree with your demands.

Climax of Algerian Hostage Crisis

  • The stand off between terrorists and Algerian forces continued for 4 days.
  • Algerian Government did not allow foreign special forces (US/UK) to enter or help in this hostage crisis.
  • Finally Algerian Government’s decided to attack those terrorists instead of continuing negotiation with them.
  • This led to death of 29 militants and 38 civilians, including six British nationals. (=bad publicity and international criticism.)
  • Later, Algerian Government gave statement, “Sorry we made some mistakes in handling this hostage crisis. But when facing terrorists, it’s not just words that solve the problem. Action has to be taken! By the way, we’ve found some evidences that Canadian nationals were involved in this act of terrorism.”

Mock Questions

Q1 Correct Statement

  1. Mauritania is a landlocked country
  2. Mali shares borders Libya and Morocco.
  3. Strait of Gibraltar separates Italy and Morocco.
  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. None

Q2. Incorrect Match

Place Located in
  1. Timbuktu
  1. Addis Ababa
  1. Bamako
  1. Juba
South Sudan

Q3. Incorrect Match

  1. Tuareg
North and West Africa
  1. Masai
East Africa
  1. Pygmy
Central Africa
  1. Zulu
North Africa


  1. Has Algeria done the right thing by not negotiating with the terrorists? If you’re the PM of India and such crisis hostage-happens, what will you do?
  2. Has France done the right thing by sending its troops in Mali?
Indian History Freedom Struggle Pratik Nayak

106 Comments on “[Diplomacy] Mali Crisis, Taureg rebels, French Troops, Algeria Hostages: Background, implications explained”

  1. Mrunal sir ur website cant be accessed using mobile browsers other than opera.plz do som thing abt it.

    1. I just checked it chrome (mobile) on an android mobile. Its working fine.

      1. Sir, actually sometimes it reports Server not Available. But it works most of the time.

  2. I dont think India should intervene. Its a sign of foreign diplomacy and maturity not to show any sign of comfort or discomfort.
    Never to forget that its France which has intervened and France has had been a very nice reliable supporting friend of India, in such a case whatever be the fate of Mali and whatever problems there might be inside the land locked territory, India should neither snile nor regret for whatever is happening. Because showing jubilation will make India a diet of some political critiques and showing regret will force France to disbelieve India as had been the case with Sri lanka and even Iran.
    Yes it can say, “We think the matter should be tabled on round table if France and Mali agrees for it :)”

    1. OMG..what have u written? understand the qn first..

  3. Sir can u provide link on “the implications of current account deficit”

  4. 1.d Mali share borders with Algeria,Niger,Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivore, Guinea,Senegal,Mauritania.
    2.b Adidas Adaba houses secretariat of African Union & located in Ethiopia.
    3.d Zulu tribe are in eastern part of South Africa.

  5. Wohoooo !!!!! Excellent work… Brilliantly Explained….Kudos !!! :D

  6. Pls shed some light on demands approved by the cabinet of ex-servicemen for one rank one pension sir..

  7. sir plj give some guideline for preparation of PROBATIONARY OFFICERS IN STATE BANK OF INDIA & examination date 28 April.


  8. hi mrunal sir,kindly post on MYANMAR(kachin rebels,rakhines,rohingyas etc) all dimensions background…-regards.

  9. Sir,Ian from Andhra Pradesh.iam eligible for OBC certificate.but the mandal revenue officer declined to give the certificate on wrong grounds.i wrote to the district collector and the chief secretary of our state.more than three months have passed.what to do

  10. Hello sir,

    I am not able to download pdf
    before i was able to download, from today morning not able
    only first page will come that too blank page
    what to do sir now.

    Thank you

  11. mrunal say something about pattern change plzz

  12. U.p.s.c has delayed the date of notification for civil services,2013..cn we assume that the chances for change in mains patters hv increased nw,or it could be due to some administrative delays??

  13. sir thnx a lot for explaining this complex issue in simple language…..

  14. You should publish a newspaper with such a catchy and simple approach and writing style in giving critical information for student like us who really can not manage reading The Hindu every day, though i am trying according to your article about reading newspaper.Still it needs lots of time for working people like us.

    Thank You Mrunal Sir.

  15. Good for new students like me.thanks

  16. Thanks a lot for this article. I have had difficulty in understandin this issue bt now im crystal clear abt it :) Please write about Cauvery River dispute, Direct cash transfer scheme and India – Iran relations. Thanks in advance !!

  17. mrunal sir, cgpsc has changed the pattern of mains examination.would u pls guide us .
    and how to download you articles….there is only showing option for printing not for pdf downloading like earlier..
    thank u sir

  18. hi mrunal,

    really its nice to c ur website . iam thankful to u . i studied some article really nice i want to download as pdf plz guide me how to download as pdf. iam no t getting as pdf form so plz.

  19. sir pls guide how to download pdf file i have installed chrome…what to do now???

  20. just awesome…..

  21. the topic made simple.. great work sir..

  22. MCQ d
    1. The aim behind such hostage activities are clear that the miscreants are ready to face any situation and they can take the life of the hostages. As we have seen in the past like Indian airlines hijacked case in 1999, Moscow theater hostage crisis in 2002, Beslan school hostage crisis(Russia) in 2004 and many more, the idea behind these situation is to carry out of an agreement, or as a preventive measure against certain acts of war. Accepting the demands of the insurgents like in Indian airlines hostage case is not a solution as the man who was set free created or plotted many terrorist activities there after. Allowing foreign special military forces to intervene is also not a good idea as it will impact the morale of countries own military persons and Indian military, National security guards are good enough to handle such situations as we have seen in the 26/11 case in Mumbai. So, in my point of view, what Algerian government did was correct but it would have done in better ways to avoid any lost to civilian life and a message(warning) can be sent to the world that India will not accept any such activities on his land and will retaliate in same way.

  23. Hi mrunal,do you have.2008 Mains paper of Chhatisgarh PSC socio and GS
    or can u arrange it…pls post it if u have

  24. I’ve been exploring for a little for any high-quality articles or weblog posts in this kind of area . Exploring in Yahoo I finally stumbled upon this website. Reading this info So i’m glad to express that I have an incredibly good uncanny feeling I came upon just what I needed. I so much no doubt will make certain to don?t omit this site and provides it a look on a constant basis.

  25. Dear Mrunal,

    Can you please tell how to download your files in editable form so that wan

  26. Can you please tell how to download your files in editable form.

  27. Sir,
    Gr8 Job..!! I wish you give some training on teaching methodology to these coaching institutes.Thank you so much !! You have made this journey little easy.

  28. your all articles regarding syria,pakistan,china,israel are awsome n have solved so many confusions..
    please also give some insight on IRAN and IRAQ issues and implications on World power equation.
    if already explained then pls paste the link.

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