Mali and the West’s new scramble for Africa

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Zainab Cheema

Rabi' al-Thani 19, 1434 2013-03-01

Special Reports

by Zainab Cheema (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 1, Rabi' al-Thani, 1434)

Mali is being targeted as much for its mineral wealth as to keep China from developing close links with Africa. The struggle for influence between the west and China is being fought on the backs of the African people.

In the annals of 19th-century colonialism, Africa was dubbed the “Dark Continent” — Joseph Conrad and other writers described Africa as a space of lucre and dark fantasies, where Europeans confronted their greatest desires and fears in the vistas of her mineral, natural, and labor wealth. In the Scramble for Africa 2.0 of the 21st century, Africa once again has been stamped with darkness — the taint of terrorism, calling forth Pentagon Inc.’s warriors to the fore.

Even as the US confronts its impending retreat from Afghanistan and its various debacles in Iraq, Pentagon Inc. is crowing over France’s latest crusade as a “success.” Newspapers report that Mali’s terrorists have been driven out of the main towns, but also that they have melted into the rural areas — a threat that has hidden itself in the womb of Saharan Africa, which will spring out into the open if Pentagon Inc.’s boot shifts from the region. There are reports, predictably, of distressed Africans pleading for Pentagon Inc. to stay and protect them against the al-Qaeda thugs — a mandate for imperialism disguised as humanitarian relief.

An illustration is in order on the cycles of violence spinning in Mali. French journalist Thierry Meyssan has noted how suspiciously well prepared French forces were for Mali’s “call for help” against al-Qaeda. “Paris intervened within hours to prevent the fall of the capital, Bamako. Far-sightedly, the Elysée had already pre-positioned in Mali troops from the 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment (“the Colonials”) and the 13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment, helicopters from the COS (Special Operations Command), three Mirage 2000Ds, two Mirage F-1s, three C135s, a C130 Hercules and a C160 Transall.”

The Mali operation has been rated a PR-success, boosting France’s self image from the depressions of a faltering economy and affiliation with the politically shaky European Union. The murderous rampages of al-Qaeda have allowed French troops to play the role of chivalrous knights who have nobly appointed themselves to the Order to Protect Africa. Recent reports describe how “hundreds of French and Malian soldiers have retaken the jihadist stronghold of Bourem, a town where many radical Islamic fighters were believed to have fled.” This noble enterprise is in response to two suicide attacks by al-Qaida forces in Mali, on a checkpoint leading into Gao on the road from Bourem, “raising fears of a protracted insurgency in northern Mali after French and Malian forces initially dislodged them from Gao without much resistance,” as Kristen Larson reported in an Associated Press story.

Pentagon Inc’s past operations against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Yemen illustrate a peculiarity about the War on Terror. That is, terrorists can be killed but al-Qaeda itself can never be defeated — otherwise, the Pentagon’s mandate to wage war would come to an abrupt end. The faceless enemy, morphing into different regions, bodies, and battlegrounds, call for endless war from Pentagon Inc’s forces. And so, we learn that a thousand troops (French and African) are now lodged in Mali, guarding against the re-emergence of the terrorists. Al-Qaeda’s “dislodging” from Mali’s urban centers only serves to make them omniscient and all pervasive, an invisible vapor pervading the countryside and population at large. Bottom line: Pentagon Inc. has gained permanent residency in North Africa.

As observed with Afghanistan, Eurasia’s “chessboard,” Pentagon Inc’s war fronts are always positioned along energy routes — the cartography of transporting the raw materials that power the thirsty Information Age. In understanding the battle for Mali, it is important to trace the role of China in activating Pentagon Inc.’s fears of being pushed out of the race to disembowel Africa’s womb. The Mali conflict has been simmering since AFRICOM began its operations in 2007 — a year after China hosted its Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which brought nearly fifty African heads of state and ministers to Beijing.

