Friday, February 1, 2013

Who is doing what and why in Mali?

Although I have been aware that Nigeria is part of the African contingent of troops that is involved in the ongoing military operation in Mali which is said to be aimed at dislodging the Islamist insurgency in that West African country, I must admit that until a couple of days ago, I was not in the know of the magnitude of Nigeria's contribution. A January 30, 2013 news report by Nigeria's Leadership credited President Goodluck Jonathan with saying that "... Nigeria has spent $34 million (about N7 billion) on the immediate deployment of troops and logistics' support to stop the activities of Islamic terrorist in Mali."

I believe that Nigeria's contribution is a worthy investment in its own national and wider regional security, and so are the contributions from participating African nations. France, a former colonial power, is reported to be playing a lead role in this effort to rid Mali of reported Islamist pests. But certain Western news reporting about the multinational liberational effort in Mali has tended to under-state or obscure the African contribution to and participation in this project. In general, the reporting on Mali creates an impression that the operation is being carried out by just French and Malian government troops, with the former at the helm although the US National Public Radio (NPR) reported today that "the French say it's time to step back and hand over to an African peace-keeping force."javascript:NPR.Player.openPlayer(1126,%200,%20null,%20NPR.Player.Action.PLAY_NOW,%20NPR.Player.Type.TOPIC,%20'0') Besides this apparent slant in the coverage of the Malian issue, some African commentators have wondered if France is in it just for the publicly-stated altruistic reason of extinguishing Islamist terror or for other self-serving material considerations. For instance, on a discussion forum known as USAAfricaDialogue, Professor Addul Bangura has commented that "...some high-level folks in Mali informed us this morning that France's plan is to divide the country and make a separate deal with the Tuareg, as they have demanded, so that France can loot the uranium. France is also eyeing the oil while stealing the gold through a French company that operates from Canada."

No doubt, there seems to be a divergence of sorts between NPR's latest news report and Bangura's take on the unfolding events in Mali. If Bangura's claim is true, one is reminded of an apropos moment in the history of colonialism in Africa which showed that while the colonizers fronted an altruistic motivation for invading Africa, namely that it was a civilizing mission, the recorded facts of that intervention in African civilization showed something else: the colonizers were there primarily for their self-serving objective of exploiting the economic resources of the continent for the benefit of the m├ętropole. Well, the human experience is the ultimate arbiter of truth, and time will tell if Bangura's claim is real or imaginary!