On Feb. 2, French President Francois Hollande visited Mali, claiming victory over insurgent groups that had taken control of the central and northern regions of this vast West African state. He visited the capital of Bamako and the cities of Sevare and Timbuktu.
Hollande wanted to appear as the savior of the Malian nation from religious extremists, who were accused of imposing a severe form of Islamic rule on the areas they controlled. At least 90 percent of the people of Mali are Muslims, but most reportedly do not subscribe to the social agenda of the rebels.
However, if anything should have been learned from the seemingly endless interventions and wars in the Middle East and North Africa launched in recent decades by the ruling circles of Europe and the U.S., it is that imperialist intervention, no matter how high-sounding the reasons given, brings nothing but destruction and suffering to the people.
Behind the excuses for France’s military assault, the real reason is to return these former imperialist colonies to political and economic subjugation so the transnational corporations and banks can reap fabulous profits from each country’s labor and resources.
In his speech, Hollande failed to address allegations of civilian deaths and injuries among people in the areas bombed by French warplanes since Jan. 11.
But he did tell the media and crowds in Timbuktu that the war in Mali was not over. He postponed the question of France withdrawing its troops from the former colony to an unspecified time when a “West African regional force” would be in place inside the country.
In the immediate aftermath of Hollande’s visit, dozens of French warplanes escalated their attacks on several areas in the north. Under the guise of disabling supply routes for what France called “terrorist” groups, the mountainous northeast region around Kidal and Tessalit was pounded.
Media ignore atrocities by France
While much media attention has focused on human rights violations by the insurgents, little is being said about charges that France’s aerial bombardments and ground operations have cost the lives of numerous Malians. Even organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations have documented reports of beatings, torture and killings by French forces and the Malian army, which took power through a coup last March with French backing.
On Feb. 1, Adama Dieng, a special adviser to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the prevention of genocide, reported “serious allegations” of extrajudicial executions by the Malian army. (Agence French Presse, Feb. 2)
Other stories are emerging of civilians killed by bombs and the impact of the aerial bombardments on people who need access to adequate food, drinking water and medical attention.
While talking about the “liberation” of towns once held by the rebels, Dieng also expressed concern over “the risk of reprisal attacks against ethnic Tuareg and Arab civilians. There have been serious allegations of human rights violations committed by the Malian army, including summary executions and disappearances, in Sevare, Mopti, Niono and other towns close to other areas where the fighting has occurred. …
“There have also been reports of incidents of mob lynching and looting of properties belonging to Arab and Tuareg communities. These communities are reportedly being accused of supporting armed groups, based simply on their ethnic affiliation. I am deeply disturbed by reports of violations committed by the army, and by reports that the armed forces have been recruiting and arming proxy militia groups to instigate attacks against particular ethnic and national groups in northern Mali.”
France, U.S. focus on Niger’s uranium mines
Right across the border from Mali in Niger, the U.S. and France have enhanced their military presence. At present Paris has deployed Special Forces units to “protect” the uranium mines inside this West African state.
Areva, a French-owned firm, obtains a large portion of its uranium from two mines in Niger located at Arlit and Imouraren. The country is the world’s fifth-largest producer of this strategic resource, used in technology, energy, medicine and military industries.
At the same time, the U.S. government has announced two agreements with the Niger government for the deployment of troops, as well as a drone base on the border with Mali. The Pentagon says the base is designed to enhance its intelligence-gathering capability in West Africa. Drones, of course, can also be used in direct missile attacks on the population without risking military personnel, as in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
One unnamed military official said that the U.S. presence in Niger is “directly related to the Mali mission, but it could also give AFRICOM [U.S. Africa Command] a more enduring presence for [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance].” Niger’s president, Mahamadou Issoufou, said in an interview that the agreement was part of “a long-term strategic relationship with the U.S.” (World War 4 Report, Jan. 30)
These military agreements and adventures are taking place within the context of a worsening capitalist economic crisis in Europe and the U.S. The French economy is suffering from escalating debt and rising unemployment. The U.S. is facing a mounting fiscal crisis, along with a negative growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2012. This instability at the very core of world imperialism is what is driving their expansionist military policy.