The president of Mali, Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT), was overthrown on March 22 by a handful of almost unknown soldiers who, not having the means to control the country, have let the rebels (nationalists and Islamists) get a grip on the whole northern region of Mali, sowing their terror and provoking the forced displacement of several hundred thousand people. In reality, this coup has only accelerated the chaos of a state that has been corrupt and degenerating for a very long time. Moreover, the coup has happened in the context of struggles for influence and in a zone which is the theatre of trafficking of all types, notably arms and drugs, where criminal groups (Islamic mafias and others) fall out over the price of hostages and the plundering of migrants. But above all, Mali is the weak link of a region in growing decomposition brought about by imperialist tensions which are unfolding in the greater region of the Sahel. This has been accelerated in particular by the war which has ravaged Libya, whose effects have quickly made themselves felt all the way south to Bamako, the capital and largest city in Mali.
The criminal responsibility of the western imperialist powers in the aggravation of chaos
“(...) In Libya the transitional government has hardly supervised the stocks of armaments and the control of its frontiers. In September, the discovery of the disappearance of more than 10,000 ground-to-air missiles has created panic on the international scene. (…) At the same time, the Tuareg fighters hired as mercenaries and armed by Gaddifi have returned to their countries, to Niger and Mali, after the fall of the Libyan regime last August. Since January 2012, Tuareg insurgents of Mali, coming out of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) assaulted towns in the north armed with heavy machine-guns and anti-tank weapons, relaunching an old combat of several decades for the creation of an independent Tuareg state” (The National in Courier international, 11.04.12).
More than Sudan and Chad, Mali today constitutes the principal market for armaments in this region where all kinds of killers come to provide themselves with or exchange their “merchandise”, notably in Gao and Timbuktu. But more sombre still for the future of Mali is the fact that as well as being a “great market “ for professional criminals, this country is also coveted for its raw materials.
In fact, outside of gold, of which it is one of the greatest producers, Mali is on the point of becoming an exporter of rough diamonds and its futures market is already the theatre of intense rivalries between well-known greater vultures such as Total, GDE-Suez, Tullow Oil, Dana Petroleum, CNPC, Repsoi, etc. Clearly these Euro-American and Chinese firms are supported by their respective states in the scramble that they are undertaking for the control and exploitation of the raw materials of Mali.
“Impossible (for example) not to note that the recent coup d'etat is an additional effect of the rebellions in the north which are themselves the consequences of the destabilisation of Libya by a western coalition which has strangely shown no remorse nor feeling of responsibility. This ill wind has blown into Mali, after crossing its Ivorian, Nigerian, Guinean and Mauritanian neighbours...” (Le Nouveau Courrier, Courrier international, 11.04.12).
Far from supporting “peace” and “democracy”, the intervention of the imperialist forces of Nato in Libya have only spread chaos and accelerated the decomposition of the states around the region. From now in fact, no less than twelve countries are affected by conflicts, wars and trafficking that are unfolding in a vast zone of nine million square kilometres.
Mali: an African Afghanistan in the south of Europe?
“The strategic forecast recently launched by Jean-Claude Cousseran, an old boss of the DGSE (French intelligence): 'Africa will be our Afghanistan' , will now be taken seriously. From it we discover the banal but ominous compatibility of operations undertaken by small, radical Islamic groups in Nigeria, Somalia, Libya, in the countries of the Sahel and Mali, (…) In the Quai d'Orsay (French foreign office), the Juppé team is concerned about French hostages and about the future of the threatened states. A high-command has set up plans for intervention in case African bosses, the UN or even Nato decide to 'do something'... And the secret services themselves are in constant touch with French officers working in Mali and the commanders of special operations at their posts in Burkina, Niger and Mauritania (…) The objectives aimed for by the fighting groups (…) could end up creating an immense grey zone in the African Sahel under the banner of religion, or criminal bands drawing profit from different fights between the partisans of Islam, tribal nomads, Salafist groups, the remnants of Al Qaida, soldiers lost through the combats against the Arab Spring... With the result of the risk of the decomposition of these states” (Le Canard Enchaîné, 11.04.12).
