The Islamic group Ansar Dine has taken over northern Mali. Both they and Tuareg rebels were able to drive out Malian forces after a coup last March. However now the Islamic radicals have taken control. The group has had no experience in providing basic services such as electricity, water, and schools.
A group from the south called the Coalition for Mali recently visited the area. In some cases the militants asked that former state functionaries return to help the group provide basic services for the population. The Ansar Dine appear to have subdued the population and subjected them to harsh Sharia law. Some have also destroyed ancient historic religious and cultural artifacts. However, the group just does not have the expertise to provide state services. They are aware of this weakness and no doubt also aware that if they do not provide services that help the people they are ruling that they will face constant opposition. Daouda Maiga used to run a state development program in the Kidal region. When the Islamists invaded most people simply left. Maiga
“They asked for the state to resume its functions, because it's too complicated for them to manage..They are not used to running things.
Almost 400,000 people fled the north draining the area of people with the skills to help govern in a way that provides people with basic services.
The Ansar Dine has now occupied the north for five months and there has yet been no move from the south to dislodge them as there is still political struggle after the coup to establish some type of legitimate government. West African regional intervention has yet to happen. Any type of armed intervention is likely to worsen the situation. Perhaps the best solution would be to actually provide the sorts of skills that would help the people and are needed by the Islamists. However, that is unlikely in my opinion. The Ansar Dine are said to have links to Al Qaeda and are not acceptable to the U.S. or any of the western supported and western-trained military groups in the area. The next strongest group in the area are Tuareg who are not acceptable either since some served in the Libyan armed forces under Qaddafi.
Recently the Ansar Dine has moved further south
to seize control of the town of Douentza which had been ruled by a local militia. While the area is still far from the capital Bomaka it is close to the area controlled by the government in Mali. Ironically the original army coup against the democratically elected president of Mali was justified by the lack of government action to dislodge northern rebels. The result of the coup has been complete loss of control in the region.