Mali: Start of the second gang rape of Africa

By Ameen Izzadeen
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)
Within weeks of the dawn of the New Year, a new war has shattered world peace, as though we have had not seen enough bloodshed or heard enough heart-rending horror stories. What is more disturbing is that the new war, like many other recent wars with international involvement, only gives credence to Samuel Huntington’s controversial theory of the clash of civilizations. We hope his predictions will not come true.
With France entering the war in Mali, a Muslim majority state which is in the claws of poverty despite its gold, the global war on terror has opened a new front in Africa. The tentacles of the war on terror which started in October 2001 in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the United States on September 11 that year are now throttling Africa.
The horror stories and the suffering we heard and are hearing from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen will now have an African flavour as France, aided and abetted by the United States, Britain, Germany and other Western European nations launched a war to crush the African jihadis.
But warmongers care not a damn about the tears and the suffering of the innocents who live in the world’s least developed areas. For, they believe their cause – in this instance, putting an end to Islamic militancy in Mali and elsewhere — is worthy of carnage of any magnitude. Their war begins on the premise that al-Qaeda and their ilk are a canker and should be rooted out. One wonders whether the French are wearing the mantle of the Ordre du Temple in the belief that they are the modern-day equivalent of the medieval Knights Templars.
The French argue that the Islamists’ conquest of Mali will pose a grave danger to Europe’s security with this African nation becoming a safe haven for AQIM — al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (or the western part of the Muslim world) — just as Afghanistan under the Taliban had been prior to the 2001 US-NATO invasion. So the French thought they should act fast.
Just as the US deliberately misinterpreted a UN Security Council resolution to give legitimacy to its illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, France also gave a warped interpretation to a Security Council resolution adopted last month to intervene in Mali. The UN resolution 2085 – the outcome of a process initiated by the besieged Malian government — calls for a 3,000-strong African-led mission in Mali – possibly in September in the absence of any negotiated solution. The resolution implied that the military intervention could come only in the absence of negotiations — and that too by an African force. The Malian rebels have offered peace talks facilitated by West African countries and in fact were negotiating a compromise deal with the ousted president Amadou Toumani Toure just before the coup. Perhaps, such a deal was not to the liking of the West.
In a bid to give some legitimacy to its illegitimate intervention, France has pressurised some African nations such as Nigeria to send at least a small contingent to Mali.
The manner in which the French fiddled the UN resolution was reminiscent of the United States’ desperation at the UN Security Council to win approval for the Iraq war. One of those countries which opposed the Iraq war was France.
But the US is fully backing France’s war against Mali’s Islamic militants who are controlling the northern half of the country and were dangerously close to the capital Bamako only a week ago.
Why shouldn’t the US? After all it is planning to deploy US troops in 35 African nations this year under its Africa Command — Africom. Mali is one such country. Last year’s military coup in Mali was staged by soldiers trained by the United States which was not so happy about the ousted regime’s peace moves with the northern rebels. The US is also worried about China’s growing influence in Africa. Touring Africa in August last year, outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned African nations not to fall prey to “new colonialism” – a clear reference to China. She said Washington was committed to “a model of sustainable partnership” with African states – a partnership that adds value to Africa rather than extracts Africa’s resources.
Giving the lie to her statement are the US multinationals which are plundering Africa’s resources in the name of investment. Ignored in the process were Africa’s umpteen problems including poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, civil wars and disease. With the US and the European Union subsidising their farmers, African nations producing wheat, maze and corn find it difficult to compete in the international markets. Besides, non-tariff barriers such as health regulations and quality requirements have virtually closed the Western markets to African exports. Thus African poverty, in a way, is West-made.
Despite the 100-year plunder by European colonial powers, Africa is still a mineral rich territory. From diamonds to gems, from sodium to uranium, from oil and gas to Nile and gold mines, the once forgotten continent is today a honeypot for flies from the capitalist West and bees from pseudo-socialist China.
