Mali’s War: The Wages of Sin (Der Lohn der Sünde)
Von Conn Hallinan, Foreign Policy in Focus (englisch) / Deutsche Zusammenfassung: Werner Ruf
“Die Berichte, die aus Mali durchsickern sind erschreckend: Ein junges Paar zu Tode gesteinigt, uralte Heiligtümer zerstört, rd. 365.000 Flüchtlinge, Auspeitschungen wegen der leisesten Verstöße gegen die Sharia ...“ So beginnt Hallinan seine Analyse der Vorgänge in diesem westafrikanischen Land. Die dortige Krise führt er zurück auf die Politik der Bush-Administration, die im Sahel-Raum ein Nest des Terrorismus entdeckt zu haben behauptete und mit ihrer Trans-Saharan Counter Terrrorism Initiative und dann mit der Gründung von des African Command (Africom) am 6. Februar 2007 Mengen von Waffen und Spezialkräfte in die Region brachte. Er verweist auf den bekannten britischen Anthropologen Jeremy Keenan, eine profunden Kenner der Region, um seine These zu stützen, dass es keinen Anhaltspunkt für Terrorismus gab, wohl aber Interessen an den in der Region entdeckten Ölfeldern und vor allem Ängste wegen des Vordringens Chinas in diesem Raum.
Sicherlich gab es in der Region den einen oder anderen (terroristischen) Gewaltakt, doch solche Akte hatten nichts zu tun mit einem internationalen Netzwerk wie al Qaeda. Dieses Etikett werde ohnehin nach Bedarf bestimmten Gruppen zugewiesen oder auch wieder entzogen. In Wirklichkeit hat die Krise in Mali tiefe ethnische (und ökonomische, W.R.) Wurzeln: Die nomadischen Tuareg hatten lange den transsaharischen Handel kontrolliert, hatten lange für mehr Autonomie gekämpft. Der Sturz Gadhafis eröffnete ihnen – wie auch islamistischen Gruppen – die Möglichkeit zu massiver Bewaffnung. Die Tuareg vertreiben die malische Armee aus dem Norden des Landes. Inzwischen terrorisieren Gruppen, die sich islamistisch nennen, die Bevölkerung, sie haben auch die Tuareg weitgehend aus dem Gebiet vertrieben.
Inzwischen brechen über die Region die nicht beabsichtigten Folgen des Krieges gegen Libyen herein. Auch die von den USA ausgebildeten Offiziere der Armeen der Sahel-Länder zeigen nun ihre erworbenen Kompetenzen in Putschen. „Terrorismus“ in Afrika nährt sich aus lokalen Bedingungen, nicht aus einem internationalen jihadistischen Programm. Während Hunderte Millionen Dollar für den Kampf gegen den Terrorismus ausgegeben werden und die USA das Militär dutzender von Staaten der Region ausbilden, ist nicht klar, welche der unzähligen schwelenden Konflikte in der Region noch akut werden können. Aber „Bajonette werden die Quellen von Terrorismus und Instabilität in Afrika nicht austrocknen können! Vielmehr werden militärische Lösungen zur Rekrutierung von Soldaten für Gruppen wie al Qaida im Islamischen Maghreb (AQMI) führen. Afrika braucht nicht mehr Waffen – es braucht Hilfe, Entwicklung und Programme, die wesentliche Teile der Bevölkerung ... aus der Armut herausführen.“
Mali’s War: The Wages of Sin
By Conn M. Hallinan *
The reports filtering out of Northern Mali are
appalling: a young couple stoned to death, iconic
ancient shrines dismantled, and some 365,000
refugees fleeing beatings and whippings for the
slightest violations of Sharia law. But the bad
dream unfolding in this West African country is less
the product of a radical version of Islam than a
consequence of the West's scramble for resources on
this vast continent, and the wages of sin from the
recent Libyan war.
