French troops in Mali.
[Click HERE for more on Mali.]
By Roger Annis
February 6, 2013 – A Socialist in Canada, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- ”France is in Mali for the long haul.” That’s the headline of the France daily Le Monde on February 4. The newspaper’s front page, as well as pages 2 and 3, were
devoted to a discussion over "what next" for France and the world in
The views of the newspaper’s editors are explained in a front page editorial. (The editorial translated into English is below.) Describing in
the politest of terms France’s historic role in Africa as a slave and
colonial power, and summarising the political situation in Mali and west
Africa as a “struggle against narco-Islamists”, the newspaper argues
for a long-term, Haiti-style tutelage of Mali.
France’s imperialist allies in Europe and North America can be
expected to seamlessly concur. Intense discussions to this effect are
underway at the UN Security Council.
Several important differences with Haiti are already evident. For
one, France want the neighbouring, neocolonial regimes of west Africa
to eventually carry the lion’s share of responsibility for a
police/military occupation regime. Yet, echoing statements by French
military leaders, Le Monde’s editors acknowledge that the
arming and training of an African force is going to take many months and
positive results are not guaranteed.
These same African forces have been “trained” by the US, European
and Canadian militaries for some years already with seemingly little to
show. So that leaves France staring at the uncomfortable prospect of
bearing the lion’s share of what by all appearance will be a long
occupation ("France is in Mali for the long haul"!). The pages in Le Monde are filled with news and commentary about this dilemma. Again on the Haiti analogy, it has been nearly nine years
since the Security Council’s MINUSTAH force in Haiti landed, three
months after the overthrow by US-backed paramilitaries of the elected
Two, France wants international endorsement and participation in its
project. It has already received the enthusiastic participation of its
principal imperialist allies. It obtained an endorsement for an
“African-led” military force in the UN Security Council resolution of December 20, 2012.
But whether this will prove as lasting and universally supported in the
halls of the Security Council as MINUSTAH has been is another matter.
A contrary case to military occupation is presented in the February 4 Le Monde
by author and academic Olivier Roy. He writes that the issue at the
core of the conflict in Mali is not “Islamic fundamentalism” but the
national rights of the Touareg people. “The issue with the Touaregs is
national tensions, not Islamism. This problem cannot be resolved except
through negotiations leading to a more equitable sharing of political
An informative news article (in French) in the same issue of Le Monde summarises the history of the Touareg national rights struggle.
Where does the French left stand in the face of all this? The daily
newspaper of the Communist Party continues its support for the
intervention. A published report last week on French president François
Hollande ‘s visit to Mali was headlined, 'Hollande in Timbuktu: 'I don’t
wish to meddle in the political life of Mali''. The paper is routinely
summarising in its pages the declarations of the French government and
A statement by members of the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) charts
an entirely different course. Issued on February 3 following a three-day
convention of the party, the statement opens with a harsh condemnation
of the France-led war. It then proceeds to describe how the war policy
in Mali is matched by sharpening attacks on the working class in France.
The NPA has helped initiate a call for a demonstration (text below)
in Paris on February 9 against the war. The protest will begin at the
headquarters of AREVA, the giant French uranium mining and nuclear
reactor manufacturer. The company operates several uranium mines in Niger, neighbour country to Mali, and is presently constructing in Niger what will be the second largest uranium mine in the world.
The call to the February 9 demonstration reads, “It is not humanitarian
reasons that are motivating the French war in Mali, but imperialist
interests in the purest tradition of the actions of ‘France Afrique’. Like a confession to a crime, this war allows France to send troops to secure the uranium mines of AREVA in Niger.”
In Canada, long-time Africa observer and writer Gerald Caplan has published two commentaries on Mali in the Globe and Mail since the onset of the French intervention. The second one also appeared in the online publication rabble.ca
and he observes, “Over the years, in the name of R2P (Responsibility To
Protect doctrine) — the right to plunder — Canadian mining companies
have made a fortune out of Mali’s resources. Significant humanitarian
aid would be a good way to pay down some of our debt.”
But rather incongruously, the main argument in the commentary is that
Canada’s participation in the French intervention “makes no sense”.
Caplan appeals to the Canadian government to increase its aid to Mali
from the paltry C$13 million boost announced last week. But he makes no
reference to the engagement by Canada’s military since at least 2009 in
the US-led militarisation of Mali and the region.
Unfortunately for the citizens of France, the US, Canada and other
countries pouring their militaries into Africa, and for the Africans
themselves, it makes “a lot of sense” for the imperialists to deploy
military forces in west Africa. These are the shock troops of an
expanding neocolonial grab for resources that is documented in an
important new article by John Pilger.
Therein lies the foreign policy challenge that Mali presents for the
workers of the invading countries. Do Canadians, for example, want a
government that, in the recent words of Globe and Mail
columnist Doug Saunders, pursues a “colonial turn” in Africa similar to
its earlier turns in Afghanistan and Haiti? Or do we fight for a
government that would join in the worldwide struggle against war,
capitalist injustice and environmental destruction?
