The two African stories dominating North American media this last week or so have been Nelson Mandela’s birthday and the commencement of power sharing talks between Mugabe and the Zimbabwean opposition. Another important story (though many on this side of the Atlantic would be at a loss as to how this could be) is that the Touareg rebellion in northern Mali ended this week. The Malian government and Tuaareg rebells signed a ceasefire agreement under Algerian auspices. Naturally, the global importance of this deal relates mainly to its implications for terrorism (the Algerian-Malian border is a favorite stomping ground of AQIM).
The extent to which violence has ceased in the border regions effects the degree to which al-Qaeda linked individuals and affiliated (or unaffiliated) arms and cigarette smugglers are able to pass back and forth. Algeria and Mali have agreed on joint border patrols and other anti-terror measures and a stop to the violence makes it easier for the Algerians to focus on what they’d prefer to, terrorism and Malboros as opposed to ethnic rebells who have kinsmen in Algeria. The deal is a part of Algeria’s diplomatic resurgence, which has been a major part of the Bouteflika legacy. Mali is to a great degree Algeria’s “back yard” and problems in Mali’s north are seen as [potential] problems in Algeria’s south. Libya’s mediation efforts failed, thus leaving the door open for Algiers to whose heart the problem is closer for reasons of geography and illicit smuggling (the extent to which elected and appointed officials in the southern wilayat are involved in cigarette and even drug smuggling is rather vast, as it is in Mauritania and other parts of the Sahel). In terms of regional and continental prestige, the deal is a major boost for Algeria (especially if it holds).