LeiLani Dowell of FIST, Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor of the Pan-African News Wire and Monica Moorehead, Managing Editor of Workers World Newspaper, at a study forum on African history in New York City on July 11, 2008. (Photo: John Catalinotto)., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
France Launches Military Attacks in Mali and Somalia
U.S., Britain and other NATO states involved in imperialist onslaught against Africa
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
France has launched two major military operations in both West and East Africa under the guise of fighting “Islamic terrorism” on the continent. In Mali, French fighter jets and commandos have gone into operation in the north and central regions of the country and in the Horn of Africa nation of Somalia, a failed “rescue” operation has resulted in the deaths of several commandos and the capturing of at least one soldier.
This is taking place in the immediate aftermath of the Obama administration’s declaration in late December that the Pentagon would dispatch over 3,500 troops to nearly three dozen states across Africa. The U.S., Britain and Denmark have stated that they are involved in the bombing raids in Mali where the former French colony has been effectively partitioned since March of 2012.
In the Malian bombings it has been reported that over 100 people have been killed in air strikes on the cities of Gao, Konno and at least three other areas. In Konno when the bombing by French jets began many people rushed to hide from the attacks.
According to the Globe and Mail, “Some flung themselves into the river. Many did not survive—including three children who drowned in the river as they struggled to escape.” (January 13)
In another town in central Mali, Douentza, aerial bombardments have prevented victims from reaching the local hospital. There is no way for the French air force to distinguish between so-called “Islamic extremists” and others not associated with a number of organizations who are being targeted by Paris.
A statement issued by Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) the non-governmental organization said that “Because of the bombardments and fighting, nobody is moving in the streets of Douentza and patients are not making it through to the hospital. We are worried about the people living close to the combat zones.” (Globe and Mail, January 13)
Islamists Used a Pretext for Invasion
The political crisis in Mali has been developing for over a year when Tuareg separatists sought to create an autonomous enclave in the north of this vast country. The Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) took control of a number of cities early 2012.
Many of these fighters had participated in the resistance to the U.S. and NATO bombing and regime-change efforts in neighboring Libya where the former government was toppled and leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi was brutally assassinated in October of 2011.
Other Islamist groups also entered the contested northern region of the country and began to establish control of key areas around the historic city of Timbuktu and Gao. With the advances of the MNLA in early 2012, tensions mounted within the capital of Bamako in the south.
The Islamist groups which are ostensibly being targeted by France include the Ansar Dine, the Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Justice and Unity (MUJWA). AQIM has been active in neighboring Algeria for a number of years which has prompted the U.S. State Department efforts to try to get Algiers to become directly involved in the Malian conflict.
In late March a military coup was carried out by Capt. Amadou Sanogo who was trained in a U.S. military academy. The Pentagon through its U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) had developed close ties with the military in Mali providing training, arms and monetary support.
The overthrow of former President Amadou Toumani Toure was rejected by the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which withdrew recognition temporarily from the Malian military junta led by Sanogo. Negotiations led by ECOWAS resulted in the formation of an interim government headed by a long time politician Dioncounda Traore who was appointed as president.
Dioncounda later appointed Cheick Modibo Diarra as Prime Minister. Diarra, an astrophysicist who holds a U.S. passport, has served as the representative of Microsoft Corp. in Africa.
Diarra was recently removed from the premiership and replaced by Django Cissoko. Even though the military coup leaders had claimed that their reason for seizing power was to address the apparent failure of the Toure administration in putting down the rebellion in the north, the situation has worsened since the putsch.
The ECOWAS leaders drafted a plan to send 3,300 troops into northern Mali to re-establish the authority of Bamako. A United Nations Security Council resolution was passed in October mandating the mission but no real movement has been made by the regional organization to enter the country.
The Globe and Mail noted that “The French intervention was so hasty that it did not wait for any clear approval from the UN. The UN Security Council, in a resolution on Dec. 20, said the international military campaign in Mali would need to be ‘further refined’ and ‘confirmed in advance’ with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. But there is no evidence that France consulted Mr. Ban before launching its air strikes.” (January 13)
Imperialist Bombings Reflect Failure of U.S. and French Policy in Africa
The French intervention will create an even greater crisis in Mali. The former colony of France has been stifled and weakened by the interference in their internal affairs by both Paris and Washington.
Even the New York Times pointed out that the Pentagon program with the Malian military has been an abysmal failure. A U.S.-trained Capt. Sanogo stages a coup that heightens instability and prompts an imperialist invasion.
The Times stresses that “as insurgents swept through the desert last year, commanders of this nation’s elite army units, the fruits of years of careful American training, defected when they were needed most—taking troops, guns, trucks and their newfound skills to the enemy in the heat of battle, according to senior Malian military officials.” (NYT, January 13)
This same article continues pointing out that “Then an American-trained officer overthrew Mali’s elected government, setting the stage for more than half of the country to fall into the hands of Islamic extremists…. Now, in the face of longstanding American warnings that a Western assault on the Islamist stronghold could rally jihadists around the world and prompt terrorist attacks as far away as Europe, the French have entered the war themselves.”
Even though the French claim that the bombing of Mali has halted the advances of the Islamists, reports on January 14 indicate that a counter-offensive has been launched resulting in the widening of the war and the threat of deploying more forces on the ground inside the country. At least 400 additional French troops have been placed in the capital of Bamako.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French television that “They (the Islamists) have taken Diabaly…after fierce fighting and resistance from the Malian army.” France, which has withdrawn its forces from Afghanistan, may be facing another long term occupation on the African continent.
In a statement from Oumar Ould Hamaha of MUJWA, the rebel leader told Europe 1 radio that “They should attack on the ground if they are men. We’ll welcome them with open arms.”
Hamaha went on to say “France has opened the gates of hell for all the French. She has fallen into a trap which is much more dangerous than Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia.”
France Suffers Losses in Disastrous Somalia Mission
On the same day that France began bombing Mali, commandos failed in an operation to capture an intelligence officer who has been held by the Al-Shabab organization in southern Somalia for over three years. The raid carried out against Al-Shabab positions in Bulo Marer, was met with fierce resistance resulting in the deaths of an untold number of French Special Forces and the capturing of at least one soldier who later died from his wounds.
The French intelligence officer, Dennis Allex, remained in Al-Shabab custody. The French government said he was killed in the firefight but the Islamic resistance movement indicated that he was still alive and was not at the location which was attacked.
Later the Obama administration admitted that it was involved in the botched operation. The Al-Shabab group has been fighting the U.S.-backed transitional government in Somalia for five years.
U.S. Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency forces have been training the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) troops composed of military units from several of Washington’s allies in Africa including Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Kenya. At present an estimated 17, 500 AMISOM troops are occupying Somalia to prop-up the regime of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
In a twitter message from Al-Shabab it emphasized that the soldier captured was the commander of the Special Forces unit. “The commander was deserted by his comrades after a fierce firefight and subsequently captured by the Mujahideen. “
The statement went on to report that “The mujahideen recovered several weapons and the soldier’s gear from the scene of battle and later also managed to retrieve valuable information from the soldier before his death. The body of the soldier is still within the custody of the mujahideen.”
Later a photograph of the dead soldier was published by the press office of Al-Shabab. The statement also said that the organization had “reached a unanimous verdict on the fate of Dennis Allex after three-and-a-half years in captivity.”
It later added “The details of that verdict and some background information of the events leading up to the failed rescue operation will be published in the coming hours, God willing.”