Malian Air Force Buys Pricey French Chopper To Fight Local Jihadists
A fully-loaded “Super Puma” military helicopter is the latest addition to Mali’s beleaguered air force which has been struggling to defeat rebels in the country’s central and northern region.
The Super Puma, a twin-engine, heavy lift helicopter, had been returned to the French Airbus company in October by a Texas-based operator that went bankrupt. The CHC Group was given the green light to shed some 99 Super Pumas, at least one of which was turned around by Airbus and sold to Africans. Each Super Puma costs an estimated $15 million. A second Super Puma is due to arrive in Mali this coming month.
Despite the new piece of military hardware, jihadists this week managed to carjack two ambulances and another vehicle in the southwestern town of Dilli. Five Malian soldiers lost their lives while transporting ballot boxes during Sunday’s municipal elections – the first since 2013.
Voter turnout in Mali was low as security jitters remained high despite the presence of over 10,000 United Nations and French forces.
Voters are electing 12,000 council members across Mali as the government prepares to enact a 2015 peace deal and ward off the stubborn rebel threat in the north. Meanwhile, pro-government militia groups and former rebels who signed the peace deal are intermittently fighting each other in northern areas where the state remains absent. “We’re again, as we’ve been several times since 2013, at a defining moment,” said International Crisis Group analyst Jean-Herve Jezequel, referring to France’s 2013 military offensive against jihadist groups in northern Mali.
He expressed pessimism about the country’s peace prospects. No one in Mali “really believes this peace deal can change anything significant,” Jezequel said, since the accord was struck due to outside pressure rather than by a national consensus. Two African scholars writing in The Conversation, an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community, examined the term “jihadists” used widely in the western media. “It would be false,” they said, “to attribute political violence in this region solely to groups embracing jihad. At least two more rationales exist. One is about community self-de- fense. The other involves a struggle led by Fulani herdsmen, more vulnerable than other Fulani communities of the area.”
“Seeing the current increase in terrorist attacks in Mali as just another tentacle of glob- alized Islamic terrorism therefore misses the point,” wrote the UK-based profes- sor Yvan Guichaoua and Dr. Dougoukolo Alpha Oumar Ba-Konaré of Mali. “The mixture of groups within Mali are primarily the product of local historical condi- tions, not an externally imposed ideology.