Cablegate: Scenesetter for Deputy Assistant Secretary Moss

DE RUEHBP #0491/01 1541054
R 021054Z JUN 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


1.(SBU) Summary: We welcome the upcoming visit of Deputy
Assistant Secretary Moss to Mali. The Deputy Assistant
Secretary's visit will provide an important opportunity to
highlight U.S. support for Mali, a moderate, majority Muslim
democracy now confronted by two major challenges -- the world
food crisis and an incipient rebellion in the north.
According to the World Bank and Mali's Commissioner for Food
Security, Mali is one of the few countries in the region that
does not currently face a food shortage crisis. That said,
rising food prices have affected consumption patterns in Mali
and the Ministry of Economy has predicted eventual food
shortages for some remote areas. In Mali's northern region
of Kidal, renewed attacks against the Malian military by
different Tuareg rebel groups have endangered implementation
of the Algiers Accords. Foreign Minister Moctar Ouane
recently returned from Algiers with welcome news of Algeria's
decision to resume mediation between Mali and Tuareg forces.
Unfortunately, rebel attacks continue, making it more and
more difficult for President Toure to advocate for a peaceful
solution to the conflict. Northern Mali also serves as a
safe-haven for al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which
continues to hold two Austrian hostages. U.S. assistance to
Mali plays a major role in addressing the development,
economic and security challenges confronting the Malian
government and its people. Mali is also an important ally in
the global war on terrorism and a key member of the
Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP).
Spreading instability in the north has already forced us to
scale back assistance efforts for northern Mali and we are
concerned that increased unrest will have a profound impact
on our development and security goals for the north. End

Malian Democracy and International Engagement

2.(U) As a moderate majority Muslim democracy with over 15
years of democratic experience, Mali serves as an example for
west Africa and beyond. President Amadou Toumani Toure, who
is known to Malians as "ATT," was re-elected to a second and
final five year term as President in 2007 with more than 70
percent of the vote. His closest presidential challenger,
former National Assembly president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita
(IBK), finished second with less then 20 percent.

3.(U) Mali is a responsible and engaged international
partner. It has a strong human rights record and is one of
the few members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference
to be rated as "free" by Freedom House. Mali is also a
leader in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of press freedoms,
although this record was tarnished somewhat by the 2007
arrest and conviction of several journalists for "offending
the President." The journalists were given small fines and
suspended sentences. In addition to serving as the 2007
Chair of the Community of Democracies, Mali is active in the
United Nations and other international organizations and has
participated in several international peacekeeping

4.(SBU) Unfortunately, Mali's political progress has not
been matched by improved social and economic indicators. In
2007 the United Nations gave Mali a ranking of 173 out of 177
countries on its Human Development Index due in large part to
literacy rates, health indicators and a per capita GNP that
are among the lowest in the world. These factors, along with
significant food security concerns, insecurity and the
continued presence of al Qaeda-aligned terrorist elements in
the country's sparsely populated northern regions, constitute
serious threats to Malian democracy and regional stability.
The U.S. plays a significant role in helping Mali to meet
these challenges and reinforce almost two decades of
democratic progress.

U.S. Assistance to Mali

5.(U) The November 2006 signing of a Millennium Challenge
Account compact with Mali made the U.S. the largest bilateral
donor to Mali. It also cemented strong U.S. - Mali relations
and better positioned Mali as a force for stability in a
politically fragile region. The USD 461 million compact
entered into force in September 2007 and includes a USD 234
million irrigation project north of Segou and a USD 183
million airport renovation project.

6.(SBU) Mali is also an important ally in the global war on

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terror and a key member of the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism
Partnership (TSCTP). TSCTP programming in Mali can be
divided into programs focused on counter-terrorism and
counter-extremism. Important counter-terrorism programs
include bilateral training exercises like Joint Combined
Exercise Training (JCET) events. Counter-extremism
activities include a broad range of Department of Defense
supported humanitarian assistance, USAID development programs
and public diplomacy outreach. The Department of Defense's
Humanitarian Assistance Program has contributed over USD 3
million to Mali since 1999 to build wells, construct schools
and renovate health clinics. Mali is an active participant
in the DOD's International Military Education and Training
(IMET) program. We also provide resources to train three
Malian units in peacekeeping operations through the African
Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA)

