Published On: Tue, Nov 24th, 2015


Jacob Gelt DekkerThe brutal attack on the Radisson Blue hotel in Bamako, Mali, only one week after the Paris incidents, confused many people. International businessmen were gathering at the hotel for a conference discussing foreign investment and a new chapter in the history of Mali, after the bloody revolution of 2012. Jihadist group Al Mourabitoun, an al-Qaeda- in-the-Islamic-Maghreb (AQIM) franchisee proudly announced that they had carried out the murderous attack.

Media presented the bloody raid as strife for media attention by AQIM. Supposedly, al-Qaeda and ISIS have become competitors as franchisors of brutal violence in Islamic conflict zones. History and current facts hardly justify such narrow interpretation, though.

The Fulani Jihad, or Jihad of Usman dan Fodio of 1804, a prominent Islamic scholar, fought against Hausa kingdoms of the north of Nigeria and founded the Sokoto Caliphate. The Sokoto Caliphate has continued to the present and became prominent as a base for Boko Haram. Usman’s success inspired similar jihads in Western Africa. West African jihadists, included Massina Empire founder Seku Amadu (Mopti, in present-day Mali), Toucouleur Empire founder Umar Tall, (today’s Tombouctou) and Wassoulou Empire founder Samori Ture (Bangiagara escarpment near Djenne and Mopti).

Mali, a, in 1960 newly created, nation-state after about 30 years as French Sudan, is a failed attempt to combine at least three major ethnic groups and three empires in one national country. Today, Bambara and Mandinka make up for about 50 percent of Mali's population. Other significant groups are the Fulani, 17 percent, Voltaic, 12 percent, Songhai, 6 percent, and Tuareg and Moor, 10 percent. The entire Sahel counts about 8 million nomadic and 16 million settled Fulani, or Peul.

In January 2012, Tuareg rebels (MNLA) declared the secession of a new state, Azawad in northern Mali. In turn, Islamist groups, like Ansar Dine and AQIM, former allies of MNLA, turned on the Tuareg with the goal of implementing Sharia law in Mali. Intervention by the French reinstated the nation-state of Mali and its presidency in Bamako.

By all means, the conflict is a regional conflict, hundreds of years old and exacerbated from time to time. Islamic Sharia law implementation plays a significant role, but the loss of the slave trade by the Tuareg and the Bella are equally significant.

To link the attacks to al-Qaeda of Afghanistan, or ISIS of Syria is a spin history cannot support in any way.

By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle

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