The conference was a watershed moment, which forecasted an Africa shifting toward East Asia, away from the poles of Europe and America. Pentagon Inc. watched nervously as the China-Africa trade exploded, under the auspices of soft-loans and development projects transacted between China and capital-starved African nations. According to William Engdahl in his article for the Global Research Institute, China’s trade with Africa reached $166 billion in 2011 and African exports to China (primarily resources to fuel Chinese industries) rose to $93 billion from $5.6 billion over the past decade. In July 2012 China offered African countries $20 billion in loans over the next three years, double the amount pledged in the previous three-year period.

This lead to a series of warning articles being published on the China-Africa connection in papers such as The Washington Post and The New York Times — which primarily cater to the lords of US capital and military tech. Next, Pentagon Inc. pumped its Wahhabi footsoldiers across Mali and North Africa, turning up the heat to simmer the cookpots of war — preparing the military takeover of Africa that shall give a carte blanche to US and European “development,” “aid,” and other misnomers for capital penetration.

French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici has been honest about the thirst for lucre and geopolitical influence driving the rescue missions against al-Qaeda in North Africa — and the scale of the fear that China’s presence has provoked. “It’s evident that China is more and more present in Africa,” declared Moscovici on a December 2012 trip to the Ivory Coast, “(French) companies that have the means must go on the offensive. They must be more present on the ground. They have to fight,” he stated during the trip.

Mali is significant in geostrategic terms, a platform for a US and European dominated Africa in which China has been pushed to the outskirts. Since the business of tabulating resources is a material process, its useful here to examine the resources for which NATO is regrouping behind France and expending its resources (already taxed by the Iraqi and Afghan occupations) in gaining control of Mali. Engdahl describes the dizzying wealth that Mali possesses in the form of gold, uranium, oil, and other vital minerals needed for the Information Age.

Under French colonialism, Mali’s resources were ignored and it was developed as a poor subsistence agriculture country. However, under the democratically-elected President Amadou Toumani Toure, the government initiated a systematic mapping of the vast wealth under its soil for the first time. “Malian soil contains copper, uranium, phosphate, bauxite, gems and in particular, a large percentage of gold in addition to oil and gas,” observes Engdahl. “Thus, Mali is one of the countries in the world with the most raw materials. With its gold mining, the country is already one of the leading exploiters directly behind South Africa and Ghana.”

If Mali is a staging ground for AFRICOM to reconquer Africa on behalf of global capital, whose command center is located in Europe and the United States, the tentacles for pan-African influence have already been laid on the ground. In July 2012, Le Monde Diplomatique described the nodes of the Pentagon’s camps, bases, and transportation routes that have already been planted on the ground: Manda Bay, Garissa, and Mombasa in Kenya; Kampala and Entebbe in Uganda; Bangui and Djema in the Central African Republic; Nzara in South Sudan; Dire Dawa in Ethiopia; and the Pentagon’s showpiece African base, Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti on the coast of the Gulf of Aden, among others.

“Most American bases in Africa are still small and austere, but growing ever larger and more permanent in appearance” notes Nick Turse writing for Le Monde Diplomatique. “For example, photographs from last year of Ethiopia’s Camp Gilbert, examined by TomDispatch, show a base filled with air-conditioned tents, metal shipping containers, and 55-gallon drums and other gear strapped to pallets, but also recreation facilities with TVs and videogames, and a well-appointed gym.” The resorts of death are control centers for the waves of violence washing over the continent through NATO forces, al-Qaeda militias, paid mercenaries, child soldier armies, and local and national African military and “peacekeeping forces” that are being inscripted in the Pentagon’s great, transnational machine of violence.

The new scramble for Africa is no less than a scramble for the map of the world — a world in which Europe and the United States dominate the resources, possibilities and futures of the globe. In many ways, the Arab Spring signaled the end of an Africa dominated by proxy — that is, governed by hand-picked dictators of Pentagon Inc. In the mad rush for energy resources demanded by an unsustainable economy, Pentagon Inc. is now directing its allies, affiliates, and franchises to direct control. The “Mali program” is another version of the 1990s “Afghanistan program” through which Soviet expansionism was rolled back for perpetual domination of the area. New warnings that “another Mali is waiting to happen — somewhere nearby,” as reported by a February 16 article in the NY Times, merely forecast the plans set in action by the Great Game of military imperialism.

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