The road from TIMBUKTU may be paved with GOLD
To many people, Timbuktu these days sounds nothing more than an
allegory for a distant and outlandish place of no particular
significance; Even fewer people would have been exposed to the facts
that Timbuktu is a real city in the West African nation of Mali; It was
the capital of the Empire of Mali in the 14th century, and was one of
the most advanced cities in the world during the Dark ages in Europe.
Timbuktu is bound to be in the news in coming months however, due to
the latest Western aerial bombing project, led by France again.
Imperialist powers in pursuit of strategic mineral resources have been
responsible for fuelling most of the recent wars that have claimed the
lives of millions in Africa, in countries such as the Democratic
Republic of Congo, Sudan, the Central African Republic and Somalia.
French President Francois Hollande
speaks with soldiers of the 126 RI (Infantry Regiment)before
they left for Mali. AFP
The current French aerial bombing campaign in Mali comes within the
context of the renewed scramble for Africa being orchestrated by the
neocon elements within the military structures of the former European
imperialist overlords who ruled Africa from the late 19th century
through to the 1960s.
The project is well supported and guided by their neocon godfathers
who form the shadow government of the inheritor of the empire, the US.
As the brutal aerial bombing of Libya in 2011 demonstrated the renewed
French imperial greed for Africa put in to effect by Nicolas Sarkozy, a
devout adherent to the neocon ideology. The latest venture in Mali
however, is being done against the will of the current socialist leader
of France, President Francois Hollande.
President Hollande is a decent person who has showed his
anti-colonialist credentials: he has signalled a ‘reset’ in French
relations with its former colonies in Africa, adopting a new hands-off
approach by the old colonial master; He has promised to downsize the
9,000 strong French battalion currently stationed in Africa; Recently in
Algeria, he came close to apologising for the French invasion of that
country in 1830. More specifically, Hollande vowed back in October that
there would be “no French military boots on the ground” in Mali. Events
since January 14 show that the neocons have twisted his arm.
The US neocon operated military-industrial complex is currently
engaged in numerous military operations in Africa, including in Somalia,
Cameroon, the Gulf of Guinea, Botswana, Senegal, South Africa, Morocco,
Ghana, Tunisia, Nigeria and Liberia. By the end of 2013 they will have a
brigade of over 10,000 troops permanently stationed in Africa,
conducting “military training or military-to-military engagement”.
There are clear signs that the US neocons are busy spreading its
clandestine army all over Africa to achieve the strategic objective of
‘balkanising’ the African continent, as part of their geopolitical
master plan. The full-spectrum combatant command United States Africa
Command (AFRICOM), headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany with units in
England, Italy and in the Horn of Africa, has purportedly been created
in 2008 for “strengthening the defence capabilities of African states”
and to support US government foreign policy through
“military-to-military activities and assistance programmes”.
Mali and its political travails
The army officers who received training from Mali, Mauritania, Niger
and Chad have captured power through coups in Mauritania, Niger and
Mali, and staged an unsuccessful coup in Chad in 2006.The US State
Department condemned the coup and called for restoration of democratic
rule. So far, it has not taken any action against the military junta.
The process began with the toppling of Muammer Gaddafi, and Libya is
being used as a springboard for invading other targeted nations,
including Mali, Algeria, and Syria with NATO-funded and armed foreign
French soldiers of the 5th Combat
Helicopter Regiment (RHC) stand with their equipment in
front of a PUMA helicopter at the 101st airbase near Bamako.
A man with a donkey rides passed
French military vehicles in the city of Niono, about 350 kms
(220 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako and 60 kms south
of Diabaly. AFP
In parallel with the situation in France, the neocon establishment in
the US is working overtime to overcome the resistance of Barack Obama
who is showing a lack of interest on the Mali project. The story of Mali
including its current political problems are typical of the developing
world, ravaged by colonialism and being continuously undermined through
paid local agents and other corrupt enterprises disguised as ‘aid’
The landlocked West African country of Mali was the core of ancient
African empires going back to the fourth century.While most of Mali’s
wealth has been plundered, its rich cultural heritage is reflected in
its music that is popularised worldwide by stars of the ilk of Salif
Keita, known as the ‘Golden Voice of Africa’, a direct descendent of the
founder of the Mali empire. Mali was colonised by the French in mid -
19th century and nominal independence was granted in 1960.
Since independence, Mali has suffered droughts, rebellions, a coup,
and 23 years of military dictatorship, making it one of the poorest
countries in the world. Mali experienced rapid economic growth and
relative social stability following democratic elections in 1992.
Although most of its territory is barren desert country, the fertile
Niger River basin in the South and East helps Mali stay self-sufficient
Like most post-colonial countries including Sri Lanka, Mali also
experienced a century-old separatist struggle in the North of the
country:the Tuareg, a Nomadic Pastoral ethnic group whose pre-colonial
habitat comprised the current Northern Mali, Northern Niger, Southern
Algeria and Southern Libya has been campaigning for their traditional
homeland named ‘Azawad state’.
