It was reported today that terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar has been killed by Chadian soldiers, perhaps supported by French special forces.
My first reaction was disappointment. I wanted to follow him and find out more about him.
But he was a brutal man, responsible for innocent deaths.
The Chadians also claim to have killed his former partner and rival, Abu Zeid.
We’ll see if it’s true.
If so, it could be very bad for the five or six Westerns hostages held by these groups.
Henry McCulloch saw my piece about Andy in the paper. He was keen to tell me his views.
He says the countries set up by departing colonial powers in the 1950’s and 60’s often contained different ethnic and religious groups. They were hard to rule. The West tolerated autocratic dictators and strong men who often used brutal methods to keep the countries together, clamping down on minority groups and dissidents, especially Islamists.
That was because the autocrats supported the Western Cold War policy.
With the end of the Cold War it was clear that the policy changed. In 2005 Condoleeza Rice observed that the United States had pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the Middle East and achieved neither.
The change was obvious from Western encouragement of the string of revolutions that began in Tunisia in December 2010. There was no support for Hosni Mubarak in Egypt even though he had been useful in refusing help to the Palestinian group Hamas and had generally supported US policy in the Middle East.
Now free elections have opened up these countries to Islamist parties which do not necessarily support freedom of faith and free speech. The Ennahda party won the majority of seats in the Tunisian elections. Its leader was quoted as saying, at a meeting with representatives of Hamas, that it was “a divine moment… hopefully, a 6th caliphate.”
“A modern state is built on the forcible repression of minorities”, said Henry. “You could call it a war of the nation against the tribe. It has to be won, totally. Only then does the political culture change. And even then a nation has to work hard to keep its citizens loyal.”
He thinks many states may disintegrate. That will pose great challenges.