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Neo-Colonialism Meets Islamic Fundamentalism


line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>The country known as Mali was carved out of what was once known as “French West Africa.” Named after the famous empire of Mali (roughly 1200-1600 AD), Mali included various ethnicities, much like other former European colonies in Africa. In many cases, these ethnicities had little in common, a fact that became particularly important with regard to the Tuareg people in the northern part of the country.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>Like most of the former French colonies, Mali remained of interest to France. During the years of Malian President Modibo Keita, efforts at genuine national sovereignty were pursued, but with the overthrow of Keita, French neo-colonial involvement regained the initiative. Mali, a country rich in natural resources, including gold and uranium, has remained important to global capitalism.

Algeria, Libya and “unintended consequences”

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>The trajectory of the Libyan uprising, which began as a non-violent protest and then escalated into a full-blown civil war in the aftermath of repression by the Qaddafi regime, provided a basis for further instability in the region. In the aftermath of the NATO intervention, which derailed efforts at justice and national sovereignty, the situation in northwest Africa became increasingly unsettled. The source of that instability was the combination of armaments possessed by the now fallen Qaddafi regime that ended up flooding northwest Africa, along with the exit from Libya of many of the late Qaddafi’s former African allies. AQIM, along with dissidents in northern Mali, were major beneficiaries of this flood of arms.

The revolt

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>The Malian army, finding itself repeatedly defeated by the MNLA, turned against the recognized Malian government and launched a coup d’état. This illegal act was broadly condemned in the international community and did nothing to garner real support for a termination of the conflict with the Tuareg.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>The Malian government, which has proven unstable, corrupt and with little credibility, has found itself unable to defeat the right-wing Islamists. Its cry for help resulted first in discussions about an ECOWAS military intervention in order to stabilize the situation, and, ultimately, to the French intervention with ground troops and aircraft. A new twist is that the MNLA, based in Niger, announced on January 20th that they were prepared to join in the struggle against the right-wing Islamists.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>A second point of note is that the fragile condition of too many African nation-states leaves them incapable of standing up to both corruption and neo-colonialism, not to mention varying forms of fundamentalism (Christian, Muslim, ethnic, etc.). While this is a legacy of colonial rule and the, often, bizarre national borders created at the time of independence and the lack of real economic independence, this situation will not be resolved by anyone but Africans. The involvement of the African Union and ECOWAS can be positive, but only to the extent to which it advances national sovereignty, peace, justice and African unity. Insofar as either of these institutions is perceived as an agent of outside-imperial-interests, they cannot fulfill this historic task.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>In this situation, the USA must desist from its manipulative and provocative role. Beginning during the George W. Bush administration, in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, the US escalated its military presence in the Sahel region of Africa. Though terrorism-Muslim and/or non-Muslim was not the major threat to Africa (whereas, civil wars, poverty, HIV/AIDS, and imperial robbery were), the US insisted on a militarization of the region, including close collaboration with undemocratic regimes. This involvement did not advance democracy, and it certainly did not stop the advance of terrorism. Rather, this irresponsible interventionism coupled with the NATO hijacking of the Libyan uprising, has resulted in exactly the opposite.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>The role of the African Union and ECOWAS is not, primarily, a military role. Though legitimate authorities in Mali may, at some point, need military assistance as part of the process of stabilization, such a move must be made by the people of Mali rather than the French, the USA, or for that matter, any of the agents of global capitalism within the various African ruling elites. This role for ECOWAS and the African Union must be respected and supported by the United States, rather than undermined and subverted in order to advance the interests of US hegemony and global capitalism. 

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>Silence is not an option.

BlackCommentator.comInstitute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfricaForum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. He is also the co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice, which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA. Click here to contact Mr. Fletcher.

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