Well, there’s been a lot of press, publicity, about alleging that the fall of Gaddafi led to this particular rebellion. The evidence suggests that this movement has been organizing for some time. There is—certainly many of the people who Gaddafi trained in his army were from the population that’s called the Tuareg. And many of them have returned after the collapse of Libya. They returned back to Mali. But half of them probably joined the Tuareg movement, but the other half have actually gone down to Bamako, the capital of Mali, and have joined the Mali forces, saying that they are Malians. So it’s not entirely clear that those who came from Libya actually became part of the national liberation movement.
As for the Tuareg, these are people who have occupied the vast areas of Africa. They stretch from the—from Morocco to Mauritania to Burkina Faso. What one has to realize, that these are—these are cattle herders. These are people who have been traditional nomads, who move around, and who got incorporated into Mali only because the French colonial government just divided up this land according to how they wanted to exploit the resources of Mali. And remember that Mali has very substantial sources of gold, as well as oil and gas. And so, the Tuareg people are related to a large community of people who stretch right across the north of Africa and in many parts of West Africa. And they have been seeking to have their own state, which is not unreasonable, and they have had many attempts to try to form a movement to liberate their territory. This was denied to them by the international community. It was denied to them by the French government. And indeed, the United States has a military presence in that area called AFRICOM. And there is no doubt at all that they are active to prevent the liberation movement, the movement of the Azawad, as the Tuareg like to call themselves, to prevent them from achieving any form of independence.
…I think it’s part of a general phenomenon that is happening across the continent, which is driven by the fact that over the last 30 years our people have lost all the gains of independence. We used to have free healthcare. We used to have free education, access to water, our own telecommunications infrastructure, own communications infrastructure. All those things that we gained through independence have been lost, and these being lost because of the implementation of the—what I refer to as neoliberal policies, which have been imposed on many African countries by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. And over the last 30 years, you’ve seen people—massive unemployment, dispossession of their land, dispossession of their jobs, a decline in living standards. But worst of all, what has happened during these last 30 years has been a political dispossession, so that people feel that their governments are more accountable to the banks and to the international multinational corporations than they are to their citizens. And I think, you know, people are outraged that their governments respond more to these corporations than they do to citizens.
In Mali, for example, in exactly the area, in the northeast part of Mali, where the Azawad revolution is taking place, you have an area of something like 7,500 square miles which has been handed over to a Canadian oil company, who are also involved in gold in other parts of Mali. And so, you know—and they are making no investment into Mali itself. They just reap the oil. They have free—they have almost no taxation at all. And they are allowed to export all their profits. And so, Mali, the people of Mali, don’t benefit it. And indeed the Tuareg, whose land they are occupying, don’t benefit, either.
After necessity and violence, I think the third important notion is the necessarily theatrical character of the coup d’État. In fact, insofar as a coup d’État is the irruptive assertion of raison d’État, it must be recognized immediately. It must be recognized immediately according to its real features, by extolling the necessity that justifies it, But to win support, and so that the suspension of laws with which it is necessarily linked do not count against it, the coup d’État must break out in broad daylight and in so doing reveal on the very stage where it takes place the raison d’État that brings it about. No doubt the coup d’État must hide its preparatory processes and moves, but it must appear solemnly in its effects and in the reasons that defend it. Hence the need to stage the coup d’État, and we find this in the political practice of the period as, for example, in the day of the Dupes, the arrest of the prince, and the imprisonment of Fouquet. All of this means that the coup d’État is a particular way for the sovereign to demonstrate in the most striking way possible the irruption of raison d’État and its prevalence over legitimacy.
