Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

MALI: WHAT ARE THE ROOTS OF THE CONFLICT?

Posted by strattof on February 7, 2013

MALI: RECENT HISTORY

  • Mali was under French colonial rule from 1892 – 1960.
  • From the time of Mali’s independence in 1960, the Tuareg people of the north have been struggling for an independent Tuareg state.
  • In January 2012, this conflict accelerated, with the Tuareg liberation movement using arms that came from Libya where the ousting of Colonel Qaddafii unleashed massive stores of weapons.
  •  In March, the Malian military seized power in a coup, citing government failure to put down the northern rebellion.
  • In April, the Tuareg liberation movement declared independence in northern Mali.
  • In June, Islamic insurgents who had helped in the struggle for Tuareg independence turned on the Tuareg and took over the north.
  • In January 2013, the French, with logistical support from the US, Canada, and other European countries, intervened at the request of Mali’s government.

WHY IS THERE CIVIL WAR IN MALI?

  • Colonial Boundaries: The French created Mali by combining two very distinct geographical regions, the Sahara desert in the north, with Tuaregs making up the majority of the population, and a savannah zone in the south, dominated by the Bambara. The boundaries European colonial powers imposed on Africa ignored pre-existing African boundaries and forms of governance and were intended to benefit European powers.
  • Toppling of Colonel Qaddafi: Military interventions often have unintended consequences. The intervention of NATO forces in the civil war in Libya led to the downfall of Colonel Qaddafi. NATO did nothing to safeguard the cache of arms left over from the Qaddafi regime and from western arms supplied to Libyan rebels. These weapons ended up in the north of Mali, in the hands of both Tuareg independence fighters and Islamic insurgents. 
  • Western attacks on Muslim countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya: Western wars against Muslim countries = a proliferation of Islamic insurgents.
  • Post-Independence Regional Inequality: Although resources are concentrated in northern Mali, the north is the poorest region in the country. As a result of climate change, the north is also experiencing increasingly long and severe droughts.
  • Poverty in Mali: This is the main reason for the civil war in Mali. 51% of Malians live on less than $1.25 a day. Mali is the 10th poorest country in the world. In the centuries prior to French colonization, Mali was very wealthy.

WHY IS MALI SO POOR?

Mali shouldn’t be poor. It has an abundance of natural resources, including uranium and gold. There are two main reasons for Mali’s poverty:

1.   68 years of exploitation by the French during the colonial era

2.   Decades of exploitation by corporations in the era of globalization

WHY HAS FRANCE INTERVENED IN MALI?

  • Northern Mali is rich in uranium.
  • France gets 75% of its electricity from nuclear power and is a major exporter of nuclear power.

WHAT IS CANADA DOING IN MALI?

In support of the French intervention in Mali, Canada has sent a C-17 transport plane and an unspecified number of special forces soldiers. Mali is also the third biggest recipient of Canadian assistance in Africa. In 2010-11, Canada provided Mali $110 million in aid. Why is Canada paying so much attention to Mali?

  • Economic Interests: Like France, Canada has economic interests in northern Mali, which, in addition to uranium, has huge deposits of gold. A number of Canadian gold mining companies are operating in Mali, the biggest of which is Toronto-based Iamgold Corp.
  • Increasing Western Influence in Africa and Containing China: These are US policies which Canada supports in order to bolster its own economic activities in Africa. Begun in the Bush era, these policies use the pretext of fighting terror to provide military assistance to African governments that safeguard western economic interests. The US has troops in 35 African countries. China is Africa’s biggest trading partner. Canada has more mines in Africa than China.

CONSEQUENCES OF INTERVENTION

French and Malian troops have taken back the main urban centres of northern Mali. However, like the intervention of NATO forces in Libya, the intervention in Mali is having, and will continue to have, unintended consequences:

  • The death of civilians, killed by French aerial bombardments
  • The displacement of 1000s of people, creating a humanitarian crisis
  • Human rights abuses committed by both sides in the conflict
  • Hostage taking at a gas field in Algeria by Islamic insurgents in direct response to French intervention in Mali
  • The creation of more Islamic insurgents

LIKELY OUTCOME OF INTERVENTION IN MALI

  • The intervention will not address the root issues of Malian poverty and regional inequality. Hence civil war will break out again.
  • We need only to think of Afghanistan and Iraq to understand the likely outcome of intervention in Mali.

You can bomb the world to pieces but you can’t bomb the world to peace. —Michael Franti

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