[Roger Annis resides in Vancouver, B.C. He can be reached at rogerannis[at]hotmail[dot]com.]
NO to France’s war in Mali!
[Demonstrate] Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 15:00
Location: In front of the headquarters of AREVA .; 33, rue de Lafayette, metro Le Peletier or Notre-Dame-de-Lorette (Paris)
The French government has been waging war in Mali for more than three
weeks. Acting like a pyromaniac fireman, France claims to have
extinguished a situation it largely created. Malian society has been
eroded by years of structural adjustment programs imposed by the IMF, in
the name of debt repayment for which France has a direct interest. And
again, it is the French state, through ECOWAS led by Mr. Ouattara–well
known for how much he owes to the French army for his accession to power
in the Ivory Coast in 2011 – has fuled the political chaos in Mali, in
retaliation for the dismissal in April 2012 of the corrupted President
Amadou Toumani Touré who France supported. He also deprived the Malian
army of its logistical means.
A large part of the Malian population and numbers of Malian worker
immigrants in France were relieved by the intervention of the French
army against the oppression of religious fanaticism in northern Mali.
But the French army in no way intervened to protect the population; it
did so for its imperialist interests.
It is not humanitarian reasons that are motivating the French war in
Mali, but imperialist interests in the purest tradition of the actions
of ‘France Afrique.’ Like a confession to a crime, this war allows
France to send troops to secure the uranium mines of AREVA in Niger.
This systematic exploitation by the French industrial trusts is
consistent with the maintenance of government and state apparatuses
allied to French imperialism that are corrupt and more interested in
getting rich on the backs of the peoples than defending them. This was
evidenced in Mali: when the jihadists arrived, the Malian army quickly
ran off, leaving the population defenceless.
Today, as the Malian army follows in the footsteps of the French
army, we learn it has already engaged in retaliatory actions against a
portion of the population, accusing it of being complicit with the
Islamists. We can ask what new disasters and new massacres are being
prepared during the reconquest of northern Mali by the French army and
the armies of African countries, none of which is known for its respect
for peoples. Yes, this is also true of the French army. We remember its
role in Rwanda!
To show our solidarity with the people of Mali, in all their
communities, and to denounce imperialist war, which like all the
previous ones–Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia–feed only chaos and civil war
and strengthen religious extremists, we call for a demonstration outside
the headquarters of AREVA, 33, rue de Lafayette, metro Le Peletier or
Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 15:00.
Initial signators: Libertarian Alternative, Workers Struggle, the New Anti-Capitalist Party (Alternative Libertaire, Lutte Ouvrière, le Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste)
Le Monde: The new talk by Paris in Africa
Editorial, Le Monde, February 4, 2013
(Translation by Roger Annis)
Further concealing aside, France is assuming its responsibilities
with the military intervention in Mali. François Hollande reminded
listeners of it in Timbuktu and Bamako on Saturday, Feb. 2, without
arrogance or postcolonial complex. He reiterated the intention of France
to remain in Mali for the time it will take. Paris has long sought to
avoid appearing on the front line in this former colony. The fate of
French hostages kidnapped in the region but held for months in northern
Mali by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was a reminder of this
Behind the scenes, however, Paris was at the forefront. Its diplomats
wrote resolutions at the Security Council of the UN to ensure the
legality of military intervention. Its expert were working alongside
officers in West Africa to put in place a regional intervention force
designed to release the grip of the narco-Islamists that controlled
nearly two-thirds of the country during the previous year.
Because the problem of Mali far exceeds preserving the backyard of
the former colonizer. The cancer that developed in Mali – the alliance
between Islamist groups and drug traffickers – threatens the entire
region. The spectacular seizing of hostages at the site of the gas works
at In Amenas in Algeria by a group linked to AQIM illustrates the
reality of this threat. It shows that the range of terrorist groups
extends away from their bases Gao or Timbuktu, where they were trying to
install their sanctuary.
To be convinced of the danger, it is enough to note the degree of
mobilization of Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Senegal, Niger and Chad. From
the beginning of the crisis in Mali, they called for urgent military
action. Certainly, the countries of the region have geopolitical
ambitions. But Mali is not Congo – Kinshasa. Its sub-surface is not full
bursting with wealth that drives ambitions. The central issue was
security as well as to contain a threat that might spill beyond the
vast, arid Sahel region that runs from Mauritania to Djibouti.
France has understood this from the beginning. In his speeches,
François Hollande has consistently pointed to a threat of regional
destabilization. This made clear that Paris was not preparing to
intervene to defend a friendly regime at risk. The French President
promised not to repeat the less than glorious episodes of the history of
“Françafrique”. In Bamako, on Saturday, he went further, saying that
France was paying a debt written in blood in Europe by African soldiers
who died for France during the two world wars.
He was right, but that does not detract from the relevance of the
question today: how to conclude? Paris is counting on African forces to
take over, but they are not ready. Reality obliges that this unpleasant
truth be stated. If Africa and Europe do not want a French tutelage over
Mali, then they must assume their responsibilities.