We touch here on an apparently marginal problem that I think is nevertheless important, and this is the problem of theatrical practice on politics, or again the theatrical practice of raison d’État. The theater, theatrical practice, this dramatization, must be a mode of manifestation of the state and of the sovereign as the holder of state power. In contrast with and in opposition to traditional ceremonies of royalty, which, from anointment to coronation up to the entry into towns or the funerals of sovereigns, marked the religious character of the sovereign and articulated his power on religious power and theology, I think we could set this modern kind of theater in which royalty wanted to be shown and embodied, with one of its most important manifestations being the practice of the coup d’État carried out by the sovereign himself. So there is the appearance of a political theater along with, as the other side of this, the function of theater in the literary sense as the privileged site of political representation, and of representation of the coup d’État in particular. For after all, a part of Shakespeare’s historical drama really is the drama of the coup d’État. Corneille, even Racine, are only ever representations … well, I exaggerate saying that, but quite often, almost always, they are representations of coup d’État. Andromaque and Athalie are coup d’État. Even Bérénice is a coup d’État. I think Classical drama is basically organized around the coup d’État. Just as in politics raison d’État manifests itself in a kind of theatricality, so theater is organized around the representation of this raison d’État in its dramatic, intense, and violent form of the coup d’État. We could say that the court, as organized by Louis XIV, is precisely the point of articulation, the place where raison d’État is dramatized in the form of intriques, disgraces, preferences, exclusions, and exiles, and also the place, precisely, where the theater represents the state itself.
[Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, 15 March 1978 (p.264-66)]
Although Toure’s stewardship of Mali has seen the country blossom into a beacon of democracy on a continent that knows precious little of it, entrenched poverty and the 63-year-old former paratrooper’s perceived mishandling of a powerful insurgency led by ethnic Tuareg separatists in northern Mali have fomented a powerful sense of discontent in recent months, especially within the military. The Tuareg rebels have heaped humiliation after humiliation on government troops using a lightning brand of desert warfare that has seen them strike at multiple targets separated by hundreds of miles of desert and desolate scrubland. Highly motivated and equipped with box-fresh weaponry looted from the arsenals of Libya’s late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi — including vehicle-mounted rocket launchers, antiaircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles — the Tuareg fighters have easily outmatched Mali’s demoralized soldiers, who have had to rely on limited quantities of World War II matériel.
Compounding the setbacks has been Toure’s failure to talk openly about the problems. After a massacre in the remote desert town of Aguel’hoc, in which 82 prisoners taken by the rebels are thought to have been summarily executed, families of the dead soldiers learned of the atrocity not from government sources but by word of mouth. “We have what people call the telephone Arabe — the national rumor service,” explains Adam Thiam, a veteran Malian journalist in Bamako. “Herders, families of soldiers, that kind of thing … it is a pattern that the government communicates only when the information is already known.”
The spark for the mutiny came during a visit to Bamako’s main barracks by Mali’s defence minister. For weeks, discontent has been building as ethnic Tuareg rebels—flush with heavy weaponry stolen from Libya, and better organised than at any time in the past—have launched a series of attacks, sacking beleaguered garrisons and inflicting heavy casualties on the demoralised Malian army.
When the minister failed to assuage soldiers’ concerns that the government had a grip on the insurgency, troops fired angrily into the air. Hours later they swept into Bamako, stormed the state broadcaster’s offices and laid siege to the presidential palace. A thousand miles to the northeast, junior soldiers placed their superiors under lock and key.
Where things go from here depends on the junta’s leaders and how well they are able to control the soldiers, gendarmes and police who have taken charge of Bamako and who have been firing sporadically to intimidate residents and, in some cases, drunkenly looting the presidential palace.
“The situation is calmer today, but people are still uneasy,” said Moctar Mariko, president of the Malian Human Rights Association. “There is a gasoline crisis. Men in uniform were helping themselves freely, and not paying.”
Like others, he condemned the coup, but also Mr. Touré’s government for mishandling the rebel invasion in the north. There is wide agreement among politicians, analysts and civil-society activists that Mr. Touré had left his relatively small army unprepared and underequipped to deal with a rebel force that had armed itself heavily with weapons from the armories of the fallen Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
“The government had not sufficiently prepared the army to confront the rebellion,” Mr. Dramé said in an interview. “Most of the defeats in the desert were because the troops had no motivation to fight. The Malian army was humiliated.”