France has a direct responsibility in the breakdown of the state of Mali. In the 1980s it supported the neoliberal-inspired structural adjustment programs that destroyed public schools and healthcare and thus opened a royal road to Islamic institutions to replace those.
France endorsed the liberalization of the cotton trade required by the World Bank, which has accelerated the rural exodus and emigration, while blocking the latter, even though money sent back from expatriates amounted to more than the public aid to development.
AQIM, SET UP AS FRANCE’S MAIN ENEMY
Anyway, Nicolas Sarkozy has de facto cut off this public aid. He also contributed to the weakening of the authority of President Amadou Toumani Touré by requiring that he sign an agreement for the readmission of illegal emigrants, an agreement politically unacceptable to public opinion. He is also waging war in the territory of Mali together with the Mauritanian army, from 2010 on, without even letting the President in on this.
This militarization of the issue of northern Mali has given Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) an air of anti-imperialist nobility which facilitates the recruitment of combatants. AQIM has been set up as France’s main enemy at the end of a "crisis arc" which is supposed to extend from Pakistan to Mauritania. The militarization has also increased the flow of displaced persons and refugees, thus aggravating the poverty of Saharan populations.
BAD POLITICAL FICTION?
The coup de grace came in 2011: The Libyan war made the Malian Tuaregs recruited into the ranks of Colonel Qaddafi return home with more weapons than luggage. The rest is history: The declaration of independence of Azawad  after the defeat of the Malian army (supposed to be a flagship of the French military cooperation, by the way) and the hostile takeover of northern Mali by the Jihadists was completed.
In addition, the Libyan war has disrupted the economic interests of Colonel Qaddafi’s business networks whose substantial investments contributed to the stabilization of the Sahel .
Finally, the prohibition of narcotics and the coercive containment of emigration, which the French authorities are implementing in spite of the futility of these public policies, provide two formidable sources of gain for the traffickers and are likely to have the same effects on the Sahel as in Central America: the unleashing of paramilitary violence which profit the major criminal organizations, Latin American, Italian and Spanish, along with various local armed movements.
Bad political fiction? The scenario is already taking place before our eyes with the criminalization of Guinea-Bissau, the increasing involvement of other countries in the region in such trafficking and the financing that the Movement for the unification and jihad in West Africa ( Mujao) receives from Northern Mali.
France and the Western countries in general have made continued mistakes concerning the Sahel for thirty years and are now reaping what they have sown.
Jean-François Bayart, director of research at CNRS
 The Azawad means a territory almost
entirely desert located in northern Mali in the Saharan and Sahelian zones, where independent seeking Tuareg groups have proclaimed independence. It is also
called "Northern Mali". ...
 The Sahel is the ecoclimatic
and biogeographic zone of transition between the Sahara desert in the North and
the Sudanian Savannas in
Siv O'Neall is an Axis of Logic columnist, based in France. Her insightful essays are republished and read worldwide. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.