“It is during war that people forget their interest in civil and political rights, not noticing that external events divert their attention from their legislators and magistrates to focus all interest and all hopes on their generals and ministers, or rather the generals and ministers of the executive branch. “ —Robespierre, Speech on War, December 18, 1791
Since Friday, in fact for an indeterminate amount of time, France has returned to its detestable past as policeman of Africa. Certainly, we have not been fooled by the president’s speeeches on the burial of the “Françafrique”. Still, the brutality of this return of affairs, through the Operation Serval intervention in Mali, can only deepen our concern and firm our opposition. Above all else, we speak in a personal capacity, without anticipating the future position of our respective organizations: the French Communist Party for Laetitia, and the Left Party for Nathanael. We wished to write together because we have spoken about Africa for several years, developing a convergent vision.
First, we say unambiguously: Jihadism, Salafism, ideologies that hijack religion to serve a political vision, are our enemy. As leftists, we fight with the utmost firmness all ideas, all people, all groups that divert the message of peace and love brought by any religion to enslave all or part of the population. Thus, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA), Ansar Dine, and all other embodiments of this self-proclaimed “Islamic” extreme right are our mortal enemies, just as they are for the people of northern Mali who have suffered since April 2012 in the hitherto indifference of the general public to the daily atrocities.
We must go back to the reasons for the emergence of AQIM and MOJWA in Mali, a country where the population is predominantly Muslim although with elements of animism. President Amadou Toumani Touré, overthrown by a military coup in early 2012, and the Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA)—who opened the door to the north of Mali to the Islamic fundamentalists—benefited from the support of France during his final years. In the same way that the United States, for many years, used Bin Laden and the jihadists against the Soviet Union, Touré has, in a dangerous political game, allowed MOJWA to settle in northern Mali while the French government allowed the MNLA to strengthen militarily while knowing of its connivance with fundamentalist groups.
Northern Mali is vast and sparsely populated. Over the years it has become, by the near impossibility of controlling it, a region of free trade—in drug and human trafficking. There are then sources of income, albeit illegal, by which the jihadists can finance their armies, which were reinforced by veterans from Libya and Afghanistan. The jihadists, experienced militarily, were able to quickly take over other groups of gangsters operating in the Sahel. They are now in a dominant position, further enjoying the state of disrepair and political instability maintaining the Malian army—a condition for which France is not necessarily irresponsible.
The first victories of “jihadists,” behind the Tuareg MLNA troops of north Mali, go back to early 2012. They were marked by atrocities as much against civilians as against the military and their families. This situation was used by the military junta led by Captain Sanogo to justify a coup. Rupture of democratic order cannot be seen as an acceptable political solution; however, it is necessary to emphasize the relative benevolence of the population toward Sanogo at first, as the Touré regime appeared corrupt and unable to meet the needs of the Malian population.
A return to civilian rule must be accompanied by national dialogue aimed at restoring a true democratic process for Malians. They must also develop properly Malian solutions to fight against the partition of the country. It is evident that real democracy is the best, most effective weapon in the fight against jihadism, as it combines all the people to build the future, thereby draining the swamp in which this specific form of what we in the West call the extreme right can thrive.
Alas, such dialogue been postponed time and again by the military junta and civil power. None has occurred to date. That is why last Wednesday and Thursday, the eve of the French military intervention, several events took place in Bamako (we do not believe this is a coincidence). Organized by the Coordination of Patriotic Organizations in Mali (COPOM) and the alliance of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (though very distant ideologically from COPOM), they demanded the departure of the current President Traoré (former president of the National Assembly under Touré), the development of a Malian strategy for the north of Mali, the respect of past commitments made for the return to democracy, and the refusal of foreign ground intervention. Since Friday a state of emergency has prevailed in Bamako, marked by a large decline in the civil liberties already strongly undermined since March, with French troops deployed to protect “strategic” buildings.
Today, the French Minister of Defense claims that French soldiers are deployed “to protect France, to protect our freedoms,” further stating that “we want to prevent the creation of a terrorist state within reach of Europe.” France wants to appear as the savior of a situation it willingly and criminally helped create. It is thus alone in this affair and its claims. There will not even be an international coalition as in Libya; there is no UN mandate; there is no mandate of the National Assembly. In September, the UN Security Council deliberated and gave a mandate to the African Union and the Community of West African States. The latter have not appeared strongly pressed to intervene militarily in Mali. Thus the way was opened to French troops.
Anyway, our pious soldiers have been hard at work since January 11. After predictable initial victories, and already French casualties, no one knows when they will return. The seasoned jihadists know the soil in which they operate. For several months they were joined by fighters from all over the world as the Sahel is now considered the place to be for the (not so) apprentice jihadists. Does it remind you of the Taliban in Afghanistan? Yes, that’s right, there is room for comparison. Similarly, it is well-known that the war started in Afghanistan helped defeat the jihadists. Apologies for the irony, but it must be remembered that, until now, the “war against terrorism” has resulted in the large-scale development of jihadist groups and the degradation of living conditions of people—and in countries that had previously been spared, like Mali.
We cannot remain silent about the atrocities and brutality suffered daily by the people of northern Mali, nor the several months in which the international community was criminally indifferent. That is why today we can no longer remain silent when the country’s fate is determined without involving the men and women who live there.
This is why we cannot accept the current French intervention and demand full transparency about the nature of requests for support from the Malian government, the plans and objectives of this intervention in the short, medium, and long term, and the strategies for developing the region. The struggle against barbarism cannot be achieved without the people, and the Malian and French populations must be fully informed and decide—through their representative bodies—actions to be taken to allow the Malian people to regain their territorial integrity and to improve the living conditions in northern Mali.
Originally posted at Le cri du peuple. Translated by North Star.