French imperialism is in quite a panic faced with the development of chaos in Mali and is preparing itself to intervene in order to try to preserve its interests in the region of the Sahel. In fact, beyond its economic and strategic interests, France is trying to get back its nationals taken hostage by the armed Islamic groups. Remember that the French army led a real war in this zone under the name of the “struggle against Islamic terrorist groups (AQIM)”, in Mauritania and in Niger and that the last military intervention here provoked several deaths.
The United States is furnishing advisers and military material to the same countries, still in the name of the “anti-terrorism” and “securitisation” of the region, from where Washington has been able to establish very tight links with different Malian networks.
On their side, rival powers are also playing their own cards. Thus, Algeria and Mauritania, Niger and Mali have decided to organise their own high-command whose seat is based in Tamanrasset (Algeria). But in reality it's everyone for themselves which is the dominant feature over all these gangsters, and as a result alliances don't last very long, being made and unmade according to the relations of forces and immediate “gains”.
In Mali, American imperialism muscles out its French counter-part
“From the ruins of the Malian state appears a document of three pages classified 'very sensitive'. It is a note sent February last to the president Amadou Toumani Touré. It is entitled 'Mauritania and the secret support for the rebels of Azawad’ (a proposed independent Tuareg state). On reading it, the old general (ATT) must have understood that his end was almost imminent. His secret services warned him, in some detail, of the close contacts between the Tuaregs, who had just taken up the road to war, and the neighbouring regime of Ould Abdelaziz (high-ranking military officer and president of Mauritania). The new national movement for the liberation of Azawad (MNLA) was receiving 'material aid' from (Mauritania's capital) Nouakchott (…) At the same time as representatives of the MNLA were opening an office of information in Nouakchott, others were being received several times at the Quai d'Orsa (i.e in Paris). A simultaneity which wasn't, without doubt, by chance. Mauritania, a big ally of France in the region, would not have lent such a strong hand to the Tuareg independentists without the approval, even tacit, of its mentor (…) The MNLA, still according to the secret note, were engaged to fight Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). A priority for Mauritania and France, who reproached president Touré for his weakness towards the jihadists (…) Stupefaction in the west and in the Sahel: the Tuareg insurgents, considered as the best bulwark against AQIM, were fighting alongside them. After having submitted to one of their worst setbacks in Africa, the French authorities acknowledged their impotence. 'We have a real problem' leaked one high official. 'The Malians are incapable of taking back what they have lost. And send in the French army? Nobody thinks that. Franco-Africa is finished!'” (Le Nouvel Observateur, 12.04.12).
In effect, the French state is aiming both to preserve its global interests in the region and free its hostages held by the groups linked to AQIM. But it's opened itself up to be given the run-around by wretched and obscure tiny mafia groups which it's underhandedly dealt with while giving its support to the Malian president ATT. Today, French imperialism is totally paralysed by the amateurism which it has shown in this affair and it risks losing everything on the table.
In addition to their military presence throughout the region, and having negotiated and obtained some agreements of military cooperation with all the regimes, the Americans have the ear of both the overthrown president and of the leader of the putschists.
“The camp of DJCORNI (French military base) where ATT took refuge on March 21st, is close to and under the quasi-protection of the US ambassador – who had, if one believes the telegrams revealed by Wikileaks, alerted Washington on the state of degeneration of the Malian high-command and on the climate of corruption which reigned among the close entourage (including family) of the president. The bodyguards who protected the fallen chief during his flight were trained by the famous Navy Seals of the US army. And the putschist captain Amadou Sanago willingly talked of his times in the United States: the air base of Lackland (Texas); Fort Huachua (Arizona), specialising in intelligence; the officer's school of Fort Benning (Georgia). A longer stay with the Marines, whose pin he wore on his jacket. In brief, we know that the Americans were very implanted and very well informed about Mali. Without doubt better than the French. We have confirmation of it” (Jeune Afrique, April 7 2012).
France would have known something about the overthrow of the regime of ATT and was aware that the principal cause can be found in the links between the latter and the United States, which is ocne again doing everything it can to oust Paris from its ex-backyard.
Here is a country in a state of advanced decay governed by corrupt gangs who are competing against various carrion crows - Islamic mafias, highwaymen, accompanied by imperialist powers looking for influence and raw materials while disguising their plans of capitalist business “as plans of the securitisation of the zone”. And in the meantime, the populations themselves are dying from hunger, suffering generalised misery, or are simply massacred by one side or the other.