The Tuareg Rebellion led by the National Movement for the Liberation
of Azawad (MNLA) gathered momentum in 2012. The current, intensified
trouble began in March 2012, when President Amadou Toumani Toure’s
government was toppled in a military coup d’état staged by a group of
middle ranking US-trained army officers led by Captain Amadou Sanogo.
Sanogo justified the coup on account of the government’s inability to
contain the two month-old Tuareg rebellion in the North of the
country:within a month following the coup however, the Tuareg took
control of the entire Northern desert region, a territory larger than
France. On April 6, 2012, MNLA proclaimed Azawad’s independence from
The MNLA are not Islamists, but were in a loose alliance with the
Islamist Ansar Dine and other groups when they defeated the Malian army
in the North. Disagreements within the alliance following the victory
fuelled internecine battles and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in
West Africa (MOJWA) and Ansar Dine pushed the MNLA out of all the major
The French excuses for military intervention
It was preceded by the same deceitful routine that was used in the
cases of the Iraqi and Libyan invasions, of creating a bogus
humanitarian urgency and obtaining UN imprimatur in whatever form
possible, with a view to liberally interpret it to achieve the strategic
objectives. In the case of Mali, the propaganda blitz immediately before
the bombing mission was aimed at propagating the myth of a purported Al
Qaeda link in Mali. The offensive was justified on the grounds that the
Islamist in Mali could create a terrorist state “at the doorstep of
France and Europe”.
The claim is ridiculous: a good portion of the Tuareg rebels were
previously fighting in Libya in support of their benefactor Muammar
Gaddafi against Western-backed Al Qaeda jihadist insurgents. Hundreds of
Tuareg mercenaries in Gaddafi’s army came back to Mali early last year,
with heavy weaponry, attracting other disaffected Tuareg including some
army officers to the MNLA:there is no love lost between the Tuareg and
Then the story with the UN resolution: back in December 2012, UN
Security Council passed resolution 2085 that allowed for the deployment
of a 3,000-strong African-led mission to intervene in Mali later this
year, if a negotiated solution could not be found: the key conditions in
the resolution are that a ‘negotiated solution’ should be given priority
and any forces deployed need to be ‘African-led’.
UN Security Council
On January 14, 2013 however, France called for an emergency meeting
of the UN Security Council to seek approval for fast-tracking a military
operation in Mali, on the grounds of an Islamist advance southwards
towards the capital Bamako: there had not been any attempts at
negotiating a peaceful settlement, and the talk of an African leadership
had been conveniently forgotten in the face of the totally contrived
After the meeting, France’s UN ambassador Gerard Araud said his
country had the “understanding and support” of the 14 other Security
On 16 January, an initial contingent of 550 French soldiers, to be
increased to 2,500 within days, backed by French Mirage and Rafale jets
were dispatched. The UK provided two C17 cargo planes and Denmark and
the US provided further logistics support. Algeria allowed French jets
to cross its airspace and closed its 2,000 kilometre long desert border
with Mali. The French move to send bombers to Mali does not have a
proper UN mandate, and is illegal.
The American role in the Mali military adventure
Elements within the American and British governments echoed France’s
portrayal of Mali as a haven for Islamic fundamentalists allegedly
posing an imminent security threat as a launch pad for terrorism in
Europe: the head of US AFRICOM, General Carter Ham characterised Mali as
the new global base for Al Qaeda.
The neocons have been “warning” President Barack Obama that without
more aggressive US action Mali could become a haven for extremists akin
to Afghanistan. Obama however, is understandably coy about getting
entangled in another distant war just as he is attempting to finalise
the disastrous Afghanistan involvement: his staff are contesting the
advice that the radical Islamic groups that have taken control of parts
of Malipose a credible enough threat to US homeland security to warrant
a military response.
Notwithstanding Obama’s reluctance, the US State Department and the
Department of Defence are showing keen enthusiasm for the Mali
adventure: State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declared: “We
are in consultation with the French on a number of requests that they
have made for support,”adding that “We share the French goal of denying
terrorists a safe haven.”
The Mali enterprise is aimed at resources
While talking up the threat of Islamic terrorism in Mali, neocon
powers are in cahoots with Jihadi militants of similar ideological bent
in Libya and Syria: it is clear that the alleged Islamist threat is
being inflated by the neocons in France and among its Western allies as
a cynical pretext for yet another military campaign. The ‘War on Terror’
serves to cover up the destabilisation of Africa in pursuit of naked
imperialist interests in untapped uranium, gold, oil, gas, and rare
earth minerals in Northern Mali and the broader West African region. The
mythical Al Qaeda is being raised as a ‘spectre’ to justify increased
international intervention under the guise of ‘global security’.
The world can expect more Western corporate media reports of
mysterious Al Qaeda jihadists destabilising poor, starving African
countries, requiring the dispatch of the noble NATO forces to ‘save the
Dark Continent’. But the world knows.