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Chronicle of a programmed collapse in Mali
By Siv O'Neall, translation of article by Jean-François Bayart
Le Monde
Sunday, Jan 27, 2013

In this most recent conflict, which risks turning into a wide-reaching war, the term terrorists is once again being used hap-hazardly for any enemy of the West. And of course if the enemy of the Empire also happens to be Muslims, then the happy-go-lucky term Al Qaeda comes in very handy. Nobody knows who Al Qaeda is. The CIA invented the term eons ago for the Islam enemy (after they had stopped being their friends) and all it means is ‘the Base’. It is certainly not ONE organization that stretches all across the world, or at least from Pakistan to Mauritania. However, the propaganda mongers are not stupid, and the term is adequate to give the impression for millions of people that there is a powerful organization of Islam terrorists out there, all set to invade the West if we don't strike first.  – SON 

West Africa and Mali -- Map by Google

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.


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.

Detailed map of Mali where the northern desert-like region has declared independence from the South -- Map by Magellan Google


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 [1] 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 [2].

The arid Sahel region stretching across Africa south of the Sahara desert -- Map by Wikipedia

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

[1] 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". ...
On 26 May 2012, after three weeks of negotiations in the city of Gao, MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) announced its merger with the Islamist group Ansar Dine. Both movements have announced that they reached an agreement to declare Azawad an independent country. (translated from French Wikipedia)

[2] The Sahel is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone of transition between the Sahara desert in the North and the Sudanian Savannas in

The original text in Le Monde: Chronique d'une faillite programmée au Mali

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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