Qaanitah Hunter| Cii News, Map: merriam-webster.com | January 21, 2013
The so called ‘Islamists’ in Mali are criminals who want to manipulate their religion to further their criminal intent, Dr. David Zoumenou of South Africa’s Institute of Security Studies told Cii on Monday morning.
The senior researcher on conflict prevention and risk analysis said the intention of these groups was to occupy ungoverned spaces, stage attacks against the people and impose a particular form of Islamic law or Shariah.
He said the term ‘Islamists’, widely used by international media, was not appropriate as these groups operated in a countries where 90% of the population were Muslims.
Mali has been plagued with violence in the country’s North by a conglomerate of armed groups claiming to want the Shariah rule in the West African state.
“It is a serious danger that is hanging over everybody’s head. Algeria has been the first collateral victim of that, who is going to be next,” he said.
He described the group as heavily armed with sophisticated arms, some of which emerging from Libya.
Zoumenou said the sudden attack by the Ansar Eddin, the group spearheading the violence, against the Mali government was to test the resolve of the international community as to whether they will seriously deploy militarily in Northern Mali.
“The second objectives of the rebels were to really improve their bargaining power. To say that we mean business and they will achieve whatever they want from Bamako which is the implementation of Shariah law in Mali and autonomy,” he said.
The Pretoria based analyst noted that the entire African continent is concerned about the violence in Mali particularly due to the porosity of African boarders.
He implied the great need for military intervention from ECOWAS as well as from neighboring countries such as Algeria, Tunisia and Mauritania.
But Zoumenou noted that they should anticipate retaliation from the armed groups.