By a commentator for Tjen Folket Media.
NRK reports that Norwegian soldiers have joined UN forces in the West African country of Mali. The country was a part of the French colonies in Africa, and is still dominated by French imperialism. We must see through the lies of Western media and reveal that Western imperialism by no means brings peace and development for these African masses.
European Imperialism Brings Chaos
In 2013, Al Jazeera, a news agency owned by the state of Qatar, published a longer article on Western imperialism in Mali and West Africa:
Here we see decades, and indeed centuries, of French and broader European and American policies coming together to produce maximum chaos.
The article was written by Mark LeVine from UCLA – Irvine and gives a useful background in understanding why Mali is being torn apart by war, and the role that Western great powers truly play in a country where Norwegian soldiers will now be a part of the chaos. Al Jazeera claims that part of the background for today’s chaos is France’s support for the brutal oppression of moderate Islamist movements in North Africa, for instance in Algeria. Al Jazeera doesn’t deliver a Marxist analysis, of course, but the fact that France’s havoc has created chaos should not come as any surprise – even if their interference has always been marketed as “stabilizing”.
NRK writes that 60 Norwegian soldiers will join the UN forces, which number more than 12,000 in total military strength and come from a variety of countries, primarily French-speaking African countries.
From a French colony to cheap cotton and large gold exports
France is Mali‘s earlier colonial ruler, when the country had been a part of French Sudan. Even if the country was formally granted independence more than 50 years ago, it is still a part of France’s sphere of influence. It is a part of a union of French-speaking countries and France today continues its intense interference in Mali’s politics and economy. France is Mali’s second largest trade partner for imports.
Mali is Africa’s third largest producer of gold, and only raw cotton exports make up a larger share of all exports for this incredibly poor country. In this way, those living in extreme poverty in Mali enter the global market as a providers for cheap cotton for the West’s clothing, along with gold for the jewelry of the world’s richest people.
The French “war on terror”
The French Operation Serval took place in Mali between 2012 and 2014. 4000 French soldiers were deployed, along with planes and other weapons systems to assist the regime in Mali in their fight against rebels to the North. Just like UN forces, and just like other Western military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and so on, this is portrayed as a routine “war on terror” against jihadists. This is almost entirely a flimsy pretext for something more. France’s role in Mali is fundamentally the same today as it was when it was called French Sudan.
One of the dominant forces in Northern Mali that the French forces have combated are the so-called Tuareg separatists. The Tuareg People are Berbers who have lived in many countries of North Africa. They are a historically nomadic people who have had a long history in the Sahara region.
Mali’s history from ancient great riches to colonialism and military coup
From the 9th century to the 16th century, this region was one of three different kingdoms that controlled the trade of salt, gold, and other sought-after goods throughout the Sahara region. They met their end at the hands of a Spanish-led invasion that began in the 16th century. In the late 19th century, the colonial power of France seized the region.
Mali gained its independence from France in 1959 and President Mobido Keïta later established a Soviet-oriented government that called itself socialist. He had a background in a communist study group and was imprisoned for many years in a French dungeon for his resistance against French colonialism. Keïta also fostered a warm relationship with the imperialist USA and England as well. In 1968, he was deposed in a military coup lead by Moussa Traoré. Traoré received his military training from an officer school in France and became the fascist dictator of Mali all the way until he was overthrown by a new military coup during an uprising in 1991.
The Great Norwegian Encyclopedia writes that:
Mali joined the West African-French monetary cooperation within the Union moétaire oust-africaine (UMOA) and established the CFA as its monetary units in 1984.
The 1991 coup is referred to as “bloodless” by Wikipedia, even though the Minister of Education and the President’s brother in law were burned to death and hundreds of others were killed.
It is worth mentioning that France saw the 1991 coup positively. The New York Times was then able to cite a spokesperson for France’s Foreign Ministry, who said that the situation “appears promising and full of hope”.
Even a Paris-based “human rights organization” stated that the coup was positive. Little has changed today, where France and the US – along with others – are deeply involved in Mali, Libya, Algeria, and other North African countries.
