On 11 January 2013, using as a pretext the advance of islamic fundamentalist forces from their bases in the north of the country towards the capital Bamako, French social-democrat president Francois Hollande unleashed a savage colonial war against the African state of Mali.
Although the exact timing of the overt French intervention appeared to take almost everyone by surprise, informed analysts had long predicted such a turn of events, as chaos spread across the region following the Nato blitzkrieg against Libya and the overthrow and murder of Colonel Gaddafi. An article carried by this newspaper in June 2012 began:
“In recent months, the west African country of Mali has been plunged into chaos … with the increasing threat of imperialist intervention from either France or the United States.” (‘Mali conflicts threaten new imperialist intervention’)
Beginning with a massive aerial bombardment, Hollande initially claimed that France would not commit ground forces to the conflict, but within a few days more than 2,500 soldiers had been deployed to combat duties, where they initially encountered fierce resistance.
Hollande also declared that French military action would be over in a week, but soon found himself facing a protracted conflict, with his defence minister somewhat letting the cat out of the bag when he declared that the war would continue until the “total reconquest” of Paris’s former African colony.
France also had to appeal to its imperialist partners to join the fray. Whilst the European powers came running, reflecting the inter-imperialist rivalries bubbling away just below the surface, the US response was more grudging, being qualified by attempts to demand payment, publicly expressed angst over the legality of the mission and barely concealed disdain for French over-reach and lack of a clearly thought-out strategy.
David Cameron, evidently seeking to compete with Tony Blair in a messianic display of warmongering zeal, said that the developments in Mali and neighbouring countries constituted a “global threat”, adding that they would “require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months”.
Needless to say, the Prime Minister made no mention of the fact that this supposed global threat is being posed by the very forces that he so zealously worked to bring to power in Libya and who he is so aggressively backing in their vicious war to topple the progressive government in Syria. (On 29 January, as we were going to press, the government announced the dispatch of British troops to Mali and neighbouring countries,)
Whilst imperialism may well wish to rein in some of the Frankenstein’s monsters it has created in its drive to topple progressive governments in the oppressed nations, the real purpose of the war in Mali is nothing but a new step in an attempted reconquest of Africa – to seize the boundless mineral and other wealth of that long oppressed continent and also to eliminate the influence of China, denying it vital resources and stymieing its assistance to African nation-building.
Mali abounds in raw materials. It is Africa’s third-largest gold producer, behind South Africa and Ghana. Amidst encouraging signs, exploration for uranium is in full swing. France, not coincidentally, is heavily dependent on uranium, both for its nuclear weapons and for the more than 75 percent of its electricity that is generated by nuclear power. At present, this is mainly looted from Mali’s next-door neighbour Niger.
Two weeks after its intervention in Mali, France also dispatched some 2,000 members of its special forces to guard the Nigerien mines owned by its state-owned nuclear power company Areva. Moreover, on 28 January, the US signed a ‘status of forces’ agreement with Niger, allowing its military to be based in the country. The US now intends to establish a drone base in Niger.
French finance minister Pierre Moscovici recently declared that “French companies must go on the offensive and fight the growing influence of rival China for a stake in Africa’s increasingly competitive markets.”
Today, as the overproduction crisis bites deeper, waning imperialist powers cannot but seek to advance such ‘commercial’ interests with mirage fighter jets and armies of occupation.
Hands off Mali!
:: Mali conflicts threaten new imperialist intervention , Proletarian issue 48 (June 2012)