The current crisis gripping northern Mali-an area
about the size of France- has its origins in the early
years of the Bush Administration, when the U.S.
declared the Sahara desert a hotbed of "terrorism"
and poured arms and Special Forces into the area
as part of the Trans-Sahal Counter Terrorism
Initiative. But, according to anthropologist Jeremy
Keenan, who has done extensive fieldwork in Mali
and the surrounding area, the "terrorism" label had
no basis in fact, but was simply designed to "justify
the militarization of Africa."
The U.S. military claimed that when the Taliban fell
in Afghanistan, terrorists moved west into the Horn
of Africa, the Sudan and the Sahara. But Keenan
says, "There was absolutely no evidence for
that.really a figment of imagination." The real
target of enlarging the U.S.'s military footprint was
"oil resources" and "the gradually increasing threat
of China on the continent."
The U.S. currently receives about 18 percent of its
energy supplies from Africa, a figure that is slated to
rise to 25 percent by 2015. Africa also provides
about one-third of China's energy needs, plus
copper, platinum, timber and iron ore. According to
the Financial Times, new gas fields were recently
discovered on the Algeria-Mali border
There have been terrorist acts in Africa. In 1998,
hotels were bombed in Kenya and, in 2002, a
synagogue in Tunisia. The 2004 Madrid train
bombers were associated with the Moroccan Islamic
Combat Group, an organization that set off bombs
in Casablanca in 2003.
But these groups had no affiliation with
international terror groups like al-Qaeda, and the
only one that could be said to be Sahara-based was
the Algerian Salafist Group for Fighting and
Preaching. That group later renamed itself "Al-Qaeda
in the Islamic Maghreb" (AQIM).
In 2006, the International Crisis Group also
concluded that the Sahara "was not a hotbed of
terrorism" and that most North African governments
saw the Trans Sahal Initiative as a way to tap into
high end arms technology, like attack helicopters,
night vision equipment, and sophisticated
When the U.S. African Command (AFRICOM) was
formed in 2008, it took over the Initiative and began
working directly with countries in the region,
including Mali, Morocco, Tunisia, Chad, Niger,
Mauretania, and Senegal. Indeed, the only country
in the region that did not have a tie to AFRICOM
The US also has basing agreements with Uganda,
Ghana, Namibia, Ghana, Gabon, and Zambia. Some
1500 U.S. Marines are currently deployed at
Lemonier, a French Foreign Legion base in Djibouti
on the horn of Africa.
The "terrorism" label has always been a slippery
one. For instance, the US supported the 2006
Ethiopian invasion of Somalia that overthrew the
Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) government.
Washington said the UIC was associated with al-
Qaeda, but never produced any evidence of that.
The UIC was a moderate Islamic movement that
drove out the U.S.-supported warlords and brought
peace to Somalia for the first time since 1991. It
included such radical Islamic groups as the Shabab,
but those organizations did not dominate the
The Ethiopian invasion changed all that. For
Somalians, Ethiopia is a traditional enemy, and the
Shabab succeeded in uniting a large section of the
population against the occupation. Thus, a small
group that was marginal in the UIC became the
backbone of the resistance. "The end result of the
US-backed invasion was driving Somalia into the
al-Qaeda fold," says Somalia's former foreign
minister, Ismaciil Buubaa.
The crisis in Mali has a long history, rooted in the
country's deep poverty, on one hand, anda on the
other, a push by the Tuaregs-a nomadic Berber
people that have long controlled trans-Sahara
trade-for greater autonomy and a bigger piece of
the development pie. The Tuaregs have staged
unsuccessful revolts four times since Mali won its
independence from France in 1960, but the fall of
Mummer Gaddafi in Libya gave them a golden
Gaddfi had long supported the Tuaregs in their war
for independence, and many Tuaregs served as pro-
government mercenaries in Libya. When Gaddafi
fell, a cornucopia of arms opened for the Tuaregs,
who quickly put their newly acquired firepower to
use against the largely ineffective Malian army.
