In the early hours of August 19th this year, mid-ranking officers of Mali’s armed forces led by a German and France – trained colonel , Asimi Goita , arrested the country’s president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, and forced him to offer his resignation and dissolve the Malian government on live TV. Calling themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the people (CNSP), the junta said they ‘acted to prevent Mali falling further into chaos because of the fault of people in charge of its destiny. ’’The new leaders are inheriting a country boiling with multiple, overlapping crises. A jihadi insurgency burns across northern and central Mali, where Jihadi gunmen, Paramilitary self –defense militias and Malian armed forces habitually kill civilians. This coup happened before the very eyes of a French – led counter terrorism campaign dubbed operation Burkhane, struggling to counter terrorism and a United Nations, peace keeping, mission, MINUSMA, which is failing to keep the peace. The French military has, however, been silent since the coup, reportedly refusing to comment on what its troops in Mali are doing as the crises play out.
On paper the French military is currently in Mali “to fight terrorism” and help it regain its authority over the mineral – rich northern regions. But, of course, the real reason behind ‘Paris’ decision to continue risking the lives of French soldiers in a faraway country is to protect French economic and geostrategic interest – namely its exploitation of the gold and uranium mines in the region. France is known to have openly supported the National Movement for Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA), the main Tuareg separatist group, for a long time. France’s favorable altitudes toward the rebel had geo political reasons, as Paris saw the MNLA as a group that could protect its economic interest in the region from Alqaeda-linked fighters, and any future attempts by the Malian government to take full control over the nation’s natural resources.In 2014, backed by France, the MNLA along with other Tuareg separatist groups and Arab nationalists formed the Coordination of Movements of Azaward (CMA). A year later, the group signed a peace deal in Algeria with the Malian government. The agreement handed greater autonomy to the sparsely populated northern region of Mali. The crisis in Mali is a warning to leaders of sub-Saharan states to be extremely cautious in choosing foreign partners to help them develop political and economic relations.
Once African leaders are not serving the interest of their western counterparts, the most influential players seem to force regime changes under the guise of defending human rights, democratic values and enhancing socio-political stability. The Junta in Mali said all the nation’s international agreements will still be respected and international forces including the UN mission in Mali and G5 Sahel will remain in place “for the restoration of stability,” and pointed out that they also remain committed to the Algiers process, the 2015 peace agreement between the Malian government and armed groups in the north of the country.
This peace agreement was interpreted at the time by many analysts as a deal that would mark the end of Malian state as we know it, because it does not spell out plans for the autonomy of the vast northern Mali, making it obviously suicidal for the region and entire Mali for them to achieve that autonomy. Now after four year, it is clear that the peace deal the new junta is committed to is paving the way for the disintegration of Mali.
The Malian experience shows that western power houses have their own hidden agenda in Africa. A growing presence, including numerous NGOs is being concealed and in most cases explained by the need to assist in addressing security constraints (such as terrorism, illegal migration, piracy etc.) human rights abuses, ecological issues and in promoting mutually beneficial partnership. Meanwhile it’s getting more difficult for them to hide their real motive which is obtaining unlimited access to the continent’s natural resources. It is the French alone that can stop the disintegration of Mali. But the French government has no interest in so doing as it perceives that the expansion of CMA’s area of influence could help it claim ownership of the area’s vast resources
Over the past decade a majority of African states have experienced a significant huge spike in the number and severity of security threats namely religious and ethnic conflicts, terrorism, piracy, banditry, smuggling etc. Despite the United States backed African high command (AFRICOM) forces been deployed since 2008, little has been achieved so far. And the number of threats has been steadily increasing. It is believed that the increase in foreign troop deployment of the North Atlantic treaty Organization (NATO) has become a catalyst for the recent growth of activities of Islamic groups in the region. This is also considered by the radical elements as a direct invasion and interference in the domestic affairs of African countries.
Images from 2015 protest in which Malians burned the French flag and brandished posters saying “Holland equals MNLA” are on Malian social media once again. Just last July in Senegal, a country neighboring Mali, an activist, Guy Marius Sagna, was arrested over a Facebook post claiming that France is psychologically preparing people in Senegal to live with the idea of a terrorist threat to legitimise its military presence on the continent.
The post was alluding to the example of Mali, where the presence of the French army only spells more disorder and division in the country. Now with the coup, the second phase of France’s neo-colonial plan to secure its access to Mali’s vast natural resources by dividing the country and weakening the central government has begun and may likely bring a harvest of more violence and bloodshed to the country.
Eke writes from Onitsha