The US gets about 18 per cent of its energy supplies from Africa. By 2015, this figure is expected to rise to 25 per cent. Africa also provides about one-third of China’s energy needs, in addition to copper, platinum, timber and iron ore.
The slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi resisted the Africom and the plunder of Africa by outside powers. He promoted African unity and proposed an African central bank and monetary union, earning the wrath of those who were salivating over Africa’s rich minerals. Seeing that African nations were paying US$ 500 million every year to a French company for satellite services, Gaddafi proposed to launch an African satellite. When the African nations found it difficult to raise the US$ 400 million required for the project, Libya donated US$ 300 million, thus enabling Africans to connect with the rest of the world.
It is against this backdrop that questions arise over the motive behind the French intervention in Mali. Is the return of the former colonial power only to eliminate the Islamists’ threat? Explaining France’s role, French President François Hollande said, “The terrorists should know that France will always be there when the rights of a people, those of Mali who want to live freely and in a democracy, are at issue.”
Hollande is unlikely to direct similar words or rhetoric at Bahrain where a brutal crackdown on dissent has been going on for two years with the blessings of the West.
Or is France trying to get a piece of the African pie which is being gobbled up by the US and China? Whatever it is, humanitarian imperialism appears to be the name of the game. Or is it the Second Gang Rape of Africa?
The US, it appears, has no hesitation in letting France come back to Mali because the intervention serves US interests too. The US has agreed to share intelligence and logistics with France in its military intervention in Mali where 400,000 people have already been displaced by the war.
Mali has been making news since the military coup in March last year though the separatist rebellion in the poverty-stricken country’s north has been simmering since independence in 1960. The West African regional bloc ECOWAS intervened to make peace between the military and a new civil leadership. A unity government was formed but political uncertainty remains because the US-backed junta still calls the shots.
The post-coup political instability in the capital, Bamako, helped the Islamist and separatist rebels to advance south. In keeping with Wahhabism, a form of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia, the advancing Islamists demolished mausoleums and shrines, including those in the UNESCO world heritage site of Timbuktu, which is also a one-word English idiom that denotes a place of uncertainty or a place known for its extreme inaccessibility.
“Not a single mausoleum will remain in Timbuktu, Allah doesn’t like it. We are in the process of smashing all the hidden mausoleums in the area,” Abou Dardar, leader of the one of the most hardline group, Ansar Dine, told AFP last month.
The vandalism drew international condemnation. The International Criminal Court warned that the rebels’ act amounted to a war crime. But such condemnation only hardened the rebels’ resolve as they captured town after town in northern Mali, which is home to the Tuaregs, a nomadic people spread across West and North Africa. Many Tuaregs served in the Libyan army during the Gaddafi regime. When the Gaddafi regime was falling, the Tuaregs fled to northern Mali carrying their sophisticated weapons with them. Their arrival has bolstered the rebels including the secular NMLA (the National Movement for Liberation of Azawad – or Northern Mali.)
Early last year, the NMLA tied up with the Islamists such as Ansar Dine and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which is attracting recruits from Algeria, Mauritania, Senegal, Niger and other countries following its recent military success.
As the French troops are engaged in hand-to-hand fights with the Malian rebels, it appears that the crisis is exploding across Africa. On Wednesday, scores of foreigners were kidnapped by Islamists in Algeria. In Somalia, Islamist As-Shabab rebels killed a French intelligence officer. In Nigeria, which sent troops to Mali yesterday, the radical Islamist group, Ansaru, claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of a French citizen.
Thus the Western intervention in Mali is not an open-and-shut case. The fighting is likely to last longer than the French think it would take to free northern Mali.

About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
This entry was posted in Political analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Mali: Start of the second gang rape of Africa

  1. Robert Lorimer. says:

    Check out also the role of the USA (under Bush) and the Algerian secret service in financing and training the very extremists who are now causing trouble in Mali.Echoes of Afghanistan(where USA created Taliban to combat the uSSR) ,Iraq(where they used dirty tricks to set Sunni against Shia)Iran etc etc.

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