France in Mali ‘for the long haul’

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By Roger Annis,, Feb. 5, 2013

“France is in Mali for the long haul.” That’s the headline in today’s France daily Le Monde. The newspaper’s front page, as well as pages 2 and 3, are devoted to a discussion over ‘what next’ for France and the world in Mali.

The views of the newspaper’s editors are explained in a front page editorial (see below for a full translation). Describing in the politest of terms France’s historic role in Africa as a slave and colonial power, and summarizing the political situation in Mali and west Africa as a “struggle against narco-Islamists,” the newspaper argues for a long-term, Haiti-style tutelage of Mali. The Harper government in Ottawa can be expected to fall seamlessly into line.

There are several important differences with Haiti. One, the French imperialists want the neighbouring, neo-colonial regimes of west Africa to eventually carry the lion’s share of responsibility for a police/military occupation regime. Yet, echoing statements by French military leaders, Le Monde’s editors acknowledge that the arming and training of an African force is going to take many months and positive results are not pre-ordained. (And let us add, these same forces have received “training” by the U.S., European and Canadian militaries for some years already.) That leaves France staring at the uncomfortable prospect of bearing the lion’s share of what by all appearance is an occupation sans fin (“France is in Mali for the long haul”!). Articles in the newspaper are filled with news and commentary about this dilemma.

Two, France wants international endorsement and participation in its project. It has already received the enthusiastic participation of its principal imperialist allies. It obtained an endorsement for an “African-led” military force in the UN Security Council resolution of Dec. 20, 2012. But whether this will prove as lasting and universally-supported in the halls of the Security Council as the MINUSTAH force in Haiti, created in 2004 through the initiative of the U.S., Canada and France, is another matter.

A contrary case to military occupation is presented in the February 4 Le Monde by author and academic Olivier Roy You can read it here (in French).

Where does the French left stand in the face of all this? The daily newspaper of the Communist Party publishes a report of the French president’s visit to Mali last week with the headline, ‘Hollande in Timbuktu: “I don’t wish to meddle in the political life of Mali.”‘ The paper is routinely summarizing in its pages the declarations of the French government and military. There has been no editorial comment for several weeks.

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