Tag Archives: The Sahel

No British troops on the ground in the Sahel?

US involvement in Vietnam began with sending military advisers and look what happened.

Since the French military adventure in Mali began, we’ve heard a lot from Dizzy Dave Cameron about how British troops will not be sent to the Sahel to serve in a combat role. So the other day when I heard Britain was to dispatch 330 soldiers to the region in an “advisory” capacity, I was reminded of the US’s involvement in the Vietnam War, which began in 1956 when Eisenhower sent “military advisers” there to “train” the Vietnamese forces. In actual fact, advisers and observers had been sent there in 1950 by Truman to support the French efforts but in small numbers.

In 1954, the Americans and the French installed the puppet president, Ngô Đình Diệm in Saigon (he won a rigged election). He had impeccable anti-Communist credentials and was a Roman Catholic. An ideal choice for a country with a large Buddhist population. Opposition grew to  Diệm’s rule and by 1957, there was a full-scale insurgency. Diệm responded by torturing and killing those whom he believed were Communists. Such was his popularity, that he faced two assassination attempts. He was finally killed in 1963 in a CIA-supported coup and was replaced by Dương Văn Minh.

When Kennedy became US president in 1961, he sent more “military advisers” to Vietnam to support the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). My father was part of a contingent sent to Saigon in 1963. When Kennedy was assassinated in the same year, Johnson sent even more troops to Vietnam and by 1965, he’d escalated the war. You know what happened next.

The sending of “military advisers” to another country to counter “insurgents” is never a good sign. The Cat suspects that British special forces have also been sent to Mali and neighbouring Niger. Today, Cameron has flown to Algeria to have talks with his opposite number, Abdelmalek Sellal. No prizes for guessing what they’ll be talking about.

The Globe and Mail reports that Canadian special forces are already in Mali to “protect the country’s diplomats”.

The US has negotiated a deal with the Nigerien government to establish a base for its unmanned drones.

The head of the U.S. Africa Command, General Carter Ham, visited Niger last month. The poor, landlocked West Africa state has said it wants to have closer security cooperation with Washington.

Carter Ham… you’ve got to love that name. AFRICOM was established in 2006.

The new scramble for Africa is under way and ordinary people will get caught in the middle while the US, France, Britain, Canada and the rest of them slug it out with China and India (yes, India) for the continent’s resources.

Anyone for yellow cake uranium?

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 20th century, Africa, Algeria, History, History & Memory, Mali, The Maghreb, World

Mali, Mauritania and slavery

Biram Dah Abeid. Picture courtesy of  babacarbaye.unblog.fr

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned about the current conflict in Mali (and neighbouring Mauritania) is slavery. For centuries Tauregs have kept slaves and I remember reading about this many years ago.

I found this article on the International Business Times website.

The practice of slavery long has been a cultural norm in many Malian communities. As in neighboring Mauritania, slaves and slave owners are often described in terms of “black” and “white,” since slave descendants tend to have black African roots and their masters are typically of lighter-skinned Berber ancestry. But in fact, members of both groups have varying skin tones, and ethnicities are sometimes mixed due to masters raping female slaves.

According to Temedt, a Mali-based advocacy program, about 200,000 people are currently enslaved in the country and about 600,000 more are slave descendants under some form of control even though they live separately from their masters. Temedt works with Anti-Slavery International, a London-based human rights organization, to help free victims of slavery and then assist them in the transition to independence.

This article by Mark Tran in The Guardian (dated 23/10/12) says,

“The slave population is already defenceless; it will become even more so as the conflict intensifies. We are like the straw that will be trampled underfoot when elephants fight,” said Ibrahim Ag Idbaltanat, an activist who received the Anti-Slavery International award in London last Wednesday.

Slavery was formally abolished in Mali in the 1960s, after the country gained independence from France. However, although slavery is not allowed under the constitution, there is no anti-slavery law and descent-based slavery through the maternal bloodline still exists in northern regions.

People descended from slaves remain the “property” of their “masters”, either living with them and serving them directly, or living separately but remaining under their control.

While slavery was abolished in the 1960s, the practice continues particularly in Mauritania where it is officially illegal.

This is from Anti-Slavery International.

Whilst there has been no definitive research on the extent of slavery in the country, SOS Esclaves estimate that approximately 18 per cent of Mauritania’s population (over half a million people) live in slavery today.

