Neo-colonial tool: the 2013 elections in Mali

The presidential elections in Mali took place on July 28. Initially, the results had been expected on July 31, but the governmental figures released on Aug. 2 show that former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubecar Keïta is leading all candidates with 39.2 percent of the vote. Soumaila Cissé comes in second with 19.4 percent, followed by Dramane Dembele with 9.6 percent.

Mali will hold a presidential runoff vote on Aug. 11, since no candidate won a majority. The election just months after the French military intervention in January 2013 has been widely criticized due to the chaotic state of the country.

The election was fraught with irregularities and widespread marginalization of other sectors of the Malian masses. There have also been reports of money being handed out to bribe voters. Thousands of NINA (Numero d’identité nationale) voter cards have not been delivered to voters. Several other candidates and Soumaila Cissé’s party said on July 31 that the electoral process has been marred by “ballot stuffing” in which voters illegally voted several times.

Acting President Dioncounda Traoré and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have acknowledged that the vote may have been “imperfect” in a country with 500,000 citizens displaced by conflict.

The elections have been heavily pushed by the French ruling elites, which at this juncture are attempting to create an image of legitimacy for its invasion and occupation of Mali. The purpose of the electoral charade is to legitimize the breakup of the country and the occupation by French and U.N. forces, which will prevent the Malian people from ever having a claim over their own lands and resources.

Historical context

The partition of the country revisits the plan by French politician Alain Peyrefitte during the De Gaulle era, which involves creating the sectarian conditions to give impetus to the French control over the Sahara/Sahel region.

In an attempt to resurrect the 1957 L’Organisation commune des régions sahariennes (OCRS) in co-operation with the 2004 U.S. Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Initiative, a plan to control the Sahara could see the eventual destabilization of Niger, Algeria, Chad, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Senegal and Ghana.

This is part of the U.S. initiative Africom, which aims to militarize all of Africa in accordance with U.S./NATO strategic interests and also ensure access to cheap resources on the continent for Western multi-national corporations.

In the Jan. 16 article by Eugene Puryear, he delineated:

“France has maintained close relations with a number of its former colonies, through a policy known as Franceafrique, for all the obvious reasons—most importantly, preferential access to vital mineral resources such as uranium. This has resulted in a string of French military bases across the continent and periodic interventions by French troops in African conflicts. Most recently, in 2011, French military might determined the outcome of the Ivorian election.”

Given the character of this unequal relationship, it makes sense that France would act to prevent the entire country of Mali from falling to Islamic rebels.

France and the Western imperialists more broadly have a key interest in opposing Islamic militant groups that challenge their hegemony. On the other hand, as we have seen in both Syria and Libya, and previously in Afghanistan, imperialism has no problem in allying with such groups to overthrow regimes considered to be unreliable or that are attempting to follow an independent course.

Geopolitical plan

The United States has also been training Malian troops to fight in the “war on terror” and has done the same in many West African nations. These nations, grouped in ECOWAS, also opposed the Islamic militants in Mali, fearing what destabilization in the region could mean for their own economic and political prospects.

A key interest of the United States and the European Union and particularly France is uranium, which is of strategic importance as documented in the 2010 “Critical Raw Materials for the EU” and the U.S. Department of Energy 2010 paper entitled “Critical Mineral Strategy.”

The Obama administration sought to expand U.S. military activities on the continent even further. In its 2011 Fiscal Year budget request for security assistance programs for Africa, the administration sought $38 million for the Foreign Military Financing program to pay for U.S. arms sales to African countries.

The administration also sought $21 million for the International Military Education and Training Program to bring African military officers to the United States and $24.4 million for Anti-Terrorism Assistance programs in Africa.

“At an AFRICOM conference held at Fort McNair on Feb. 18, 2008, U.S. Vice Admiral Robert T. Moeller openly declared the guiding principle of AFRICOM was to protect ‘the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market.’” (Global Research, April 2012)

Malian fight-back and democratic engagement

Mali has an incredible tradition of protest that has historically brought together rival communities and frightened Western governments. In the early 1990s, Mali’s longstanding government was weakened by a significant protest movement. Major demonstrations involving thousands in street protests demanded political reform and an end to Moussa Traoré’s 22-year rule. The government eventually fell in April 1991.

The following year Alpha Konaré was elected president, expressing many of the hopes of the movement. He promised far-reaching reforms. By 1995, disillusionment among those who had campaigned for the new government led to protests that were violently broken up. Students who had previously declared their love of Konaré burned campaign posters and banners of his party.

Anger at him stemmed from the new government’s commitment to “structural adjustment,” which by the late 1990s had devastated living standards.

At the 2002 African Social Forum, a compelling mass mobilization took place in which representatives of more than 200 African social movements spanning 45 countries took to the streets of Bamako, Mali. The demonstrators blocked motorists’ passage and shouted slogans such as: “Another Africa is Possible! Down with neo-liberalism! Down with injustice!” They sharply denounced the continent-wide structural adjustment programs and the economic ideology of “neo-liberalism.” Among them was Ahmed Ben Bella, then 84 years old, revolutionary leader and Algeria’s first president, who energetically shouted, “Today we are going to bury capitalism here in Bamako!”

On March 28, 2012, in Bamako demonstrators supporting the National Committee for Recovering Democracy and Restoring the State expressed a range of socio-economic and political messages. On March 30, Muslim and Christian religious leaders called Malians to Bamako’s central stadium for a “meeting on peace,” in order to “put aside differences and save Mali.”

Self-determination of Tuareg

Mali is a multi-national country, and its northern regions are inhabited by several national groupings that have suffered oppression. Most prominent among them is the Tuareg people, nomads whose traditional homeland stretches across parts of several nations in the Sahel region of Africa.

The uprising of the Tuareg people in the north of Mali, who are fighting for their own state, Azawad, has added another rebellion to the wave of revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East. The Tuareg people—unique in every respect, with their millennial history and territory—constitute a nation that is entitled to self-determination and independence.

Our understanding of Mali and Africa today must be grounded in our ongoing revolutionary support and firm commitment to the total liberation of the peoples of Africa and the complete liberation of humanity as a whole. Centuries of anti-colonial struggle, decades of national liberation mobilization, and 50 years of neocolonial plunder and maneuvering have taught us an important lesson—advancing, deepening and defending the interconnected objectives of national liberation, national unity, vibrant democracy and social and economic advancement require ongoing struggle, popular mobilization, organization and vigilance.

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