Saturday, November 1, 2014

France, The Mali Crises and Neo-Colonialism.

France, the Mali Crises and Neo-Colonialism

Mali has started to reverse the decolonialisation project of its first president Modibo Keita, Kane writes [EPA]

As representatives of the Malian government and various rebel groups meet in Algiers for peace talks, violence in northern Mali continues and so does the French military presence.


France launched its military intervention in Mali in January 2013 with the mandate to stop an uprising of various militant groups in the north, threatening the stability and sovereignty of the country. The goal was then to free the northern part of the country from jihadist occupation, bring back peace, and restore Malian sovereignty on the whole territory. Although France's defence minister announced that the so-called "Operation Serval" had "fulfilled its mission", Mali is hardly a peaceful place today. 



As Mali fell into a media blackout, France announced it was reorganising its military presence into "Operation Barkhane". No one seems to be asking why the French are still there, how long they will stay and more importantly - doesn't their intervention constitute a form of neo-imperialism?



France in Mali



Back in early 2013 many Malians gave an enthusiastic welcome to French soldiers, when they came to "rescue" this crisis-torn West African country. Much has changed since then. In their January 2014 book, La Gloire des Imposteurs, Malian activist Aminata Dramane Traore and Senegalese novelist Boubacar Boris Diop explain this initial enthusiasm for the war with the Malians' shock and panic in the face of the invaders from the north who were destroying historic monuments, killing and mutilating people.



But as the authors pointed out, Mali might be facing an even bigger threat: the former colonial ruler going back to its old colonial ways on Malian territory. After all, it is just hard to believe that France selflessly sent its soldiers to face danger in a faraway African country for the sake of "saving it". The question that Malians have to ask themselves is: Do they prefer having to fight against jihadists for a long time, or having their sovereignty challenged, and their territory occupied by an ancient colonialist state or partitioned to satisfy a group allied with the colonial power? 



This is not the first time France has gotten involved in its former "colonial territories". And it is always the same scenario: Some excuse is found in order to deploy on the ground to protect economic interest, occupy strategic points or defend an ally among the local politicians. The story is well known from Djibouti all the way to the Ivory Coast!

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Follow Al Jazeera's coverage of the 2013 Mali election

In July, France signed a new defence agreement with Mali, which would allow it to maintain a considerable military presence in the country. The agreement's eleven pages of mostly general statements say that French military troops and civil servants will be allowed to stay in Mali, build military bases, operate, if needed, with Malian troops, etc., for the next five years. The five years term, as written in the document, is renewable. 


With this agreement Mali has started to reverse the decolonialisation project of its first president  Modibo Keïta, who made sure the last French soldier departed his country in 1961. Keita was a firm nationalist and while almost all the newly independent West African countries at that time signed defence pacts with their former "master", he only consented to an agreement on economic and cultural cooperation with France. Keita didn't allow French military bases or troops on Malian soil. 



The Malian presidents that followed him also resisted French pressure for a defence agreement. Although Paris demanded repeatedly, three different presidents of Mali - Moussa Traore, Alpha Oumar Konare and Amadou Toumany Toure - refused, despite huge diplomatic and economic pressure. The most France could get in Mali was a 1985 military cooperation accord which allowed France to give military training and technical assistance to Malian troops.



These presidents seemed to be following a doctrine that gave a boost to the Malian people's self-esteem. However, now it is clear that the "Operation Serval" against the jihadist has given France an unexpected opportunity to achieve an old regional military scheme.



As Senegalese commentator, Babacar Justin Ndiaye - known as one of the most influential analysts on military questions in West Africa - has pointed out: Mali was intentionally weakened to prepare the French military operation "Serval". "Serval", which, in turn, has prepared the ground for operation "Barkhane", announced by the French just as they were wrapping up the previous one in July. This new operation is based from Chad and will cover Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger.



Peace negotiations?



After having defeated the invaders, and chasing them out of Timbuktu and other northern cities, and disarming factions of the rebellions, the French military surprisingly (or not) banned the Malian army from Kidal, the central city of the northern Azawad region. The territory is claimed by different rebel groups, but it is under the de facto control of the MNLA (National Movement for Liberation of the Azawad).

France allowed the rebels to occupy the area, reorganise and later gain a place at the post-war negotiations table. The first round of peace talks supervised by France took place in mid-July in Algiers between Malian authorities and various rebel groups. The Malian government has always rejected negotiating with rebels who call for cessation, yet this time it had to accept the talks.


As is well known, France has openly supported the MNLA for a long time and the MNLA is profusely covered by French media, which presents a sympathetic romanticised image of the rebels. The leaders of the MNLA are frequent visitors to the French capital and quite welcome on French TV, which likes to show people in MNLA-controlled territories amicably accepting French troops. 

