No military intervention in ancient Timbuktu

2012-07-07 16:39

Two thousand protesters on Independence Square in Mali’s capital, Bamako, could not convince the United Nations (UN) of the need for military intervention in Mali.

On Thursday, protesters called on the international community to intervene in Timbuktu and Gao, where fighters are enforcing strict sharia laws, breaking up ancient shrines with picks and shovels and keeping citizens trapped with landmines.

Young people who wanted to protest in Timbuktu were advised not to do so by older citizens in order to avoid a bloodbath in the historical “City of 333 Saints”.

The UN Security Council approved a resolution on Thursday, but military intervention – even a proposed African force – was not discussed.

The resolution involves sanctions against Ansar Dine (the Defenders of Islam) and condemns their radical action. The destruction of memorials and mausoleums could perhaps be charged as war crimes, the resolution says, which was approved by the 15 member states.

Mali’s neighbouring states requested the UN to consider military intervention, and France agreed to draft the text. Mali was a French colony until 1960.

The Economic Community of West African States was ready last week to send 3 300 troops into the afflicted northern region of Mali, but the step needs approval by a UN resolution.

Twitter was flooded over the past few days with reports about students starting to protect the Tomb of Askia in Gao – a city 320km east of Timbuktu – following fears that the destruction of the monuments in Timbuktu would spread there.

Askia the Great developed the Mali Empire into the largest West African country in the 1500s and introduced complex systems of taxation and land management.

Ansar Dine, which is linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has planted landmines around Gao to prevent the more moderate Tuareg, who were expelled from the Ansar Dine last week, from launching a counterattack.

Soon after the coup, Ansar Dine and Aqim moved the Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad out of all positions of power.

The violent destruction of memorials in Timbuktu came days before Unesco, the UN agency for cultural preservation, was going to establish an emergency fund for the protection of the Timbuktu memorials.

A spokesperson for Ansar Dine said they don’t recognise the UN or the International Court of Justice.

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