Tuesday, October 19, 2010

G8 States Meet in Mali to Plan Strategy for Greater Imperialist Intervention

G8 States Meet in Mali to Plan Strategy for Greater Imperialist Intervention

Mineral resource extraction threatened by armed resistance groups in the Maghreb

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
News Analysis

A meeting of several states that make up the Group of 8 was held in
the West African country of Mali to address the growing influence of
armed opposition groups in the Maghreb and the Sahel which have been targeted as affiliates of al-Qaeda. Representatives from the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia gathered in the capital of Bamako on October 13-14 to discuss the coordination of intelligence and military operations in North and West Africa.

There were numerous African states within the region that were
represented at the Bamako meeting including Burkina Faso, Niger,
Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal and of course the host country Mali. The
meeting was boycotted by Algeria which disagreed over the strategy
being discussed by the group.

This meeting was convened under the leadership of the Canadian
government which has substantial mining interests in the region and is
also the current chair of the G8. Virginie Saint-Louis, the Canadian
Ambassador to Mali, pointed out that the western states must be
sensitive about their involvement in the region noting that the
African countries in the region “need to assume the leading role in
addressing terrorist threats by developing effective home-grown
counter-terrorism strategies.” (Associated Press, October 18)

A leading officer within the Malian military, Col. Yamoussa Camara,
told the Associated Press that there is significance opposition to
direct imperialist intervention in the region even under the guise of
“fighting terrorism.” Camara noted that “Given our past, we are not
very receptive to foreign forces getting directly involved in military
operations here, whatever their motives might be.”

In September, French military forces dispatched dozens of troops and
aircraft in an operation purportedly designed to search for
contractors who were seized while working in northern Niger in a
uranium mining outpost. The contractors were working for the French
nuclear firm Areva, which has enormous interests in Niger.

Prior to the Niger intervention, in June, French military units staged
a raid with Mauritanian troops on the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
(AQIM) inside of Mali. Although the French said that the raid was
carried out to free one of their nationals that was being held
hostage, the person who they were out to rescue was killed in the

Col. Camara of Mali said that the western states should focus most of
their attention on providing military hardware and counter-terrorism
training to African states in the region. This sentiment was also
reflected in comments made by Col. Iro Oumarou of Niger who said that “What we’d like from Western countries in general is training,
specialized equipment and especially support in intelligence
gathering. If we were to get help, it would assist us in the region to
eradicate this problem.” (Associated Press, October 18)

The meeting in Mali came in the aftermath of a similar gathering on
September 26 in Tamanrasset, Algeria, a former French military outpost during the colonial period. The meeting agreed to establish a joint intelligence gathering and coordination center that would include
representatives from Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

As a result of the meeting in Tamanrasset, a coordinating body was set
up in Algiers that includes the top intelligence officers of the four
states: Major-General Attafi of Algeria, Colonel Mamy Coulibaly of
Mali, Mohamed Ould Meguett of Mauritania and Commissioner Mamane Chekaraou of Niger. They named the coordinating structure the Sahel-Saharan Intelligence Center.

There are plans now to make the Center operational in order to
coordinate its activities with the African Center for the Study and
Research on Terrorism (ACSRT), which is a part of the African Union
Peace and Security Council located in El-Harach, a suburb outside the
Algerian capital of Algiers.

Despite these efforts to coordinate activity between the Maghreb
states and the G8 countries, there is still tremendous distrust and
division among the various states in the region. For example, Morocco,
Libya and Chad were absent from the Tamanrasset meeting and the desire on the part of Mali to expand the coalition was vetoed by Algeria.

There is deep distrust between Algerian and Morocco over the still
unresolved question of independence for the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony now under the control of Rabat. In addition,
allegations of incompetence by the Algerian government against Mali
has strained relations between the two states.

These disputes have spilled over into the current campaign against the
AQIM when a tanker was intercepted in a September 18 operation in
Mali. The tanker was sent unescorted to Mauritania for refueling and
was attacked by the armed guerrilla group and destroyed.

Malian security forces are no less critical of Algeria, accusing the
military leadership of having a “direct interest in the drug trade.”
Malian officials have expressed a lack of enthusiasm about the
Tamanrasset process and have ridiculed the resulting coordinating
committee emanating from the July meeting in Algeria as an “empty
shell.” (Jeune Afrique, October 15)

An official within the military junta that staged a coup in February
in Niger stated recently that Europe must move to address security
issues in West Africa. Amadou Marou, who is president of the National
Consultative Council that is directing the country’s political
transition, said that “When speaking of security, Europe thinks of
closing up, securing the interior and the borders, but the principal
security of Europe is the security and development of Africa.” (AFP,
October 16)

Marou went on to say that “Somalia got away from us and northern Mali is in the process of getting away from us. If the Europeans don’t
reinforce security in this area, they’ll have to move. The Sahel is
very fragile, fertile ground for all sorts of terror and trafficking.”

U.S. Interests in the Maghreb-Sahel

There are increasing economic and military interests on the part of
U.S. imperialism in the regions of North and West Africa. A greater
reliance on oil and gas from Africa as well as the increased
competition with the People’s Republic of China has intensified
Washington’s drive for greater influence in regions that have been
historically dominated by France.

In a 2009 article published in International Affairs, Yahia H. Zoubir
noted that there are two major interests guiding U.S. policy in the
region. According to Zoubir, “The first are linked to America’s energy
needs, and focus on oil and gas in Algeria, Chad and Libya, and
perhaps in Mali and Mauritania; they also favor the development of a
stronger regional entity, which would provide a potentially important
market for U.S. businesses, especially since competition has
heightened with China’s recent gains in Africa.” (International
Affairs 85, 2009, 977-995)

Zoubir illustrates that the U.S. “has slowly but surely succeeded in
creating a security network that brings together the Maghreb and Sahel states. While the threat of terrorism is real—Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) carries out lethal attacks in Algeria and resorts to kidnappings of foreign nationals—it has nonetheless been exaggerated; according to some, it has actually been fabricated.” (International Affairs 85)

Zoubir says plainly that “the real menace in the region stems from
poverty, bad governance, lack of democracy, corruption and economic
mismanagement. “ He points out that the countries within the region
“are among the poorest in the world; and it is these very countries
that are being assembled in the new U.S.-led security arrangements.”

Consequently, the real interests that lie behind the U.S. and G8
involvement in the Maghreb and Sahel is the desire to maintain control
over the strategic minerals and resources of the area and to block
greater involvement by the People’s Republic of China. People within
North America and Western Europe must keep in mind that the corporate media and government emphasis on battling terrorism in the region is designed to build public opinion in support of increasing intelligence and military intervention on the African continent.

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