Busy week in several areas of interest for Notes on the Periphery! A lot of interesting stuff to get plugged into…
Mali: Le Monde has a very eloquent description of the Islamist fighters’ “citadel of rocks”—the rugged Adrar de Tigharghar and Ametetai Valley (within the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains), where French and Chadian forces seek to vanquish the remaining Islamist fighters, an elusive enemy. The money quote (en français, bien sûr!):
“Entouré par des plaines qui dérivent vers le désert, l’adrar de Tigharghâr, à l’ouest du massif des Ifoghas, ressemble au résultat d’une grande colère géologique échouée sur le sable, avec son relief tourmenté d’éboulis, de pitons, d’amas de pierres volcaniques noires et coupantes, truffées d’anfractuosités.” (In case you need it, translate here!)
Nigeria: CFR fellow John Campbell has a nice primer on Ansaru in The Atlantic, described with the headline, “The Ruthless New Islamist Group Terrorizing Nigeria.” (The article is quite good, but The Atlantic probably needs to tone down its headline writing. Ansaru is over a year old and targets more Westerners than Nigerians – unlike the deadlier Boko Haram. However, this is not as bad as the Feb. 26 headline for an otherwise good story on Pakistan’s LeJ: “The Taliban’s New, More Terrifying Cousin.” There is nothing new about LeJ [created in 1996 and has roots dating even further back] and “more terrifying” is perhaps a bit sensational.)
Central African Republic: In a step backwards from a ceasefire signed in January, Seleka (a coalition of CAR’s major rebel groups) seized two towns near the DRC border. They threatened to begin a new offensive (one they could probably win) if President Bozize’s government does not follow-through on its promise to release hundreds of political prisoners. (For greater context, see here.)
Congo: Infighting within the insurgent M23 movement sidelined infamous rebel leader Gen. Bosco Ntaganda in the eastern DRC this week. Ironically, this may actually pave the way for a potential peace agreement with the winning faction, led by Gen. Sultani Makenga. The complex backstory here.
Sudan-South Sudan: The newly-independent Republic of South Sudan announced it should be able to soon restart oil production after it reached a border agreement with its neighbor Sudan. (The south, which holds 80 percent of the oil reserves between the two nations, stopped drilling in January 2012 in a dispute over border conflicts and heavy taxes on shipping oil through pipelines in the north.)
Also, the US and Russia squabbled again in their favorite forum for blasting one another—the UN—over the oil dispute and conflicts in the troubled “three areas” of southern Sudan (Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile, Abyei).
Tanzania: An op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor expresses worries about Islamic extremism in Tanzania and beyond.
Yemen: Foreign Policy offers an inside look at Yemen’s southern separatist movement, or “Hirak.”
For a broader look at the upcoming “national dialogue,” see here.
Syria: An NPR interviewer asks some tough questions of a Libyan fighter affiliated with Jabhat al-Nusra, the most powerful Islamist group fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Tunisia: Middle East expert Aaron Zelin has an interesting piece on a growing jihadi, but not (yet) overtly violent, group: Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia.
Pakistan: See here for a borderline outrageous interview with the leader of the violent anti-Shi’a movement Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), which has historical links with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi – the group responsible for at least two major terrorist attacks in Shi’a neighborhoods this year.
Falkland Islands: Falklands residents voted almost unanimously in a referendum to remain under British rule. Argentina still claims the islands (in Spanish, “Islas Malvinas”) three decades after the UK repelled an Argentine assault in 1982. (A nice map of the territorial dispute—land and sea—by Political Geography Now.)
Just for fun
Al Qaeda has a new, but pitiful 8-bit online video game in which players shoot pathetic rockets at French airplanes in Mali. If this is the best Al Qaeda can do, maybe we shouldn’t be too worried about them after all…