Although France enjoys considerable sway with the different groups in the peace talks, it is finding it increasingly harder to mediate, as disagreements between the rebel groups continue to arise. During the first round of talks, for example, various groups had to be separated and accommodated in different five star hotels in Algiers to avoid hostility. 



The purpose of this latest round of talks is to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in northern Mali. But whether such a solution will be for the best interests of all Malians, is unclear, given that France has not excluded partition - as the Malian government had demanded. 



French interests in Sahel



French support for the MNLA is not surprising, at least not geopolitically. France wants Niger protected from the insurgencies sweeping across the Sahel region, and it is ready to support the MNLA, which in return would prevent the expansion of jihadist groups towards the borders of Niger, the world's fourth largest producer of uranium. Coincidentally or not, France generates more than 75 percent of its electricity through nuclear plants.

Unsurprisingly, Niger is host to France's biggest economic interest of in the region and therefore its security is a foreign policy priority for the French government. The French corporation Areva mines uranium in Niger and it is currently investing 1.9bn Euros in the development of the large uranium deposits in Imouraren. Protecting the eastern borders of Niger was indeed among the major reasons behind French President François Hollande's decision to get involved in the conflict in Mali. The May 2013 car bomb attack on one of Areva's operations must have further convinced him that it was the right thing to do.  
Thus it only made sense to wrap up the Mali-focused "Operation Serval" in order to unroll "Operation Barkhane" with a wider geographic scope. The provisions of the new defence agreement forced on the Malian government naturally allow for whatever the French need in order to sustain their new operation in the region.



It should not come as a surprise that France decided on Chad as the centre for the new operation. After all, Chad has a history of hosting French military operations. French military presence in Chad began in 1968, when former president Francois Tombalbaye asked Charles de Gaulle, in the name of the defence pact between his country and France, to intervene with "Operation Bison" against a rebellion in the northern regions of the country. In 1986, the French military intervened again with "Operation Epervier", this time against Muammar Qaddafi who was invading from the north. The French have never left ever since. 



Nowadays, a small number of French soldiers are based at Niamey airport, where a small American military crew launches drones to survey the region, tracking jihadist groups. 



Just after "mission accomplished" was announced on "Operation Serval", Holland took a trip into the region, getting reassuring support from heads of state for his anti-terrorism campaign. The "terrorist threat" is a great opportunity for France to put its hands on West Africa again militarily, politically and, even economically. The US, of course, is in with the French, supporting them and even lending another friendly drone operation from Niger's capital. 



As France is expanding its military control of the region, there are few who are objecting or ringing an alarm bell warning that the colonial "master" has come back.



The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Source: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/09/mali-forgotten-war-20149691511333443.html

Africason is a Musician/independent recording artiste and a die-hard believer in Africa.
Twitter: @african_school
Web: www.africason.com
Email: info(AT)africason.com
Find my songs on iTunes, artiste name: Africason

What Kwame Nkrumah Said About Neo-Colonialism.

Brief Analysis on What Kwame Nkrumah Said About Neo-Colonialism

At the time he published Neo-Colonialism, the last Stage of Imperialism, Kwame Nkrumah was the President of Ghana, the first African country to achieve independence from colonial rule. One year later he would be deposed by a military coup that was supported by the American CIA. The name of Nkrumah's book is a variation on Lenin's own study of imperialism written 50 years before and named Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism. This is fitting because Nkrumah's contribution remains the best single update on imperialism since Lenin.

Nkrumah explains in great detail how the West, and especially the United States, was responding to the success of national liberation movements, such as the one he led in Ghana, by shifting its tactics from colonialism to neo-colonialism: "Without a qualm it dispenses with its flags" and "claims that it is 'giving' independence to its former subjects, to be followed by 'aid' for their development. Under cover of such phrases, however, it devises innumerable ways to accomplish objetives formerly achieved by naked colonialism."

The neo-colonial powers pursue their actions in the name of the United Nations by using two UN agencies that they established after World War and that they fully control without any pretext of democracy, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund: "Still another neo-colonialist trap on the economic front has come to be known as ‘multilateral aid’ through international organisations: the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-national Bank for Reconstruction and Development (known as the World Bank), the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association are examples, all, significantly, having U.S. capital as their major backing. These agencies have the habit of forcing would-be borrowers to submit to various offensive conditions, such as supplying information about their economies, submitting their policy and plans to review by the World Bank and accepting agency supervision of their use of loans."

Neo-colonialism provides enormous profits as did colonialism before it. Nkrumah describes how Western monopolies control the prices of commodities by lowering the prices they pay and extracting some $41 billion in profits from 1951 to 1961.. Also they profit from high rates of interest: "while capital worth $30,000 million was exported to some fifty-six developing countries between 1956 and 1962, it is estimated that interest and profit alone extracted on this sum from the debtor countries amounted to more than £15,000 million."

