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News Analysis: A lot at stake for the West in Mali crisis

04-07-2012 09:28 BJT

by Oussama El Baroudi, Rahul Venkit

BRUSSELS, April 6 (Xinhua) -- The coup in Mali which ousted the country's president Amadou Toumani Toure has put a lot at stake for the West, an expert says.

Hailed as one of the most stable democracies in West Africa, Mali has been a recipient of generous aid over the past decades.

"Mali is considered to be rather important in western Africa because you need success stories for good development," Josef Janning, chief analyst at the Brussels-based think tank European Policy Center, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

However, with its government ousted in a military coup two weeks ago, Mali is currently well and truly rendered in a state of crisis, as Tuareg rebels declared independence on Friday in the north.

The move by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad's (MNLA) was quickly dismissed by Mali's former colonial power France, the European Union and, closer to home, the African Union.

According to Janning, experts were not entirely surprised by MNLA's independence declaration on Friday.

"The threat of armed rebellion and radicalization has been there all the time," he said.

"But the impression throughout the past decade was that the situation had been under control to a certain degree," Janning added.

This is clearly no longer the case.

To further complicate the already chaotic picture, a radical Islamist group Ansar Dine rejected the MNLA's independence call, and said it wanted to install sharia, the moral code and religious law of Islam.

Analysts said EU and U.S. intelligence services might have grossly underestimated the risk posed by separatist groups in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Preoccupied in Iraq, Afghanistan and more recently by the unrests in some Arab countries, the Western strategy of containing extreme groups in the region by providing support to neighboring countries and opposition groups might no longer prove as effective.

Should the situation in Mali regress, however, the fear is that radical groups may find opportunities to take over isolated, marginalized regions from Libya to Nigeria.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Thursday that Africa and the West needs to work together to counter such a threat.

"Only cooperation between Algeria, Mauritania, western African countries backed by France and the European Union could help in making progress," he said.

Editor:Liu Fang |Source: Xinhua

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