Mali And NATO’s Attack On African Sovereignty
On October 12th the United Nations Security Council responded to a request from Mali’s government for military assistance against rebel groups occupying the north of the land-locked West African country. This part of Mali – almost half the country’s territory – has been controlled since March 2012 by armed groups, displacing almost half a million people. Of these more than half are refugees in Mali’s neighbouring countries.
The UNSC resolution agreed various points. It limited any military assistance to helping Mali’s armed forces recover occupied territory in the north of the country. It also called for the Malian authorities and the rebel groups to seek a negotiated solution to the conflict and to avoid human rights violations. Northern Mali has been occupied since March 2012 by four main armed groups.
Of these, Ansar Dine is a Touareg islamic group that usurped the name of a well-respected local peaceful Islamic cultural and community organization. Ansar Dine’s leader Iyad Ag Ghaly seems to maintain informal links with the Algerian authorities. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) are salafist terrorist groups. These Islamic groups have imposed sharia law in the areas they control and have received military support by air from Qatar.
Recently, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso has supported another Touareg rebel group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). In April this year the MNLA declared an independent state in the area they controlled with their Islamic allies. But the MNLA lost ground after fierce fighting with those same Islamic groups. On October 7th this year in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ougadougou, the MNLA renounced their declaration of secession and called for regional autonomy.
So it’s clear that the UNSC Resolution is a compromise between the positions of the different countries involved. The Malian government managed to limit any military assistance from threatening outright interference in its internal political affairs. Algeria, a long time ally of Russia, managed to include support for a negotiated solution in the text. On the other hand, France and its regional allies got support for a potential future military intervention.
Mali’s former President Amadou Toumani Touré was deposed on March 22nd this year by the Committee for a Return of Democracy and the Restoration of the State (CNRDRE) led by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo. Since then, the reactionary forces in Mali and the corrupt elite loyal to the former President have received virtually unconditional support from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS/CEDEAO). This organization continues to be dominated politically and economically by the former colonial powers France and Britain.
Mali’s reactionary political forces and their backers in ECOWAS seek to restore a political regime favouring the corrupt Malian elites, their regional allies and the corporate and geopolitical interests of the NATO countries. With that objective, ECOWAS, from March to the present, has consistently broken agreements reached with the new provisional Malian authorities. Even so, despite all the pressures they face, the forces that support the CNRDRE in Mali and the overthrow of the old regime of ex-President Amadou Toumani Touré still have both strong influence in the Malian government and control of the country’s armed forces.
Mali has no access to the sea. All imports enter the country by air or by land across the territory of neighbouring countries. Since March, Mali’s government and armed forces have insisted that they do not need foreign troops but rather logistical support and equipment. Even so, ECOWAS has deliberately blocked the delivery of supplies adn equipment already purchased by Mali that are being held up in neighbouring countries as another means of pressuring the Malian government to do what France and its NATO allies want. Recently, the British government declared that it would support an international military force in Mali.
It is obvious that the NATO countries are manouevring to ensure they have geo-strategic control over northern Mali, a vast territory holding potentially enormous mineral and energy resources. To ensure that geo-strategic control, NATO needs a weak government in Bamako, Mali’s capital and pliant Malian armed forces. But Mali’s reality is different and complex.
Internally, the government of Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra sympathizes more with the progressive and nationalist forces that resist the impositions of ECOWAS. These forces want international logistical support to liberate national territory occupied by the rebel forces. On the other hand, the provisional President Dioncounda Traoré sympathizes more with the country’s sell-out political classes who are pressing for an outright foreign military intervention in Mali.
The most important progressive political organization since March has been the Coordinator of Patriotic Organizations in Mali (COPAM). COPAM is strongly opposed to any foreign military presence in Mali. But this organization has divided over disagreements in relation to its policy towards the government, the Presidency and the country’s other institutions.
COPAM’s reactionary opponents in the Front for Democracy and the Republic (FDR) have taken advantage of COPAM’s divisions to push forward their project for a foreign military intervention. France and its ECOWAS allies can easily strangle Mali’s economy as they did in March and April this year. Despite everything, so far neither the pressures of Mali’s sell-out political classes nor the external pressure from ECOWAS has weakened the unity of Mali’s armed forces around Captain Sanogo. Despite its apparent domination of the correlation of forces in Mali, ECOWAS has had to make various concessions faced with the determination of the Malian government and armed forces.
