Op-eds

Pushing Africa Aside in Mali: Op-Ed by Arun Sukumar (F13)

The Hindu

French jets are zipping past northern Mali, bombing the region and with it, a participatory framework that had thus far allowed African states to troubleshoot what is first and foremost a regional political crisis. France’s aerial assault and imminent deployment of ground troops is a volte face from its original plan to offer “logistical aid” to African peacekeepers in Mali. For all of French President François Hollande’s promises to treat Africa as a partner and friend, his government’s military intervention in the Sahel is proof that Françafrique is alive and well. Its monopoly over the rapid deployment of military force allows France to sustain a relationship of dependency with the continent, at a time when governments in North, West and Central Africa are struggling to control armed rebels.

In the last few months, the U.N. Security Council had placed Mali at the of its agenda, while co-opting the concerns and counsel of West African states along the way. Last year, the council adopted Resolutions 2056, 2071 and 2085 — each facilitating progressively tough measures — to tackle this conflict. The U.N.’s efforts, which France has now upended, were aimed at bringing African stakeholders on board. In July 2012, the UNSC emphasised dialogue between various stakeholders in Mali, while acknowledging the sovereign authority of Mali’s interim government. The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) mediated this dialogue, often interacting with fringe elements such as Ansar Dine, the Tuareg Islamist group that has now coalesced with other Islamist outfits in northern Mali.

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