Slavery has existed in Mauritania for hundreds of years and is deeply rooted within society across the country. The Haratine are the group most affected by slavery practices and are traditionally owned by Bidane, or white moors, the minority ruling elite of Arab-Berber descent in Mauritania. Historically the white moors raided and enslaved people from the indigenous black population and today, all cases of slavery in Mauritania involve people whose ancestors were enslaved before them.

Slavery status is an inherited status. This age-old distinction underpins the very nature of slavery in Mauritania whereby individuals are assigned to a ‘slave caste’ which is ascribed at birth. Those in slavery are devoid of all their fundamental human rights, are owned and controlled by their masters, and are treated like their property. They are forced to work for their masters throughout their lives and are never paid for their work. They do what their masters tell them to do or they are threatened and abused.

A new law criminalising slavery was passed by the Mauritanian Parliament in 2007 but it is not clear how many people have been prosecuted for keeping slaves if, indeed, anyone has been prosecuted at all. It seems that slavery is still taking place in Mauritania in spite of the law.

In 2011,Biram Dah Abeid, a prominent anti-slavery activist, was arrested on trumped up charges. The Guardian reports,

Abeid originally went to a police station with two girls, aged nine and 13, who had been forced to work as servants for the family of the local police commissioner, according to the press release published by the NGOs. An argument took place, which allegedly ended with Abeid being injured. The “mistress” of the girls was charged but released on bail.

A 2007 law made slavery illegal in Mauritania. “But in fact no one has ever been sentenced. Charges are dropped because the courts are under constant pressure from traditional, religious and tribal forces, all of which tolerate this practice,” said Fatima Mbaye, head of the Mauritanian Human Rights League.

Abeid was eventually released on bail last September. The charges, as far as I know, have not been dropped. However he was granted freedom of movement and visited Europe to raise awareness of the issue of the continued practice of slavery in Mauritania.

According to this blog, Abeid narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott on 5 January.  Other anti-slavery activists have also been harassed.

While Cameron, Hollande and other Western leaders talk about “Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb” and “Jihadists”, they deliberately elide the region’s other problems. The situation is not as clear cut as “good guys versus evil terrorists”. Yet our media continues to ply us with this grog.

Slavery is still alive in the Sahel and thousands of French troops in the region will do nothing to end it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Mali, Mauritania, World

Trevor Kavanagh bangs the war drum

Can you believe anything The Sun says?

I was alerted by tweet (hat tip @mehdirhasan) to this “Sun Says” op-ed piece by headbanging hack, Trevor Kavanagh. It’s an intellectually dishonest attempt (well, he writes for The Sun, what did you expect?) to link the current situation in Algeria and Mali to this country. To be honest, I’m surprised he even knows where these countries are.

He says,

Britain and France justified support for Libyan rebels because they were ridding the world of one of its bloodiest tyrants.

But in destroying Gaddafi, they put thousands of his vicious, battle-hardened Islamist thugs out of a job.

These fanatics fled home to Mali, armed to the teeth, to join a ramshackle but dangerous al-Qaeda network that spreads across Africa from Somalia to Algeria and beyond.

But that isn’t quite true… is it, Trev? Let’s read some more.

They may be loose-knit and sometimes at odds but they share a murderous hatred of non-Muslims.

Mali has no historic links with us. Nor has Algeria. But unless extremist forces are driven out of these two French former colonies, the next target is Nigeria, which certainly does.

Nice bit of scaremongering there. Kavanagh’s banging his war drum.

Nigeria is criminally corrupt and barely democratic. But it is a strategically and economically vital member of the British Commonwealth.

Its vast reserves of “sweet oil” and huge gas fields make it a major player on world energy markets.

You’re forgetting something, Trev, the UK is criminally corrupt, barely democratic and is run by a cabal of upper class thugs, who ride roughshod over the people and are happy to blame the poor, disabled and unemployed for their economic failures. They pit one group of people against another by making artificial and fallacious distinctions. But I guess you can’t see that, because you’re just like them.

But Nigeria is a divided nation, split between Muslims and Christians — ripe for a revolution which is already under way.

Here, Kavanagh pretends to know a great deal about the African continent but is drawn to Nigeria because of its oil reserves. The rest of the continent or, indeed, the region seems to be left out to pursue a certain narrative.

This is pure garbage (it’s the best kind). Who are these “Islamists”?

Islamists in the Saharan North have forged links with the Mali fanatics called, chillingly, Those Who Sign In Blood.

No mention of the Tauregs and their struggle for independence in Azawad. Best not to confuse your knuckle-dragging readers with facts… eh, Trev? Keep them in the dark.

