U.S.-NATO policies lead to coup in Mali
Published Apr 1, 2012 10:27 PM
A soldiers’ mutiny has led to a military coup in the West African state of Mali. Rebelling troops and and forces loyal to President Amadou Toumani Touré exchanged fire near the presidential palace in Bamako, Mali’s capital, on March 21.
Rebel soldiers then seized the state radio and television station. On March 22, a group of soldiers appeared on national television identifying themselves as the National Committee for the Reestablishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State. The committee’s spokesperson, Lt. Amadou Konaré, said that the soldiers had taken control of the state due to the inability of President Touré’s government to “fight terrorism.”
No images of the president were seen, and since March 21 there has only been one brief statement over Twitter attributed to Touré, saying there has been no coup but only a mutiny. Nonetheless, it is quite obvious that a change of power has taken place in Mali with Capt. Amadou Sanogo claiming to be in charge of the new military regime.
An ongoing conflict with the Tuareg people in the north of the country had accelerated over the last few months. The Tuareg, who are dispersed in several states in West and North Africa, have been politically marginalized since the post-independence period going back to the 1960s.
What’s behind the coup?
The latest developments and rebel statements imply that the government’s failure to effectively contain or defeat the Tuareg rebellion in the north has created tremendous tensions within the military and the Malian society as a whole. President Touré was at the end of his term and would have voluntarily stepped down in a matter of weeks.
Why then did the lower-ranking military officers stage a coup at this point? Let’s examine the burgeoning Tuareg rebellion that is related to the U.S.-NATO war against Libya that began in February 2011.
Several thousand Tuaregs from Mali and other countries in the region had lived for many years in Libya and maintained an alliance with the late Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s government. Many Tuaregs fought alongside the Libyan army in defense of the country from the U.S./NATO-backed National Transitional Council that overthrew that government and murdered Gadhafi in October 2011.
Following Gadhafi’s death, thousands of Tuaregs relocated from Libya to Mali. Unrest soon spread throughout the northern region, and an existing Tuareg rebellion was reconstituted as the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA).
The fighters who had returned from Libya were well-trained and armed. They began to reassert their influence, causing monumental problems for the Malian military and the central government based in the south of the country in Bamako.
MNLA fighters took over several important northern towns over a period of two months beginning in early 2012. Their advances on the battlefield also prompted desertions by the Malian army, creating panic in the capital and in the city of Gao.
According to Malian newspaper columnist Adam Thiam, “The Libyan crisis didn’t cause this coup but certainly revealed the malaise felt within the army.” (BBC News, March 22)
In the BBC interview an anonymous government official indicated that the military coup was probably planned in advance and was not totally a surprise. This official said that “nobody could now pretend they were not warned. Many within the government felt something could happen, we just didn’t know when and how. The anger was just too high.”
President Touré had himself staged a military coup in 1991 against another regime of soldiers. However, he turned over power to a civilian government in 1992 and won the 2002 and 2007 presidential elections.
The MNLA reacted favorably to the coup but pledged to continue its struggle for the emergence of what it calls an independent Tuareg state. The organization says it may benefit from the current situation in the capital.
In the BBC interview a spokesman for the MNLA in the Mauritanian capital of Nauakchott, Hamma Ag Mahmoud, said that the MNLA was “not interested in Bamako, but Kidal, Timbuktu and Gao. These mutineers will not have the firepower to resist against us. They will have to sign a peace agreement at some point.” Mahmoud had previously served as a minister in the former military regime of Gen. Moussa Traoré, who was overthrown by President Touré in 2002.
Some Malian governmental officials have blamed NATO for the escalation of the crisis in the north. In neighboring Senegal, University of Dakar Prof. Abdul Aziz Kebe told the BBC, “Western powers have underestimated that getting rid of Gadhafi would have severe repercussions in the Sahel region.”
The Associated Press reported March 26, “Sources in Mali and neighboring Niger said Monday the rebels hope to take Kidal without a fight. The sources asked not to be named because the situation is dangerous.”
Imperialism’s role in Mali
Mali’s civilization extends back at least 1,000 years. The area was colonized by France during the 19th century and in 1960 gained national independence.
During the first eight years of independence, Mali’s political direction was socialist-oriented. The first post-independence leader, President Modibo Keita, was a close ally of Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah and Guinean President Ahmed Sekou Touré. Keita was overthrown in a military coup in 1968.
Lately, Mali has been a partner in the so-called “war on terrorism” in West Africa. The Associated Press reported that “Mali is at the heart of a Western-backed initiative to fight al-Qaida’s thriving African wing.”
Mali has been a member of the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative, which is an interagency plan by the U.S. government that combines efforts by both civil and military agencies ostensibly designed to fight “terrorism.” The military component of TSCTI consist of the U.S.-led “Operation Enduring Freedom—Trans Sahara.” Mali has held joint military exercises with the U.S. Africa Command, known as AFRICOM, and receives arms from Washington.
Mali is the third largest producer of gold on the African continent. Companies such as the London-listed Randgold Resources are producing gold there, and have interests affected by recent developments in the north.
Nick Holland, the CEO of Gold Fields, the world’s fourth largest gold producer, said his firm would continue mining in Mali. (Reuters, March 26)
The current situation in Mali is developing rapidly. On March 26, demonstrations involving a thousand people in the capital opposed the coup.
These developments illustrate that the imperialist war in Libya is causing greater instability in North and West Africa. The escalating military intervention in Africa by the U.S. and NATO is creating more uncertainty and greater resistance on the part of the African masses against foreign interference in their internal affairs.
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