Among the "innumerable ways" of neo-colonialist exploitation, Nkrumah describes the following. "There are conditions which hedge it around: the conclusion of commerce and navigation treaties; agreements for economic co-operation; the right to meddle in internal finances, including currency and foreign exchange, to lower trade barriers in favour of the donor country’s goods and capital; to protect the interests of private investments; determination of how the funds are to be used; forcing the recipient to set up counterpart funds; to supply raw materials to the donor; and use of such funds a majority of it, in fact to buy goods from the donor nation. These conditions apply to industry, commerce, agriculture, shipping and insurance, apart from others which are political and military. So-called ‘invisible trade’ furnishes the Western monopolies with yet another means of economic penetration. Over 90 per cent of world ocean shipping is controlled by me imperialist countries ... As for insurance payments, in 1961 alone these amounted to an unfavourable balance in Asia, Africa and Latin America of some additional $370 million."

As shown by the Nkrumah analysis, Neo-colonial exploitation "operates not only in the economic field, but also in the political, religious, ideological and cultural spheres. "

Detailed descriptions are provided of the infiltration and manipulation of organized labor organizations by agencies of the neo-colonial countries, especially the United States. Although he does not mention this, the largest part of the budget of the major U.S. labor organization for many years was supplied by the CIA for this purpose.

Hollywood is pressed into service. As he vividly describes, "Even the cinema stories of fabulous Hollywood are loaded. One has only to listen to the cheers of an African audience as Hollywood’s heroes slaughter red Indians or Asiatics to understand the effectiveness of this weapon. For, in the developing continents, where the colonialist heritage has left a vast majority still illiterate, even the smallest child gets the message contained in the blood and thunder stories emanating from California. And along with murder and the Wild West goes an incessant barrage of anti-socialist propaganda, in which the trade union man, the revolutionary, or the man of dark skin is generally cast as the villain, while the policeman, the gum-shoe, the Federal agent — in a word, the CIA — type spy is ever the hero. Here, truly, is the ideological under-belly of those political murders which so often use local people as their instruments."

So, too, the mass media is an arm of neo-colonialism. "While Hollywood takes care of fiction, the enormous monopoly press, together with the outflow of slick, clever, expensive magazines, attends to what it chooses to call ‘news. Within separate countries, one or two news agencies control the news handouts, so that a deadly uniformity is achieved, regardless of the number of separate newspapers or magazines; while internationally, the financial preponderance of the United States is felt more and more through its foreign correspondents and offices abroad, as well as through its influence over inter-national capitalist journalism. Under this guise, a flood of anti-liberation propaganda emanates from the capital cities of the West, directed against China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Algeria, Ghana and all countries which hack out their own independent path to freedom. Prejudice is rife. For example, wherever there is armed struggle against the forces of reaction, the nationalists are referred to as rebels, terrorists, or frequently ‘communist terrorists'!"

Religion, too, is distorted and used to support the aims of neo-colonialism. "Following the liberation movement there has been a veritable riptide of religious sects, the overwhelming majority of them American. Typical of these are Jehovah’s Witnesses who recently created trouble in certain developing countries by busily teaching their citizens not to salute the new national flags. ‘Religion’ was too thin to smother the outcry that arose against this activity, and a temporary lull followed. But the number of evangelists continues to grow."

Nkrumah goes on to describe how the U.S. Peace Corps, university professors and programs and the U.S. Information Agency are engaged in the support of neo-colonialism.

In the long run, however, neo-colonialism, like colonialism before it, will be defeated. Nkrumah points out that it has succeeded thus far by the tactic of "divide and rule" and that it will ultimatedly be defeated by the unity of exploited peoples This requires a clear understanding of the issues involved, for which Nkrumah's contribution is essential. As he says, "With the utmost speed, neo-colonialism must be analysed in clear and simple terms for the full mass understanding by the surging organisations of the African peoples. The All-African Trade Union Federation (AATUF) has already made a start in this direction, while the Pan-African Youth Movement, the women, journalists, farmers and others are not far behind. Bolstered with ideological clarity, these organisations, closely linked with the ruling parties where liberatory forces are in power, will prove that neo-colonialism is the symptom of imperialism’s weakness and that it is defeatable. For, when all is said and done, it is the so-called little man, the bent-backed, exploited, malnourished, blood-covered fighter for independence who decides. And he invariably decides for freedom."

To take part in a discussion about this page, go to the Forum on Neo-Colonialism on the Discussion Board:

Source: http://sfr-21.org/neocolonialism.html

Africason is a Musician/independent recording artiste and a die-hard believer in Africa.
Twitter: @african_school
Web: www.africason.com
Email: info(AT)africason.com
Find my songs on iTunes, artiste name: Africason