The cynicism of the NATO governments – France, the United States and Britain – is self-evident. President François Hollande’s recent call for a foreign military intervention in Mali echoes the familiar hypocritical arguments for humanitarian intervention. In a speech in Dakar on October 12th to Senegal’s National Assembly, Hollande said in relation to Mali, “The current horrors cannot continue. How can one accept the desecration of shrines, the amputated hands, the rape of women? How can one accept the deliberate recruitment of children by militias or the arrival of terrorists to sow terror?”
President Hollande was cynical and shameless enough to speak in those terms after France and its allies inflicted those very same horrors on people in Libya, horrors that continue to this day. Hollande’s own government is inflicting those very same horrors on people in Syria via its direct support for Islamic terrorists in that country. If one reflects on the motives for Burkina Faso’s support for the Touareg forces of the MNLA in Mali against their Islamic rivals, obviously President Compaoré is acting with the authorization of the French government.
The MNLA have received support in Europe in both France and Switzerland. It suits the French government to protect the MNLA fighters so as to keep open an option for leverage in future negotiations with the authorities in Mali. So one of the reasons for President Hollande’s insistence on a foreign military intervention in Mali is categorically to ensure that France can protect its MNLA proxies against the islamic groups and too, against the armed forces of Mali.
President Hollande is not alone in his sadistic cynicism and hypocrisy. On September 30th, the chief of the US military’s Africa Command, General Carter F. Ham, was in Algiers where he gave a press conference. In relation to Mali he said,
“There are a number of different challenges in northern Mali today. First is the absence of legitimate government in Bamako that we’ve already talked about. Second is the necessity to address the concerns of the people of northern Mali. That should be done through diplomacy rather than military means. Thirdly, there is a significant humanitarian crisis across the region where people need food and water and other aid, and Algeria has been very, very effective in providing that. And the fourth problem is the presence of terrorist organizations, and that problem may require the use of military force.”
Apart from the typical yankee arrogance in assuming the right to decide which governments are legitimate or not, when Ham talks about “terrorists” he’s talking about the very same AQMI fighters he and his forces supported to overthrow the legitimate government of Libya. At the very same moment General Ham was talking in Algiers, he and his forces were supporting those same terrorists with arms and logistical support to attack civilians in Syria. So it is completely absurd to think that France or the United States or the United Kingdom or any NATO country is in the least concerned about the well-being of civilians in countries where NATO pecieves it has strategic interests.
Another sign of the accumulation of forces in the process of gaining control of northern Mali came on October 13th last at a summit of the International Francophone Organization in Kinshasa. There the OIF recognized as a member the feudal tyranny of Qatar, something downright ridiculous in cultural terms. But it makes plenty of sense in terms of the role Qatar has developed in Libya and Syria as a NATO Islamic terrorist ally. Now the feudal monarchy is establishing its presence and power to buy influence in West Africa.
In such a context, it is reasonable to hope that the Movement of Non Aligned Countries under Iran’s Presidency and the ALBA countries might demonstrate their South-South solidarity with Mali’s government against the pressures of NATO and its regional allies. It would cost relatively little to send air shipments of humanitarian aid to Mali so as to project the ALBA vision in West Africa, especially in coordination with other non-aligned countries. It would permit the anti-imperialist world a concrete solidarity presence in Africa to counter-balance the colonial influence of the NATO powers.
For the nationalist currents in Mali’s government and armed forces, the strategic problem is twofold. To undertake military action to liberate occupied national territory means facing forces possibly much better armed and equipped than the Malian army. The rebel Touareg forces have armaments they control following the war in Libya, The Islamic groups have received arms and supplies from Qatar. Also, even if the Malian army had the arms and equipment necessary to regain control of northern Mali, the movement of forces there might leave the capital Bamako vulnerable to a foreign backed coup, as happened in April.
For the Malian nationalists who resist NATO’s pressure via ECOWAS, the correlation of forces is adverse. For the moment the ECOWAS NATO puppets dominate available options faced with a nationalist resistance on the part of the majority of people in Mali, represented for now above all by the country’s armed forces. Mali is the victim of an attempt by the Western powers to intensify their domination of Africa’s resources and economies.
The recent visit to Africa’s francophone countries by President François Hollande had a very deliberate purpose. It confirms that the former colonial powers of NATO hope to find in Africa a large part of the resources and markets they need to rescue Europe from its disastrous economic situation . It is in this context that France the United States and Britain are supporting a possible foreign military intervention in northern Mali.
But any observer of events in Libya and Syria will ask, how is it that NATO is calling for a military intervention against the very same Islamic forces that receive support from NATO’s key Islamic ally Qatar? Clearly, one is dealing with yet another cynical diversionary illusion by NATO’s most powerful governments and another grotesque abuse of the UN system. The months ahead will see just how far the NATO powers will be able to extend their sinister neocolonial control in Africa.