Previously, this blogger complained about popular maps of North Africa as it related to AQIM, particularly in English-speaking media. Below are some rough, experimental maps that attempt to show some of the priorities discussed last week’s post on some of the politics between the various actors in the Maghreb-Sahel region. Nothing here is perfectly depicted or with total accuracy, but they are a start toward … something. [UPDATE: Another map, after the jump.]
1. In the first map represents the priorities discussed in the posts referenced above. Algeria, Libya and Morocco are colored blue as key actors while other relevant local actors are colored tan. Senegal is not included, though it might be advisable to include that country (as well as Gambia). The black arrows indicate “geopolitical thrusts” and are highlighted to indicate priorities according to understandings of political, economic, social and military efforts as expressed in the posted mentioned above (under “intra-regional squabbling”). The yellow arrows indicate indirect influence or the independent influence of secondary actors. Because this map is concerned with intra-regional priorities and interests, it does not include the behavior or priorities of western actors directly. The large number of vectors make it … potentially quite confusing.
2. The second map is more detailed. It shows areas where large semi-nomadic or nomadic ethnic groups live in the so-called “un-governed spaces” (or “under-governed spaces”) in the Sahara. It also marks the assorted sedentary and semi-sedentary ethnic groups living south of the Sahara in the Sahel. These are meant to be rough approximations of an exceedingly diverse population. It has some other features, too. The black arrows, as above, indicate “geopolitical thrusts” according to most of the same criteria as those above except that it is meant to show a more generalized orientation especially according to energy and military priorities. The red flashes represent states that have seen AQIM or GSPC attacks; white flashes represent other, non-AQIM rebellions or militant movements/attacks over the last ten to twenty years; yellow bolts represent states with coups d’etats in the last ten to twenty years; the black gas boxes represent current major oil producers; white and black gas boxes represent potential or recent petroleum producers; the axes represent states with important mining activities.
3. The third map is mostly the same as the second, except that it shows forms of government. The small crowds represent states with democratic processes over the last 10-20 years. The with men in suits represent authoritarian states or dictatorships over the last 10-20 years. Those with both indicate transitions or mixed regimes over the same period. It also includes arrows showing regional actors’ interests where European powers are concerned. Again, it represents generalized interests, with the size of each arrow representing the level of priority as discussed in the post on political posturing. Removing the ethnic labels might make this map more usable for other purposes.
4. The fourth map is even more general, but accounts for outside actors. This map is especially concerned with local and outside actors in relation to terrorism and under-governance. But it also attempts to show the global context these issues coexist with and feed from and into. It includes the most relevant extra-regional actors from a economic, military and cultural/religious perspective. They are meant to reflect relative interest and influence in both directions. It is problematic because the “under-governed space” at the center is enhanced only in relation to the ethnic markers and some of the “geopolitical thrusts”; labels for resources (as in maps 2 and 3) might add more understanding where the outside actors are concerned. The non-western actors (except for perhaps South Africa and Nigeria) could go unmentioned and the map would still have relevance where AQIM or under-governance is of interest. They are included mostly to add a broader context, to show the presence of other actors and their supposed impact.
5. This map is, like the one in point 4, concerned with the role of outside actors in the context of the major export-oriented resources — mining and hydrocarbons. As in the maps above, black gas boxes represent current major oil/gas producers/exporters and black white gas boxes represent recent or potential oil/gas producers or exporters. The axes represent where mining is of importance. The position of the “geopolitical thrust” vectors is not intended to point to particular countries but is meant to show the general origin of certain actors geographically and their relative level of interest in the region in relation to each other, generally speaking.