Tuaregs seized the Saharan north of Mali in March 2012. Worried by this and by the rise of Islamists, in October the UN Security Council, France, and Ecowas began planning an intervention.
So, Ecowas, the West African grouping dominated by Nigeria, will probably police, in imperial style, the northerly desert possessions of Mali. And, France will probably give weapons to Bamako. No doubt the French will use such euphemisms as “capacity-building” as they arm whomever useful they can find in Bamako.
This effort at repressing the resentful and increasing the power of the undeserving hardly seems wise. Can outsiders even be sure they know who is who there? Are there any good guys there?
Instead, why not let the Tuaregs of the Saharan north separate from the south? A bonus: the Tuareg want to separate, but the Islamists don’t.
The Tuareg are an unusual ethnie. A Berber people, they spread south from the Maghreb into the Sahel after camels were domesticated. Thanks to their skills with desert and camel, they long controlled the trans-Saharan caravan trade between Timbuktu and the Maghreb.
(Earlier thoughts on Mali here.)