Mali: folly of war in the Sahel | by Professor Issa Ndiaye

by Jan 21, 2013Magazine

The current crisis in Mali is not the result of the March 22 coup d’état, which marked only the collapse of a misguided and corrupt democracy which has been so noisily eulogized. The current disaster has been produced by the monopolization of the State and other institutions for private ends. Bad governance, corruption, political clientelism and the incompetence of the elites in power have contributed to separating the vast majority of the political class from the people of Mali. Proof of this can be seen in a low electoral turnout which has averaged just 25% since 1991 – the lowest in the sub-region.

The threat from Islamists and the MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) is only the visible tip of the hidden geopolitical and geo-strategic issues. Mali is paying the price for the abundance of mineral resources (oil, gas, uranium, gold, strategic minerals, water, etc.) in the northern part of its territory. In 1957, France created the OCRS (Common Organization of the Saharan Regi on) but the attaining of independence by countries in the region in 1960 ruined this project. Since then, France has armed and supported three successive Tuareg rebellions. Now we are witnessing the fourth one, the difference being that this time it has an Islamist dimension.

Behind the MNLA is France and its local accomplices: Mauritania and Burkina Faso. One must also add the USA and some Arab countries to that list because they too covet Mali’s natural resources and the strategic air base of Tessalit.

Regarding the Islamist fringe, it benefits mainly from the support of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who have – as strategic allies of France and the USA – sponsored armed conflict in Libya and in Syria and beyond that, these two states are backing a project of gradual Islamisation of political regimes following the so-called Arab S pring. War in the Sahel is being actively sponsored by the West, with France to the fore. There is little concern for the dramatic consequences people in the region may face and nobody can be bothered to consult them. The troops from ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States), which are supposed to be the spearhead of a military intervention to regain control of northern Mali, have not distinguished themselves elsewhere. They have often been involved in massacres, rapes and other abuses towards civil populations. They do not act in the interests of the people but rather in support of the international sponsors who pull the strings of many African regimes.

Foreign intervention has never solved this kind of conflict. One must just look at what is happening in Iraq or Afghanistan, where after long years of costly, brutal warfare, the Americans expect the Taliban will return to power after international forces withdraw in 2014. The most powerful and well-equipped armies are fighting in Afghanistan and they have achieved such ‘success’ that they have spread armed religious fundamentalism everywhere in the world: to Yemen, to the Horn of Africa, to Somalia and beyond, into Kenya,

Now it is the turn of Sahel. By seeking to oust fundamentalists from the Sahel, the proponents of a military solution will probably only end up extending the Islamist influence all the way to the Atlantic Ocean: why not in Dakar, Conakry, Abidjan, Cotonou, etc.? One must not forget that the jihadists who kidnapped two young Frenchmen in Niamey – later killed during an assa ult by the French army – came from Benin.

It is time to stop exploiting people’s suffering and the legitimate outrage of both domestic and international public opinion against atrocities committed by fundamentalists as an excuse to call for war in service of undeclared objectives. A worldwide campaign in the media is paving the way for the massacre of peoples who have lived for centuries on lands that has only now become coveted for the resources beneath it, needed to feed the overconsumption of civilizations headed for ruin. Why should we Africans have to pay a high price in order to satisfy the egoism of some privileged and the will to power of Northern countries?

War is not the solution. The solution is education as well as the struggle against an unequal and unfair world imposed on us by the current globalisation. This st ruggle is the seed of all fundamentalisms, be they religious, political, economic, cultural, ideological or social. We must refuse to become the victims of those selling deranged illusions, whether the mad men of Sharia or the mad men of capitalist super-profits.

We have to build a new world based on justice, freedom and solidarity between peoples, a world of peace and social progress. To that end, we must get out of current schemas, stop repeating the lies with which we are fed daily, stop aping the West and invent new endoge nous political and social models which have the human as its priority. This is the genuine challenge of our generation.

Pr. Ndiaye teaches Philosophy at the National University of Mali, he previously was Minister of National Education and Minister of Culture and Research.

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