Russian envoy predicts rise in Islamic influence in Africa

Text of report by corporate-owned Russian news agency Interfax

Moscow, 22 March: A rise in Islamic influence will be the main trend in the African region, the Russian president’s special representative for cooperation with African countries, Mikhail Margelov, thinks.

Africa is facing dramatic consequences of the Libyan crisis, Margelov told Interfax on Thursday [22 March]. "The increasing Islamist influence is the main trend that will determine the development of this region in the foreseeable future, and the outlines of the ‘green arc’ of instability from the Maghreb, Nigeria, to the Horn of Africa, are already visible," he stated.

He thinks that the "Arab Spring" has destroyed the historical counterbalance to this sort of development – the secular regimes of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. "The situation of general tension gives rise to high uncertainty of predicting a specific course of events [or] unrest in this or that country of this vast region," Margelov stressed.

Analysing the situation in Africa, Margelov noted that the Maghreb region and the Sahel region were destabilized and that separatist and Islamist groups that received arms after the fighting in Libya stepped up their activities.

"The Islamization is supported by the victories of moderate Islamists in Tunisia and Egypt elections, the activities of the extremist organization Al-Qa’idah have been dramatically revived in the Islamic Maghreb countries," Margelov noted.

In Mali, the military mutiny has occurred against the background of serious advances of Tuareg rebel groups’ Islamist movement Ansar Al-Din in the north-east of the country, he continued. "However, for now the mutiny in Mali should not be directly linked to theses advances by Islamists, although the mutineers are accusing the army leadership, among other things, of ‘mismanaging the army’. These disturbances also should not be considered as an attempt to overthrow the regime, because so far the mutineers have not called for the overthrow of the democratically elected ministers," Margelov explained.

Nevertheless, the fact of the mutiny itself contains a threat to the current authorities in Mali, the special representative thinks.

"The international community is closely watching the situation in that troubled region. Russia favours a political solution to internal conflicts, because the use of force results in civilian casualties and dangerous destabilizing consequences for the vast regions of Africa," Margelov concluded.

Source: Interfax news agency, Moscow, in Russian 0841 gmt 22 Mar 12

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