The military coup in 1991 led to a new constitution and elections in 1992. The new president, Alpha Oumar Konaré, sat in office from 1992 until 2002. He had a background from an illegal “Marxist-Leninist” (revisionist) party and had attended school for 5 years in Warsaw when Poland was a satellite state of the Soviet Union. During and after his government tenure, he had many position in the UN system and in West African and pan-African multilateral cooperation organizations.
Konaré was followed by Officer Amadou Toumani Touré, who had led the military coup in 1991. He sat in office until a new military coup unseated him in 2012. Touré was an old paratrooper, educated in France and the Soviet Union. After an agreement with new local leaders and African states brokered in Mali, he was “voluntarily” exiled to Senegal.
Officers that organized the coup accused the president of having treated the rebellion to the North poorly. The leading rebel organization was the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a movement that was primarily comprised of Tuareg and fought for an independent Azawad, today North Mali. They join ranks with a centuries-old history of Tuareg rebellion against colonial powers and North African regimes. Mali’s government has accused them of having ties to Al Qaeda, other jihadists, and Gaddafi, something that the group itself has denied.
The coup leaders organized a presidential election in 2013, where Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta took victory. He was the prime minister from 1994 until 2000 and was the leader for the national assembly from 2002 until 2007. Keïta studied at a French upper-class school and university in Paris, where he also lectured for many years. He is thought to be a direct descendant of Sundiata Keita, the emperor of the Mali Kingdom between 1235 to 1255(!).
French imperialist dominance after colonial times
WWII and the wave of proletarian world revolution put an end to the old colonial rule of England and France. All over the third world, the winds of rebellion were blowing. But the dissolution of the old colonial system made way for a new one. France’s colonial intervention in Africa is referred to as Françafrique, and is characterized by a system where France has withdrawn from Africa in name only. In reality, these places continue to use the franc as their currency, France has a dominating position in the financial system, French companies have favorable contracts, many political leaders are educated in French schools and have close French relationships, and France has a strong military presence in place, including a permanent fixture of assassins in the French Foreign Legion. The French state and its intelligence services have been heavily involved in many coups, counter-coups, and “stabilizing” tasks.
In this context, it can also be mentioned that in Mali, one could find many slaves after the formal prohibition of slavery. All the way up to its liberation, fully 1/3 of its population is thought to have been slaves. These are a part of the labour force that delivered cotton to the French textiles industry. 10,000 Malians died in the trenches in French service during WWI, and today 100,000 people with Malian background live in France.
Today, approximately 3 million of Mali’s population of roughly 18 million work in the production of cotton. They compete with Egypt in becoming Africa’s largest producer of a good that is decisive in clothing production. Nonetheless, they struggle to compete with American cotton in the global market due to large subsidies for US cotton farmers, which of course lowers the prices.
USA and France – both rivals and partners in imperialism in North Africa
Besides France, the US is the largest imperialist in North Africa. They are deeply involved in Mali, and there is a concern that the country will become a center for anti-American jihadism, comparable to several unstable regions in Arab and Muslim countries. In 2004, the US ambassador to Mali warned that Mali could become like Afghanistan under Taliban rule, i.e. a place where jihadists have attack bases against American targets.
France and the US are both rivals and partners. The rivalry arises in places like Libya, where a French-backed officer is fighting against the US-friendly and UN-backed government. Cooperation can nonetheless be seen. These regional great powers also compete with other imperialists, for instance England, Russia, and China. But they stand united against the masses in the region to exploit them and keep them down and in poverty.
Imperialism means war and chaos
Countries in the third world can never be stable or experience true development under imperialism. Imperialism holds them down in an artificial state of underdevelopment. This is both deliberate and incidental from the imperialists’ side. And they are not in a position to hinder explosions of popular rage and rebellion. They are also not in a position to resolve conflicts that the system begets. And the great powers compete as a general rule through puppets in so-called “proxy-wars” and conflicts. They enter on different sides in local and regional struggles, struggles that inevitably arise in a system where the masses are robbed of their livelihoods and exploitation creates enormous value for those who have the power.
War and putrefaction is the rule under imperialism, and it is a necessity under imperialism. UN missions in this system operate as a general rule against their stated goals, and only lay the ground for larger conflicts in the future. The UN Security Council is controlled by the largest imperialists and can therefore never function as anything else but a tool for them, or else it is otherwise paralyzed by the rivalry between them.
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