Mali: we’ve seen this movie before (reprise)

Map of Mali showing the Azawad region

Already the Mali adventure looks like the opener for something nasty. Today, the Independent reports that “alleged Islamists” (described as “Jihadists” by the BBC’s Frank Gardner) have taken 41 people, all of them foreign workers, hostage at a remote gas plant on the Algerian-Libyan border. 2 people have been killed, one of them a Briton, the other a Frenchman.

This caught my eye,

Reports suggested that the raiders spoke Arabic with “strong Libyan  accents”. A group called the Katibat Moulathamine, or “Masked Brigade”, told Mauritanian radio the attack was a “punishment” for Algeria’s decision to permit French warplanes to use its airspace to attack Malian rebels.

In neighbouring Mauritania there have been ongoing protests, none of them have been reported in Western mainstream media, while Syria, Egypt and Tunisia receive more than ample coverage. Mauritania has seen a massive influx of refugees from Mali.

In the wake of the so-called “Arab Spring” similar things were predicted for “sub-Saharan” (a term I absolutely detest) Africa. From al-Arabiya,

There was eventually no “African Spring”. But Sub-Saharan Africa is not impervious to change. Sporadic protest movements there still could turn into clamoring for radical overhaul of current systems, if living conditions do not improve. Recent events have also shown that the Sahara is not an impenetrable wall. It could not prevent the destabilization of Mali after Tuareg fighters flocked back home following the collapse of the Gadhafi regime.

But this article should be approached with caution, because it was written by Oussama Romdhani, a former Tunisian Communications Minister and “Fulbright scholar”.

It was reported in most of the mainstream media that French troops would engage in direct combat with the insurgents.

Last April, The Christian Science Monitor reported,

This year, Mali‘s restive Tuareg minority has erupted into rebellion after four years of relative quiet, the army has mutinied and seized control of the capital city of Bamako, and today Tuareg separatists declared an independent republic in the country’s vast north.

And asked,

Is this all NATO‘s fault?

Not exactly. But the law of unintended consequences is (as usual) rearing its head. In this case, the successful popular uprising against Muammar Qaddafi‘s regime inLibya, which was substantially aided by the air power of NATO members, has sent Mali tumbling back into chaos, something that neither France nor the US (two of the major backers of the war to oust Qaddafi) are happy about. Far from it.

They call it blowback.

I found this interesting article from The Guardian. It’s dated 28 December, 2010. It poses the question, “Mali: whose land is it anyway”?

Mali is one of the countries most affected by the scramble for land, and Ségou, the country’s rice basket, is at the eye of the storm, with buyers from Senegal, South Africa, China, as well as domestic companies snapping up leases on thousands of hectares. This is land already intensively used in a country with one of the highest population growth rates in the world and where 80% of the people depend on farming for their livelihood.

People are being forced off their land by foreign investors. If this doesn’t sound like a new scramble for Africa, I don’t know what does.

French troops were apparently invited into Mali by that country’s government. But we need to remember that France still pulls many strings in its former colonies. To view this as a war against Islamist insurgents is a massive oversimplification of a complicated situation. It also ignores the ongoing global food crisis, which was partly responsible, along with neoliberalism, for the so-called “Arab Spring”.

The Tuareg people, who inhabit  Northern Mali have been neglected by the government and it is this region that has been singled out for French bombardment. Coincidence?

The pale-skinned Tuaregs, who inhabit northern Mali, have long complained of neglect and disrimination by the government dominated by southerns in far-off Bamako.

In February, Mr Kader says attacks increased against Tuareg in Bamako and the nearby garrison town of Kati.

“People started attacking anything Tuareg: They burnt houses, cars and attacked anyone with white skin – even Arabs,” he says.

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad or MNLA is made up of Taureg, many of whom fought for the Libyan Army during the 2011 Civil War. It is they who are being linked to al-Qaeda by the Malian government. The MNLA declared independence from the rest of Mali.  That gets left out of the current narrative in order to advance the spurious argument that this is an “Islamist insurgency”. Al-Qaeda is often used as a handy catch-all term for any Arab or Muslim who demands rights or autonomy – especially if their demands don’t intersect with the free market dogma of the neoliberal West. There probably once was an al-Qaeda, but these days it sounds more like a brand name that almost anyone can use.

Oil, gold and uranium. There’s a lot of it in the region, as Globalresearch.ca points out (I urge you to read the article),

Whatever is reported by the mainstream media, the goal of this new war is no other than stripping yet another country of its natural resources by securing the access of international corporations to do it.  What is being done now in Mali through bombs and bullets is being done to Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain by means of debt enslavement.

Finally, I found this rather hilarious blog by Paul Cotterill on Liberal Conspiracy. It’s classic left-baiting stuff.

But if the anti-war left is going to get serious about anti-imperialism/promoting the long-term advisability of stopping these continued interventions – we can be sure enough there’ll be another one along in the non-too-distant future – it had better start by getting serious about its analysis.

I bet he believes in “liberal intervention”.

POSTSCRIPT

I found this interesting article on Huffington Post, dated 27/9/11.

In the mid 1990s Gaddafi moved to quell the very Tuareg insurgencies he had once promised to support. A decade later he awarded Libyan citizenship to diehard Tuareg rebels who rejected the negotiated peace settlement in Niger and enlisted many of them in the Libyan army. It is among the Tuareg, according to Frederic Deycard and Yvan Guichaoua, that Gaddafi is likely to have secured troops to defend his crumbling regime.

Deycard and Guichaoua estimate that pro-Gaddafi elements recruited roughly 1,500 Tuaregs from Mali and Niger, most of who were already resident in Libya, over the course of the six-month conflict. In short they comprise a tiny fraction of the Libyan armed forces. To put this number in perspective, at the beginning of the conflict Gaddafi’s army was estimated to be 76,000 strong. Defection and death have greatly reduced this number, but attrition has also been high among foreign combatants, both African and non-African.

 

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5 Comments

Filed under Africa, Libya, Mali, World

5 responses to “Mali: we’ve seen this movie before (reprise)

  1. The reason the north has been targeted for bombing is because that’s where the jihadists are. The conclusion you seem to be making here doesn’t really hold up to analysis.

    • Ah, Jihadists. Anyone can be a “jihadist” these days.. The Tauregs happen to live in the north and many of them fought in the Libyan army. I see you ignored that part of my blog. I wonder why?

  2. paulinlancs

    No, I’m not a supporter of liberal intervention. I want the anti-war left to up it’s game.

    • I don’t think any accusations of imperialism, or suspecting this latest military adventure as being part of a new scramble for Africa is unjustified. The French have had a military presence in Africa for some time. I believe that “Islamist terrorism” is being used a convenient pretext for wider, less altruistic aims. I’ve pointed this out in my blog and given my reasons why I think is so. Western nations have only one thing in mind when they see Africa: resources. That was true in the 19th and it’s true today.

      But who is this “anti-war left”? What is your position?

  3. Pingback: The future of the British anti-war movement « Though Cowards Flinch

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