France and the recolonisation of Mali

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euFight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

On 11 January 2013 France attacked Mali in West Africa with helicopter gunships. Four days later the French government said it would increase its ground troops in Mali from 750 to 1,400 and then to 2,500. 50 tanks and armed trucks crossed into Mali from Côte d’Ivoire. The French government says the ‘operation will last as long as is necessary’. The recolonisation of Mali has begun. CHARLES CHINWEIZU reports.

The Malian government requested French intervention as opposition forces occupied the strategically critical towns of Diabali and Douentza and were driving towards the capital city Bamako. The United Nations Security Council approved a mission to Mali to be headed by African countries and not France. The regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), has authorised the deployment of over 3,400 African troops, led by Nigeria to create the illusion of an African-led action. Algeria gave France permission to use its airspace to bomb targets in Mali. Hundreds of people have already been killed in air strikes. French surveillance drones from Afghanistan and killer drones in Burkina Faso have been diverted to Mali. The British RAF has provided two C-17 transport aircraft, and Britain will deploy a small number of trainers and security personnel to support the Mali invasion. On 17 January 2013, the European Union (EU) agreed a European Training Mission Mali (EUTM Mali) of 500 soldiers led by a French army general.

US and EU interventions in Africa, particularly the Sahel and Sahara region, have become increasingly militarised. Whatever the pretexts used, saving Benghazi from Gaddafi in Libya or combating Al Qaeda terrorism in Somalia and Mali, the real goals are access to and control of Africa’s massive oil and natural gas reserves and other strategic raw materials.

Mali descends into chaos

Mali has been in crisis since an armed Tuareg rebellion began in January 2012, the fourth major Tuareg rebellion seeking autonomy in Mali since 1963, each brutally crushed by the Malian authorities. However, the return of Tuareg fighters from Libya following NATO’s removal of the Gaddafi-led government altered the balance of power in favour of the Tuaregs. Malian helicopter gunships attacked rebel positions. France rejected any idea of part of Mali splitting off, but within three months the secular National Movement for Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA), created by veterans of previous Tuareg revolts, had seized key regions in northern Mali. On 22 March 2012 the President of Mali, Amadou Toumani Toure, was deposed by junior soldiers led by Captain Amadou Sanogo. US Africa Command (Africom) confirmed Sanogo had received US military training; J Peter Pham, an Africom apologist, said, ‘It would be hard to find an officer at his rank or higher in the Malian military whohasn’t received [counter-terrorism] training.’ The coup left Mali’s army in disarray. US-trained Tuareg officers in three out of four elite army units defected to the rebels.

On 6 April 2012 the MNLA declared independence for the Islamic State of Azawad, the Tuareg name for the region. This was rejected by the African Union and the EU. Fighting alongside the MNLA were Islamic fundamentalists from Ansar Dine, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Movement of Unity and Jihad in Western Africa (MUJWA), an AQIM splinter. The MNLA rejected their insistence on establishing sharia law in territory they occupied, saying that it went against their secular principles. In July 2012 the other groups turned against and defeated the MNLA and other Tuareg rebels. French military intelligence says Qatar is providing advisers to Ansar Dine in Mali. Funding for the Mali fundamentalist Wahabis comes from Saudi Arabia, which has financed the most reactionary and extremist centres of terrorism and backwardness. The struggle for self-determination by the Tuaregs for Azawad is a threat to Mali’s ruling elites, to Niger and Algeria, and to the oil and gas fields of Algeria and Libya and their imperialist masters. When parliamentary speaker Dioncounda Traoré was imposed as Mali’s president by ECOWAS, he pledged to ‘wage a total and relentless war’ on the Tuaregs.

