As long as Mali is exploited by outsiders, as long as poverty and inequality will continue to exist, leading to insurrections, rebellions and military coups, instability will persist.
The French war in Mali receives little media coverage outside the limited scope of French-speaking media, which has successfully branded this war as one against Islamic militants.
In 1892, France colonized that once-thriving African kingdom, exploiting its resources and reordering its territories as a way to weaken its population and to break down its social structures.
The formal end of French colonialism of Mali in 1960 was merely the end of a chapter, but definitely not the story itself. France remained present in Mali, in the Sahel and throughout Africa, defending its interests, exploiting the ample resources and working jointly with corrupt elites to maintain its dominance.
On March 2012 Captain Amadou Sanogo overthrew the nominally democratic government of Amadou Toumani Touré. He used the flimsy excuse of protesting Bamako’s failure to rein in the militancy of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) in the north. Sanogo’s pretense was quite clever, though, as it fit neatly into a grand narrative designed by various Western governments, lead among them France and the United States, who saw Islamic militancy as the greatest danger facing many parts of Africa, especially in the Sahel.
Sanogo’s coup angered African governments, but was somehow accommodated by Western powers. In the following months, northern militants managed to seize much of the impoverished northern regions, continuing their march towards Bamako itself. On December 20, 2012, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2085, which authorized the deployment of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali. Armed with what was understood to be a UN mandate, France launched its war in Mali, under the title of ‘Operation Serval’.
On July 15, 2014, France declared that ‘Operation Serval’ was successfully accomplished. Yet, almost immediately, on August 1, 2014, it declared another military mission, this time an open-ended war, ‘Operation Barkhane’ and included Paris’ own ‘coalition of the willing’, dubbed ‘G5 Sahel’. All former French colonies, the new coalition consisted of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
According to Deutsche Welle, “The security situation has worsened, not only (in the) the north but (in) central Mali as well”, the German news agency recently reported, conveying a sense of chaos, with farmers fleeing their land and with “self-defense militias” carrying out their own operations to satisfy “their own agendas”, and so on.
Even with a heavy French military presence, instability continued to plague Mali. The latest coup in the country took place in August 2020. Worse still, the various Tuareg forces, which have long challenged the foreign exploitation of the country, are now unifying under a single banner. The future of Mali is hardly promising.
So what was the point of the intervention? Certainly not to ‘restore democracy’ or ‘stabilize’ the country.
In a recent article, Karen Jayes elaborates. “France’s interests in the region are primarily economic. Their military actions protect their access to oil and uranium in the region.”
Mali’s wealth of natural resources is central to France’s economy. “An incredible 75 percent of France’s electric power is generated by nuclear plants that are mostly fueled by uranium extracted on Mali’s border region of Kidal,” in the northern parts of the country. Therefore, it is unsurprising that France was ready to go to war as soon as militants proclaimed the Kidal region to be part of their independent nation-state of Azawad in April 2012.