National conference call to educate activists on reasons behind imperialist invasion
On Sunday, February 24, the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) will host an educational conference call on the current situation in the West Africa state of Mali. France invaded the country on January 11 supported by the United States, Britain and other members of NATO.
Under the guise of carrying out a humanitarian mission to prevent so-called “al-Qaeda” affiliated groups from overrunning Mali, the French military along with sections of the national army and regional troops from several West and Central African states, have entered numerous cities and towns in the central and northern sections of the mineral-rich territory.
Reports are emanating from Mali that hundreds have been killed and injured and gross violations of human rights are taking place through the aggressive ground operations and aerial bombardments.
Since the military coup in Mali on March 22, 2012, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced both inside the country and around the region. Humanitarian organizations have said that due to the military operations there are acute shortages of food, water and medical services for civilians.
The UNAC call will feature Ana Edwards, a leader in the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality and a member of the Friends of Mali in Richmond, Virginia. Edwards was in Mali at the time of the intervention and witnessed the Pentagon transport planes flying in French troops and arms used in the war.
In addition to Edwards, Glenn Ford, Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, will also present the influential media outlet’s perspectives on the French and U.S. role in Mali. The presentations will be short to allow most of the time to be utilized for questions, answers and political discussion.
This UNAC conference call comes in the aftermath of the release of a statement by UNAC opposing the French and U.S. intervention in Mali and Africa as a whole. Under the title: “France and the U.S. out of Africa Now! No Resource Wars for the Profits of the 1%!
Not One More Cent for the New Scramble for Africa!, the national anti-war organization is calling for broad-based support in the campaign against the Pentagon-NATO onslaught on Mali and the entire African continent, where the White House has recently announced the deployment of 3,500 troops to nearly three dozen countries.
The UNAC statement says that “The recent French military intervention and the U.S. military and intelligence operations in the region must be opposed by all those who stand in favor of self-determination for African peoples. Contrary to the self-serving claims of both France and the U.S. that they are out to defend democracy, both nations’ military operations in the Sahara-Sahel are in defense of their access to Africa’s minerals, oil, gas, and arable land at bargain basement prices.”
In March 2012, a U.S.-trained army officer in Mali staged a military coup against the elected government of President Amadou Toumani Toure. Since the coup, the security situation inside Mali has worsened with the incapacity of the military and interim government to stabilize the north of the country where Tuareg separatists and Islamist forces have been in conflict with the central government in Bamako.
UNAC continues in the same statement noting that “The invitation for a French military attack by a Malian coup regime armed by Washington is but a fig leaf for an escalation of already existing efforts to protect the 1% plunder of Nigerien uranium, Malian gold, Nigerian oil, Algerian natural gas, Western Saharan phosphates, Cote d’Ivoire’s plantations, and more.
Africanists liken the current situation to the period in the late 19th and early20th century when the European countries carved up Africa between them.”
The anti-war organization stresses that “In the new ‘Scramble for Africa,’ Europe and the United States are competing for petroleum, minerals, and land to the detriment of the economic well-being of the African peoples.”
The statement is followed by a fact-sheet which addresses the impact of the war on Mali in the areas of ecological disaster, national oppression, austerity, resource theft, the fraudulent ‘war on terrorism,’ rivalries among the elites and the domestic war against the people of the U.S. fostered by the militarism of the Pentagon.
U.S. and NATO Have Long Range Plans for Mali and Africa
Although both France and the U.S. say that their involvement in Mali is not designed for imperialist purposes and will be of a short duration, statements and actions by officials indicate otherwise. A delegation of Congresspersons visited Mali on February 18 in a so-called fact-finding mission.
There were four legislators in the delegation headed by Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, who is the Democratic Foreign Relations subcommittee chairman on African affairs. Coons expressed confidence in the French intervention in Mali but urged caution particularly in the aftermath of clashes which occurred in the city of Gao during early February where a police station was seized by combatants of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa.
Coon told the Associated Press that the intense fighting in Gao “suggests a level of jihadist militancy that doesn’t reflect the confidence that I heard from the French—that the jihadists are not from here, are not supported here, and have been driven away.” (AP, February 18) In addition to the clashes in Gao, there have been reports of roadside bomb attacks against French and Malian forces in several areas in the north.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on February 14 where he outlined the Obama administration’s position on Mali. Carson said that “”Neutralizing the full scope of the terrorist threat in Mali…is a long-term effort.” (Washington Times, February 14)
Carson went to say that “The gains achieved by French and African forces on the battlefield in northern Mali will be short-lived if not accompanied by elections, strengthened institutions and national reconciliation to restore Mali’s tradition of democratic governance.”
There was no mention of the fact that the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) had already trained and equipped Malian military units and this intervention by the Pentagon objectively has weakened the capacity of the army and the government to handle its own national security.
Also the European Union (EU) on February 18 launched another training program for the Malian military. The EU has deployed 70 so-called advisers to the capital of Bamako already.
According to the Associated Press, “The decision by the foreign ministers of the 27 European Union countries meeting in Brussels authorizes the deployment of about 500 people to Mali for 15 months at an estimated cost of $16.4 million. About 20 EU countries will participate in the mission, which officials say will not be involved in any combat.” (AP, February 18)
Consequently, with these long-term commitments it is essential that anti-war and other social justice organizations and coalitions inside the U.S. focus more attention on the burgeoning imperialist role on the African continent. Africa is becoming even more significant in regard to the supply of strategic resources that are indispensable to the world capitalist system.
Those interested in participating in the UNAC educational conference call on February 24 beginning at 9:00pm EST should call (218) 339-3600. The access code is 342310. The UNAC website can be found at www.UNACpeace.org and their email is UNACpeace@gmail.com .
Note: The author of this article will also be a presenter on the educational conference call.
Mr. Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire, is one of the frequent contributors for The 4th Media.