But here’s the worst bit of this desperate piece,

Britain is a melting pot of nationalities and faiths, home to hundreds of thousands of Malians, Iraqis, Syrians, Somalis, Kenyans, Nigerians, Yemenis and Pakistanis.

Not all are grateful. Indeed, many are becoming outspokenly defiant. Some have colonised suburbs in major cities. One London borough is so staunchly Muslim it has become known as the Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets.

First, he describes Britain as a “melting pot of nationalities”, then he puts the boot in by referring to Tower Hamlets as the ” Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets”. It would seem he’s been reading Kennite’s drivel about Lutfur Rahman, whom he’s described as “Islamist-supporting” and “extremist supporting”. Hatemongers and warmongers. My, what a combination.

Last week, hooded gangs of self-appointed religious police roamed Muslim- populated suburbs ordering women to cover up and confiscating liquor.

Ah, but doesn’t Islam prohibit vigilantism? You’re not doing such a great job here, Trev. Besides, you don’t say where this “suburb” is located and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were lying.  But then, I remember the stuff you used to write in the 1980s about “the enemy within”. You have “plenty of previous”, as they say in the East End.

Kennite often accuses the East London Mosque of being a “hotbed of extremism”, but here’s what they had to say.

Individuals claiming to be self-styled ‘Muslim patrols’ have been harassing members of the public on the streets of east London late at night, including outside our mosque after it has closed. They have anonymously uploaded their exploits to the internet.

These actions are utterly unacceptable and clearly designed to stoke tensions and sow discord. We wholly condemn them. The East London Mosque is committed to building co-operation and harmony between all communities in this borough. The actions of this tiny minority have no place in our faith nor on our streets.

Earlier this week we contacted the Police and the local authorities to alert them to the presence of these individuals and video. We advise anyone who has been harassed by these individuals to contact the Police.

We will monitor the situation closely and our Imams will be speaking out against such actions.

But I guess you wouldn’t talk to them… would you, Trev? Is it really too much trouble to tell the truth? In your case and that of your vile rag, that’s clearly a stupid question.

DON’T BUY THE SUN!

UPDATE 22/1/13 @ 0928

After making some checks, I’ve discovered that “Those Who Sign In Blood” is mentioned on two other sites: one is Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs (I won’t link to her site). Geller, a friend to the EDL and other racists, is fond of lies and disinformation. Geller also apologised for Anders Behring Breivik ( Breivik is rather fond of Geller too). This is the kind of person Trevor Kavanagh is. The other site, SABC News, uses it as a tag but doesn’t mention it in the text.

UPDATE 22/1/13 @ 1419

I found this interesting article on Globalreasearch.ca. Unlike, Trevor Kavanagh, I do my research. This name “Those Who Sign In Blood” is actually “Those Who Sign With Blood”. Sure, there is a slight semantic difference but so what? Kavanagh ignored many details in order to advance a pro-war thesis.

Take this, for example.

This process of escalation is part of a US military and strategic “road-map”, a subsequent stage in the militarization of the African continent, “a followup” to the US-NATO 2011 war on Libya.

It is a project of neo-colonial conquest by the US over a vast area.

While France is the former colonial power, intervening on behalf of Washington, the end-game is to eventually exclude France from the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. This displacement of France as a colonial power has been ongoing since the war of Indochina in the 1950s.

While the US is prepared in the short-run to share the spoils of war with France, Washington’s ultimate objective is to “redraw the map of the African continent”, and eventually, to transform francophone Africa into an American sphere of influence. The latter would extend across the continent from Mauritania on the Atlantic to the Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.

A similar process of excluding France from francophone Africa has been ongoing since the 1990s in Rwanda, Burundi and the Republic of the Congo.

In turn, French as an official language in francophone Africa is being encroached upon. Today in Rwanda, English is an official language, alongside Kinyarwanda  and French. Starting with the RPF government in 1994, secondary education was offered in either French or English. Since 2009 it is offered solely in English. The University since 1994, no longer operates in French. (The president of Rwanda Paul Kagame does not read or speak French). In 2009, Rwanda joined the Commonwealth.

Throw China and India (Yes, India) into the equation and what have you got? A new Scramble for Africa. Kavanagh’s not interested in that or the lives of ordinary African people who will get caught up in this mess.

I’ve also changed the title of this blog to better reflect Kavanagh’s chest-thumping narrative.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ideologies, Journalism, Media, News Corporation, propaganda, Racism, Yellow journalism