As the UN was authorising the supposedly African-led International Support Mission (AFISMA) to attack northern Mali, two of the four rebel groups were negotiating directly with the Malian government. Ansar Dine and the MNLA met with Malian officials for talks in neighbouring Burkina Faso and agreed a ceasefire. On 20 December 2012, the UN approved the French-drafted plan to recolonise Mali using African stooges. Squabbling over funding meant the plan would be delayed until September 2013. The UN, US, Chad and Algeria were sceptical about the military intervention. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon advised against funding it. However, France and ECOWAS pushed for the intervention as the opposition forces drove south. The UN demanded any intervention be approved beforehand, as did the African Union. French President Francois Hollande claimed France was acting in accordance with international laws. It was not. France is using ECOWAS and Côte d’Ivoire to promote its own interests.


Mali

 

A former colony of France then called French Sudan, Mali gained independence in 1960. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a GDP of $1,200 per capita. Although rich in gold and uranium, 50% of the 14 million population live below the poverty line of 75p ($1.25) per day. Life expectancy was 53 years in 2012 and infant mortality 109 deaths per 1,000 live births. 33% of children under the age of five were underweight in 2008.

 

The removal of the Gaddafi-led government in Libya has resulted in the disintegration of Libya’s pest-control programme – the result is locust swarms across Mali and Niger. 60% of the Malian population work in small-scale farming, but most private sector investment goes to large agri-businesses. Mali supplies neighbours Niger and Mauritania with food. The majority of the 4.6m people starving in Mali are in the government controlled south.


 Algeria

 

On 16 January 2013, five days after the French bombing of Mali started, Islamic militants took dozens of workers hostage at the natural gas facility near In Amenas in Algeria. The perpetrators claimed their actions were in retaliation for the French attack on Mali, something that would take longer than five days to plan and accomplish. Algerian troops stormed the facility on 19 January. Over 100 workers are reported to have been killed, including 37 foreign contracted workers, with as many as six British nationals dead. Five foreign workers were still missing four days later.

 

BP, Norway’s Statoil and the Algerian state oil company operate the In Amenas gas field, which accounts for 12% of Algeria’s natural gas output. BP is the largest foreign investor in Algeria and it also has major investments in Libya. Energy accounts for 98% of Algeria’s exports and 70% of its tax revenues.

 

The US state said that it thought the hostage takers were from Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, although they called themselves the Signers in Blood battalion. They are reported to have worn Libyan military uniforms and carried Libyan army weapons.

 


While US President Obama used his inauguration speech on 21 January to announce that ‘A decade of war is now ending’, British Prime Minister Cameron said, ‘This is a global threat and it will require a global response… that is about years, even decades, rather than months.’ US drones were reported flying over the In Amenas site. The British, French and US states are using the In Amenas events as a pretext to step up their military intervention in North and West Africa. British special forces and MI6 have recently been deployed to Mali and RAF reconnaissance planes are likely to be provided shortly. This is part of the imperialist drive to re-divide the world.


Nigeria

 

None of the countries supporting the intervention in Mali – France, the US, Britain, Nigeria, Mali, Algeria – has any principled opposition to terrorism. Britain, France, Qatar and the US used Libyan jihadists to depose Gaddafi in Libya in 2011, and are using Al Qaeda-linked groups in their war against Syria.

 

As for Nigeria, politicians and military leaders, not militants or pirates, are responsible for the majority of oil thefts (bunkering), piracy and kidnappings in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta, according to 2009 US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, the late former President’s brother, was the biggest oil thief; his holdings were managed by his close friend, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, through Intels, an Italian-run company.In order not to ‘hurt our economy’, Nigeria successfully persuaded US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in August 2012 not to designate the Islamic sect Boko Haram as a terrorist organisation. It is common knowledge in Nigeria that Boko Haram was set up, funded, guided and protected by top Nigerian political figures. Even Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan admitted in January 2012, ‘some of [Boko Haram] are in the executive arm of government; some ...are in the parliamentary/legislative arm... while some... are even in the judiciary... [A]lso in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies’. So much for the fight against terrorism.

 

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