Mali: A Neo-Colonial Operation Disguised as an Anti-Terrorist Intervention*

by Jean Batou

*  This article is an expansion of an earlier contribution written in the heat of the moment titled "Mali : refuser la géopolitique du ‘moindre mal,’" which appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of the bimonthly Swiss newspaper solidaritiéS, also available at

1 Government of Mali and United Nations Development Fund report of Feb. 2006 on poverty in Mali (2001).

2 Fred Lauener, “Sahel : Les prix grimpent, la pluie manque et la famine s’installe,” (Caritas-Suisse), March 28, 2012 at

3 Cited by Jean Suret-Canale, L’Afrique noire, t. 1, Paris, Editions sociales, 1964. (Paul Vigné d’Octon [1859-1943] was a French anti-racist and anti-imperialist of the early twentieth century. French readers can find a review of two recent biographies here – translators note.)

4 “Médecine et colonialisme, ” in: Sociologie d’une révolution. L’An V de la révolution algérienne, (Paris : Maspero, 1972).

5 The future president of the Ivory Coast, Houphouët-Boigny appears to have been the first person to use the term “FrançAfrique,” to which he gave a positive connotation.

6 On the basic mechanisms inherited from colonization, see: Comité information Sahel, Qui se nourrit de la famine en Afrique ? Paris: Maspero, 1974.

7 On the life and political experience of Modibo Keita, see Modibo Diagouraga, Modibo Keïta, un destin, Paris: L’Harmattan, 2005.

8 Samir Amin, L’Afrique de l’Ouest bloquée, Paris, Minuit, 1973. In his current position as favoring French military intervention, Amin gives a more positive appreciation of the experience of Modibo Keïta, even alluding to “steps in the direction of economic and social progress [in Mali] as an affirmation of its independence and of unity among its ethnic groups.” (January 23, 2013.)

9 Howard W. French testifies to the sabotage of the Malian democratic experience in A Continent for the Taking. The Tragedy and Hope of Africa, (New York: Vintage Books, 2004).

10 The anthropologist and geographer Julien Brachet estimates their population at three million (Mediapart, Feb. 18, 2013).

11 For an in depth study of the conflicts of North Mali, see Baz Lecocq Disputed Desert. Decolonization, Competing Nationalisms and Tuareg Rebellions in Northern Mali, (Leiden: Brill, 2010).

12 After the Second World War, according to the French colonial administration, there were 50,000 Ikelan or Bella under the direct control of the Tuareg masters in the regions of Timbuktu and Gao (cf. Martin A. Klein, Slavery and Colonial Rule in French West Africa, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998). In the 1950s, the international press suggested that Tuareg chiefs were engaged in a traffic in black slaves sold in Saudia Arabia. (Bruce S. Hall, A History of Race in Muslim Black Africa, 1600-1960, Cambridge, Cambridge U.P., 2011).

13 It is known that slavery in Africa grew after the decline of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. (cf. Paul Lovejoy, Transformation of Slavery. A History of Slavery in Africa, 2nd ed., Cambridge, Cambridge U.P., 2000). Martin Klein estimates that at the beginning of the 20th century, under French domination, half of the inhabitants of Mali were subjected to some sort of servitude. (Slavery and Colonial Rule…).

14 Naffet Keita, L’esclavage au Mali, (Paris, L’Harmattan, 2012).

15 Bruce S. Hall, in A History of Race…, has shown that colonial France saw the Tuaregs as a “race” closer to white Europeans than blacks or even the Arabs.

16 Although this transit of arms cannot be exaggerated, it reflects the ambiguity of Algeria’s current policy with regard to Mali, amid simmering economic and political conflicts between the two countries, but it also reflects the manipulation of the Tuareg question by Algeria based on domestic considerations.

17 Especially in the irrigated area of ​​the “Office du Niger,” downstream from Bamako, which is a legacy of colonization.

18 Mali is the second largest producer in West Africa, after Burkina Faso.

19 The Oakland Institute, Comprendre les investissements fonciers en Afrique. Rapport: Mali, 2011.

20 Since 2007 prospecting in the significant uranium deposits at Oklo in the Kidal region have been going on. It was expected that mining would begin in 2013.

21 The exploitation of the resources in this basin has already begun in Mauritania, notably under the leadership of the Total, Sonatrach (the Algerian state oil company), and Qatar Petroleum.

22 Survie Association, “Les zones d’ombre de l’intervention française au Mali, ” Dossier d’information, January 23, 2013 (

23 A growing number of observers doubt the existence of a centralized structure corresponding to the initials AQMI (see notably, Mehdi Tage, “Vulnérabilités et facteurs d’insécurité au Sahel,” Enjeux ouest-africains, n°1 (August 2010).

24 The culturalist idea according to which the Tuaregs would have an ancestral allergic reaction to Salafism can’t withstand examination, nor can that according to which the secular Tuaregs movements are separated from their Salafist homologs by a firewall.

25 It seems that the Ansar Dine chief, Iyad Ag Ghali has had close relations with the Algerian secret services, who wanted to weaken the pro-independence positions of the Tuaregs.

26 Jean Nanga shows that this U.S. effort to penetrate West Africa militarily is now more than twenty years old, “Au Mali, une intervention néocoloniale sous leadership français, ” (cf., Inprecor, January-February, 2013).

27 One can read the position taken by Samir Amin and its relevant critique by Paul Martial on the Europe-Solidaire site ( On February 4, the Egyptian economist briefly responded to his critics, though without adding new arguments to the discussion (

28 Survie Association, “Les zones d’ombre…”

29 As early as January 13, Philippe Duval showed that the Islamist peril had been greatly overestimated (

30 After two years, France deployed special forces, helicopters and a large arsenal to Burkina Faso and to Mauritania, a gesture reinforced last September by Operation Sabre (Survie Association, “Les zones d’ombre…”).

31 Vincent Jauvert & Sarah-Halifa Legrand, “Mali: histoire secrète d’une grande surprise,” Nouvel Observateur, February 7, 2013.

32 B. J. Ndiaye, “Mali : à quoi sert Serval ?” February 2, 2013 (

33 The military coup d’état that overturned Nigerian President Tandja Mamadou in April 2010, is probably not unrelated to the conflict, which in 2007, with the opening of the uranium deposits, pitted France against the Chinese and Indian investors.

34 A similar project was broached in 1951 in the monthly Hommes et Mondes, before becoming a subject of parliamentary debate in France in 1952 (Hall, A History of Race ...). It was finally abandoned after Algerian independence, in 1962.

35 In January 2009, the Malian authorities refused to sign an agreement with Paris on the readmission of Malians without legal status in France.