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Ungoverned space?

February 15, 2013

A good corrective to the lazy and usually inaccurate concept of “ungoverned space”, by Yvan Guichaoua. It links nicely to my previous blog post on the use of inaccurate language and of how lazy language can lead to misdiagnosis and wrong approaches.

E.g. it always puzzles me that the Taleban are described as insurgents by foreign armies who invaded the country and drove them from power. I hold no brief for the Taleban but is “counter-insurgency” the right way to describe the ISAF approach towards them? Likewise, are the areas of Pakistan where the Taleban is, “ungoverned”? I think not.

Mats Utas

This is the first part of a two-part analysis of the present situation in Mali. Part II, entitled “Mali: toward a neo-trusteeship?” will explore the responses to Mali’s crisis.

Repeatedly in the past weeks, UK Prime Minister David Cameron called northern Mali an ‘ungoverned space’, indulging in the classic intellectual shortcut used by those looking for easy explanations of the territorial entrenchment of irregular armed groups, including Al Qaeda-affiliated ones, in Africa and beyond. Such an assumption leads to dangerous misconceptions of political and social realities of Mali.

Crucially, it suggests that terrorists have established their stronghold in a political vacuum. The implication is that those who have shaped the political environment leading to the resumption of a separatist Tuareg insurgency in January 2012 followed by its replacement by a coalition of Al Qaeda affiliated groups and Salafist Tuareg, are automatically exonerated from their responsibility in Mali’s present state of…

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