The so-called "terrorist" groups, like Ansar al-Din,
al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad and AQIM, only moved in
after the Tuareg Movement for the National
Liberation of Azawed had expelled the Malian army
from the north and declared a separate country. It is
these groups that are stoning people to death,
tearing down Sufi shrines, and enforcing rigid
Sharia law. The Tuaregs have largely been pushed
to the side, and many of them have returned to the
desert, abandoning cities like Timbuktu, Gao, and
Kidal to the Islamic groups.
Besides the original protagonists in northern Mali,
there is growing tension between the Islamists and
the Songhai, Mali's largest ethnic group. There are
rumors that Songhai villages are organizing militia,
adding yet another dimension of potential trouble.
None of this had to happen.
When the UN Security Council passed Resolution
1973 on Mar. 17 last year, it was to "protect
civilians" in Libya. At the time, the 53-member
African Union (AU) was attempting to negotiate a
political solution to the crisis, but two days after the
UN resolution was approved, NATO launched
Operation Odyssey that smashed up Gaddafi's air
force and armor.
On Mar. 20, the AU met in Mauritania in an effort to
stop the fighting. "Our desire," read a joint AU
statement "is that Libya's unity and territorial
integrity be respected as well as the rejection of any
kind of foreign intervention." The AU was acutely
aware that Africa's delicate post-colonial borders
have enormous potential for creating instability, and
that Libya might end up being a falling domino.
"Whatever the motivation of the principle NATO
belligerents [in ousting Gadaffi], the law of
unintended consequences is exacting a heavy toll
on Mali today," former UN regional envoy Robert
Fowler told the Guardian (UK) "and will continue to
do so throughout the Sahel as the vast store of
Libyan weapons spreads across this, one of the most
unstable regions of the world."
A decade of growing US military involvement on the
continent has not only failed to curb instability and
the growth of so-called "terrorist" groups, the US's
actions in Somalia and Libya have directly fed the
formation of such organizations. And "training" has
hardly stabilized things. Indeed, the Mali army
captain, Amadou Sanogo, who overthrew the
civilian government-the act that led to the Tuareg's
successful offensive-was trained by the U.S.
military. Sanogo attended the Defense Language
Institute in 2005 and 2007, a US Army intelligence
program in 2008, and an officer-training course in
"Terrorism" in Africa is fueled by local conditions,
not by an international jihadist agenda. Boko
Harum in Nigeria reflects the tension between the
poverty of the country's largely Islamic north and its
more prosperous Christian south. Similar fault lines
run through Niger, Ivory Coast and Cameroon.
Terrorism in Algeria and Morocco mirror economies
that are unable to provide jobs for a huge swath of
their populations, coupled with authoritarian
political structures that stifle any attempt to do
something about it. Somalia was first a pawn in the
Cold War, and then the very definition of chaos.
When an Islamic government began taming that
chaos, the U.S. overthrew it, unleashing the
Hundreds of millions of dollars in aid is being
directed at fighting terrorism on the continent, and
the US military is training the armed forces of
dozens of African nations. A Malian army captain
used that aid and training to pull off a coup that
now threatens to turn into a regional war.
Will Morocco use U.S. aid to fight terrorism or
tighten its grip over the mineral rich Western Sahara
and re-ignite its war with the Polisario Front? Will
Niger fight "terrorists" or crush Tuareg resistance to
French uranium mining in the Sahara? Will Algeria
go after the AQIM or its own outlawed Islamist
organizations? Will aid to fight terrorism in Nigeria
be diverted to smash resistance by local people to oil
production in the Niger Delta?
Bayonets won't defeat the source of terrorism and
instability in Africa. Indeed, military solutions tend
to act as recruiting sergeants for groups like AQIM.
Africa doesn't need more weapons, but rather aid,
development, and programs that lift a significant
section of the continent's population out of poverty.
Source: Foreign Policy in Focus, August 23, 2012; http://www.fpif.org/articles/malis_war_the_wages_of_sin
Foreign Policy in Focus columnist Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com.
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