The Woyome scandal has so far claimed two cabinet ministers. The Education Minister and former Attorney General, Betty Mould-Iddrisu, resigned on 23 January, after her successor as AG, Martin A. B. K. Amidu, was fired on 19 January for ‘misconduct’. His dismissal – before which he made public claims that his life had been threatened and ‘gargantuan crimes’ against the state committed by an unnamed cabinet colleague – had triggered a crisis in the governing party just as a final pre-election ministerial reshuffle was being planned.
Battle-hardened fighters of the Mouvement national pour la libération de l’Azawad – equipped with heavy weapons they brought back from Libya – are confronting the Malian army in hard combat for the control of key towns. Well-led and highly experienced, the Tuareg MNLA launched its offensive in January, having returned to Mali late in 2011 from the defence of Bani Walid, the last stronghold of forces loyal to the late Libyan leader, Colonel Moammar el Gadaffi (AC Vol 52 No 18, The Gadaffi clan scatters).
Attacks by the Mouvement national pour la libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) have been not only fierce but well planned. The late January assault on Ménaka, in the far south-east near Niger, was followed by operations against Tessalit and Aguelhok, 500-600 kilometres to the north, near the Algerian border. The aim was clearly to divide government forces and cause confusion. Then, the rebels attacked Léré, over 700 km. to the south-west, near the Mauritanian border, and Niafounké, near Timbuktu. After the Léré attack, some 1,000 civilians fled into Mauritania. The army has deployed five helicopter gunships to try to push back forces threatening Kidal, capital of the Malian Sahara.
A report to the United Nations Security Council paints an alarming picture of Sahelian countries being severely stressed by the 420,000 returnees who have fled Libya since the beginning of the uprising there. Some of them were armed – and have fuelled the Mali revolt (see Mali: Libyan arms fuel Tuareg revolt) – and others have been spreading Libyan weapons through the region.