Prime Minister Cameron has seen fit to rush transport planes and military help to boost French president Francois Hollande’s military adventure in
Africa. They are both trying
desperately to stoke up chauvinist enthusiasm and a big diversion from their
lack of popularity at home.
bombardment of Mali
- the world’s 24th poorest country with the third highest infant mortality rate
– on the grounds that he must protect French citizens and “democracy” against
“terrorism”. But his intervention in the former French colony has precious
little to do with either.
The crisis in
Mali has ratcheted up since a
military coup last March by a group within the 7,000-strong Malian military. President
Amadou Touman Touré, who led the 1991 democratic uprising, was overthrown by disgruntled
officers. The army was in disarray because it failed to defeat ethnic Tuaregs
in the north of the country.
After the Gaddafi regime was overthrown in
2,000 heavily-armed Tuaregs returned to their Malian homeland. The Mouvement
National de Libération de l'Azawad (MNLA) rebels seized control of three key
cities – Kidal, Gao and the legendary cultural and trading centre of Timbuktu.
Some 100,000 Malians - perhaps more - became refugees and fled to neighbouring states. By July the UN estimated that the crisis in
Northern Mali affected 380,000
Al-Qaeda forces moved into the situation, demanding the implementation of sharia
But while both Hollande and Cameron are billing their adventure in
Africa as a battle against
al-Qaeda terrorism, Jeremy Keenan, who has written extensively
on the Tuaregs, has pointed to a more complex and sinister build-up
to the present crisis.
The rise of the MNLA movement for the self-determination of Azawad – the Tuareg name for northern
- was a not only a problem for the Malian army but, a huge shock to Algeria. He
“The distinct possibility of a militarily successful Tuareg nationalist movement in northern
which Algeria has always
regarded as its own backyard (the Kidal region is sometimes referred to as Algeria’s
49th wilaya), could not be countenanced.”
Whilst crocodile tears are shed by the big powers, it was in fact the notoriously brutal Algerian security service, the Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS) which supplied, supported and orchestrated the Islamist “terrorist” groups in northern
After the three provincial capitals of Azawad fell to the rebels without resistance, the entire area was in rebel hands. On April 5 the MNLA declared Azawad an independent state. “The declaration of Azawad’s independence received no international support, nor was it ever likely to do so,” Keenan adds.
In July, Tuaregs rejected the Islamist influence of al-Qaeda, warning that their homeland could be turned into another
But the MNLA rebels fighting for an independent Azawad were marginalised and
lost their influence to the Ansar al-Din Islamists.
The rebels who now control the north of
Mali appear to
have widely diverging aims, the independent US Huntingdon news network has said. One wing is demanding independence for the
north. Another says its goal is to create an Islamic republic operating under
strict Sharia law – which might be all of Mali or simply the northern half.
There is a certain déjà vu when you hear the words of French Socialist Party president Hollande. When a big-power leaders embark on military action against a former colony, it is invariably “on behalf” of the people living there while in reality it is in pursuit of strategic aims and ambitions of the major powers. There are, for example, oil reserves in the Tuareg-controlled
Isn’t there a strange similarity between Hollande and Cameron, who is upping the ante in his sabre-rattling against
Argentina’s claim to the Malvinas/Falklands
islands alongside his nationalist, anti-EU rhetoric? They are both trying desperately to wave the
flag and draw attention away from their deep unpopularity at home. Let's hope it'll be a repeat of the 1956 Anglo-French Suez debacle!
A World to Win secretary