The United National Antiwar Coalition will host an educational conference call on Feb. 24 to discuss the current situation in the West African state of Mali. France invaded Mali on Jan. 11 supported by the United States, Britain and other NATO members.
Under the guise of carrying out a humanitarian mission to prevent so-called “al-Qaeda” affiliated groups from overrunning Mali, the French military — along with sections of the national army and regional troops from several West and Central African states — has entered cities and towns in the central and northern sections of the mineral-rich territory.
Reports from Mali say that the former colonial power’s aggressive ground offensive and aerial bombardments have killed and injured hundreds of people and led to gross violations of human rights.
Since the military coup in Mali on March 22, 2012, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced both inside the country and around the region. Humanitarian organizations have said that due to France’s military operations there are acute shortages of food, water and medical services for civilians.
Discussion in U.S. movement
The UNAC call will feature Ana Edwards, a leader in the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality and a member of the Friends of Mali in Richmond, Va. Edwards was in Mali at the time of the intervention and witnessed Pentagon transport planes flying in French troops and arms used in the war.
In addition to Edwards, Glenn Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report, will present this influential media outlet’s perspectives on the French and U.S. role in Mali. The author of this article will be the third presenter. The presentations will be short to allow most of the time for questions, answers and political discussion.
This conference call comes after UNAC released a statement opposing French and U.S. intervention in Mali and Africa as a whole. Under the title “France and the U.S. out of Africa Now! No Resource Wars for the Profits of the 1%! Not One More Cent for the New Scramble for Africa!” the national anti-war organization is calling for broad-based support in the campaign against the Pentagon-NATO onslaught on Mali and the entire African continent. The White House recently announced the deployment of 3,500 troops to nearly three dozen African countries.
“The recent French military intervention and the U.S. military and intelligence operations in the region must be opposed by all those who stand in favor of self-determination for African peoples,” writes UNAC. “Contrary to the self-serving claims of both France and the U.S. that they are out to defend democracy, both nations’ military operations in the Sahara-Sahel are in defense of their access to Africa’s minerals, oil, gas, and arable land at bargain basement prices.”
In March 2012, a U.S.-trained army officer in Mali staged a military coup against the elected government of President Amadou Toumani Toure. Since the coup, the security situation inside Mali has worsened. Both the coup government and the interim government that followed it have been unable to stabilize the north of the country. There, a local Tuareg separatist movement and other forces with a reactionary social program similar to al-Qaeda’s have been in conflict with the central government in Bamako.
UNAC continues, “The invitation for a French military attack by a Malian coup regime armed by Washington is but a fig leaf for an escalation of already existing efforts to protect the 1% plunder of Nigerian uranium, Malian gold, Nigerian oil, Algerian natural gas, Western Saharan phosphates, Cote d’Ivoire’s plantations, and more. Africanists liken the current situation to the period in the late 19th and early 20th century when the European countries carved up Africa between them.”
The anti-war organization stresses, “In the new ‘Scramble for Africa,’ Europe and the United States are competing for petroleum, minerals, and land to the detriment of the economic well-being of the African peoples.” The statement is followed by a factsheet which addresses the impact of the war on Mali in the areas of ecological disaster, national oppression, austerity, resource theft, the fraudulent “war on terrorism,” rivalries among the elites and the domestic war against the people of the U.S. fostered by the Pentagon’s militarism.
U.S., NATO’s long-range plans
Although both the French and U.S. governments say their involvement in Mali is not to seize resources, and will be of a short duration, statements and actions by officials indicate otherwise.
A delegation of four from the U.S. Congress visited Mali on Feb. 18 in a so-called fact-finding mission headed by Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware. Coons is the Democratic Foreign Relations subcommittee chairperson on African affairs. He expressed confidence in the French intervention in Mali but urged caution, particularly in the aftermath of clashes in the city of Gao. There has been evidence of continued fighting against the French-led forces.
Coon told the Associated Press that the intense fighting in Gao “suggests a level of jihadist militancy that doesn’t reflect the confidence that I heard from the French — that the jihadists are not from here, are not supported here, and have been driven away.” (Feb. 18)
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Feb. 14. There, he outlined the Obama administration’s position on Mali. Carson said, “Neutralizing the full scope of the terrorist threat in Mali … is a long-term effort.” (Washington Times, Feb. 14)
Carson failed to mention that the U.S. Africa Command had already trained and equipped Malian military units and that this earlier intervention by the Pentagon has objectively weakened the capacity of Mali’s national army and government to handle its own national security.
The European Union on Feb. 18 launched another training program for the Malian military. The EU had already deployed 70 so-called advisers to the capital of Bamako.
According to the same Associated Press article, “The decision by the foreign ministers of the 27 European Union countries meeting in Brussels authorizes the deployment of about 500 people to Mali for 15 months at an estimated cost of $16.4 million. About 20 EU countries will participate in the mission, which officials say will not be involved in any combat.”
Consequently, given these long-term commitments, it is essential that anti-war and other social justice organizations and coalitions inside the U.S. focus more attention on the burgeoning imperialist role on the African continent. Africa is becoming even more significant in regard to the supply of strategic resources that are indispensable to the world capitalist system.
Anti-war activists interested in participating in the UNAC educational conference call on Feb. 24 beginning at 9 p.m. EST should call 218-339-3600. The access code is 342310. The UNAC website is UNACpeace.org, and its email is [email protected].