Mali has launched a 32 billion CFA franc programme to try and restore the government’s authority in its desert north where a mix of rebels and criminals have fomented insecurity through kidnappings, smuggling and uprisings.
The government is hoping to develop the north, which is potentially rich in resources and was once frequented by foreign tourists but remains impoverished and awash with gunmen, including groups linked to al Qaeda.
Having lost some US$110 million in revenues from tourism over the last two years, President Amadou Toumani Toure said the government would hit back by redeploying some administrative offices and providing infrastructure and development, Reuters reports.
“Poverty and insecurity are perfect breeding grounds for terrorism and fundamentalism,” Toure said on Wednesday while explaining the two-year plan on state television.
The influence of the central government in the isolated north has always been weak, and nomadic Tuareg rebels launched rebellions there in the 1990s and in 2007.
But Mali, Niger and Mauritania have struggled to tackle the spreading insecurity, which has seen drug smuggling rise and dozens of Westerners kidnapped and mostly end in the hands of al Qaeda’s North African wing.
Mali’s government said earlier this month the insecurity had cost the country some 50 billion CFA francs in lost tourism receipts and 8,000 jobs over the past two years.
Western nations led by former colonial power France and the United States have led efforts to provide military support to these countries but analysts say more progress in development and tackling corruption is needed.