7.(SBU) Malians practice a predominately open and tolerant
form of Islam and are therefore unreceptive to extremist
messages. Our TSCTP counter-extremism programs are designed
to promote moderate messages and ensure that Malians remain
unreceptive to extremist ideologies. TSCTP programs
administered jointly by the State Department, USAID and the
Department of Defense are designed to ensure that this
remains the case and counter the possible spread of extremist
ideologies. USAID/Mali considers the northern region of Mali
an important area and has undertaken activities there in a
concerted effort since 1999. USAID/Mali implemented
approximately $3.7 million worth of activities in the north
during FY07, including support to 35 rural health centers,
the construction and reinforcement of 17 community radio
stations, the establishment of six community telecenters
offering internet access, the conduct of conflict-mitigation
activities, support to rice and horticultural commodities,
the expansion of access to financial services, the provision
of scholarships and mentoring to 6,500 girls under the
Ambassador's Girls Scholarship Fund, and the creation of
teacher training and radio-based instruction for children of
nomadic populations. USAID/Mali received an additional $9.5
million in TSCTP funds and the majority of these resources
have been earmarked for activities in the north that aim to
expand economic opportunities for youth, construct additional
community radio stations, build capacity for local
government, and support madersas throughout the country. On
the Public Affairs side, we have used cultural preservation
grants to help Mali honor its Islamic heritage by protecting
thousands of ancient Islamic manuscripts in Djenne and
Timbuktu and helping to preserve an ancient mosque in Gao.
We additionally recently celebrated the year anniversary of
the only American Corner in Mali. Located in Gao, it has
allowed us to quadruple our outreach to key contacts in the
region and to further promote mutual understanding between
Malians and Americans.

Food Security

8.(U) According to the World Bank and Mali's Commissioner
for Food Security, Mali is one of the few countries in the
region that does not currently face a food crisis. The World
Bank and other donors have, in fact, criticized Mali for
exacerbating the regional food crisis by blocking the export
of cereals. Although Mali currently has enough rice for the
next three months of consumption, this is not enough to carry
over until the October harvests, creating the potential for
shortages when current stocks are depleted. Many Malians have
already begun replacing staple goods with alternative,
cheaper commodities due to rising food prices. The Minister
of Economy predicted eventual food shortages in certain
remote areas and has signaled his intention to request
assistance from the international community. Higher prices
will hit Mali's northern regions harder because these areas
produce less and import more agricultural products, making
them more susceptible to exogenous shocks.

9.(U) The USG is already extremely engaged in supporting
Mali's agricultural sector. USAID provides almost $1 million
in annual support to Mali's rice sector, including in the
areas of irrigation, access to arable land, wells, financing,
and support for the commercial sales of rice. This is in
addition to the $3 million spent annually by USAID, in
collaboration with American universities, to help introduce
new technology into the cultivation of sorghum and millet.
The MCC's $234 million project in Alatona is focused on
modernizing the irrigation system and developing 14,000
hectares of additional irrigable land.


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Security Challenges

10.(SBU) Security concerns in northern Mali constitute a
significant challenge for the Malian government (Reftel).
Mali has weathered two Tuareg rebellions (one in 1963 and a
second during the 1990s) since independence. In May 2006
Tuareg rebels attacked two Malian military outposts in
northern Mali and rekindled fears of another prolonged
rebellion. President Toure resisted calls from some Malian
political leaders to force a military confrontation with the
rebels and instead opted for dialogue mediated by Mali's
northern neighbor, Algeria. In July 2006 Mali and the Tuareg
rebels signed a peace agreement, known as the Algiers
Accords, which pledged to provide increased development and
infrastructure support to Mali's three northern regions. In
2007 a dissident group of Tuareg rebels led by Ibrahim
Bahanga resumed attacks against Malian military posts and
convoys. Bahanga held several dozen Malian soldiers hostage
for nearly six months until Libya helped negotiate their
release in March 2008. Less than two weeks later Bahanga
seized another group of Malian soldiers. He and another
rebel group, the Alliance for Democracy and Change (ADC), are
now holding anywhere from 60 to 90 Malian soldiers hostage.

11.(SBU) There are now several different armed Tuareg rebel
groups and militias operating in northern Mali and attacks
have spread beyond Kidal to the regions of Gao and Segou.
Algeria's recent decision to resume its mediation efforts is
a welcome development. However, the April 10 executions of
two ADC members in Kidal and the increasing number of rebel
attacks have significantly complicated attempts to implement
the Algiers Accords. Although President Toure remains
committed to a peaceful resolution of the current crisis
through the Algiers Accords framework, pressure for him to
respond militarily is rising. Key aspects of the Algiers
Accords are the creation of special mixed military units and
the reduction of Malian forces in the north to pre-2006 troop
levels. Neither of these components can be implemented
without a cease-fire that is respected by all Tuareg rebel

12.(SBU) In addition to the unfolding Tuareg crisis, Mali's
sparsely populated and vast northern regions also serve as a
haven for smugglers, bandits and terrorist elements. The
Malian government is unable to fully secure these zones due
to their size and remote nature. Algerian Islamic extremists
formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat
(GSPC) but now called al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic
Mahgreb (AQIM) continue to use northern Mali as a safe haven
and are currently holding two Austrian hostages on Malian

Comment: U.S. Support for Mali

13.(SBU) Mali's successful 2007 presidential and legislative
elections served as an important benchmark for Mali's
democratic progress. Renewed Tuareg unrest in northern Mali,
and the continued presence of AQIM elements, are jeopardizing
this progress. Current security, development, and economic
challenges mean that Mali and international partners like the
U.S. must work together to ensure that Mali's path toward
democracy continues to advance in the right direction. Your
visit to Mali at this critical moment will serve as a further
demonstration of USG support for Mali and its people at the
same time that it will afford an important opportunity for us
to engage Malian government officials on need for forward
movement on the Algiers Accords.

© Scoop Media

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