By Arian Islam
In recent years, a radical group called Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb has plagued Mali as a group whose agenda is to engulf Sahel under their rule. Although their time on Earth has been short, their actions have proved to be worthy of gaining attention from powerful Nations who feel their presence as a threat. Since the emergence of AQIM, they’ve brought destruction in their path to pursue their agenda, occupying northern Mali but causing upheavals all around the Sahel, Without them even doing anything.
Interestingly, Mali, which is supposed to lead in the fight against Islamic Extremism, doesn’t even have the government to do so, which allows AQIM to run one of their favorites- Hostage and demand. People that are most vulnerable are Westerners, mostly because of their value and the fact that their families will pay high amounts just to be able to see them again. According to Islamic AQIM Commander Hamaha, this is what he loves about Western Countries- they’re financing Jihad. What’s worse is that they’re making bank from ransoms, AQIM reported to have earned $90 million dollars in 2012, making them one of the wealthiest and best armed militant groups. What Hostages are subjected to is the usual. They’re given very little food, they get a drop of water from a gas can, and use the sand of the desert as their bed. AQIM’s actions are brazzen to the fact that they are favored towards people with money and reputation, whether it be a tourist or an official, like political officers and foreign diplomats that are protected by armed troops. Because he has the clout, Hamaha regularly gets phone calls from international Journalists asking about the status and reason(s) of why he kidnaps the people he kidnaps. In the case of the Canadian Diplomat he kidnapped Hamaha stated “Ah yes, the Canadian we kidnapped. I do not regret it at all, he was in a state of being lost”. What does he mean by “being lost”? The diplomat, named Mr. Fowler, who was sent by the UN, stated that his kidnappers kidnapped him because they sensed a “spiritual imbalance” residing within Mr. Fowler. These petty reasons turn to serious criminal actions that AQIM pursue in order to bring balance and peace to the world.
To compartmentalize how dangerous this group is, France has deployed 4,500 of its own troops in addition to having backup from US special forces and intelligence officers and 12,000 UN peacekeeping troops, along with the 10,000+ G5 Sahel joint force troops and the Sahel Alliance, which was launched in 2017 by Germany and France along with the EU, which has expanded it to other European Countries, the World Bank, The African Development Bank, and the UN Development Programme.
In my opinion, I believe that in order for AQIM to be taken down or at least suppressed instead of having Western countries shoulder the rest of Mali, Mali should make efforts to expand and strengthen its government’s power in order to efficiently be able to combat AQIM influence. After Mali has put efforts to strengthen their government, they should consider their geographical position, which is that the capital is in the south of the country while AQIM is taking over the North. Mali has little power in the North, and considering that Mali is not a small country, it’s very weak and therefore essentially Northern Mali is a warzone that is unsupervised. In terms of getting help, there aren’t any non-profit organizations that can battle against AQIM, even the UN struggles to make any dent in the issue. In recent years the only country to really make an improvements is France, who have confirmed the killing of important leaders of AQIM. even then, the participants of the Sahel Alliance, the US, and the United Nations must only support the government of Mali rather than shouldering the responsibility by itself entirely. Only from the inside can Mali rid the plague of AQIM.