English: Map of Mali showing Tombouctou Region...

Several years – actually probably around 2 decades ago – I was getteing ready for a new job in the Army. It was at a time when all our political and military focus had been on the threat of war in Europe as a result of a Soviet invasion.

This focus was almost total, as was the stability that it generated. But my new job was to take me away from Europe as I turned to look after what was officially called “The Rest of the World”. That is: the non-NATO threatened parts of the world.

And in preparation for that work I remember being told by one old sage “never to trust countries with straight line borders”. The reasoning was simple: they are the results of colonialist interventions that could not be bothered to understand the local cultural and tribal landscapes before drawing up national boundaries. Continue reading