El golpe de Estado en Malí. Por Olivier Laurent, WSWS*Mali: U.S. Africa Command's New War?
Soldados amotinados dirigidos por el capitán Amadu Sanogo tomaron el poder el jueves [22 de marzo de 2012] por la mañana en la capital de Mali, Bamako, y decidieron disolver las instituciones, suspender la Constitución, instaurar un toque de queda y cerrar las fronteras por una duración indeterminada.
Se calcula que el golpe de Estado que empezó el miércoles ha causado cuarenta muertos, varios de los cuales son civiles. Todavía no es seguro que la Junta haya logrado apropiarse de todos los resortes del poder.
El portavoz de la Junta, Amadu Konaré, es teniente; no parece haber oficiales de alta graduación en la Junta ya que o bien han sido detenidos o no ha opuesto resistencia alguna.
Reprochaban al presidente Amadu Tumani Turé, en el poder desde 2002, ser “incompetente” ante la rebelión de los tuaregs del norte del país. Esta rebelión empezó el 17 de enero dirigida por el Movimiento Nacional de Liberación del Azawad [MNLA] y otros rebeldes, reforzado por veteranos de la guerra de Libia del año pasado fuertemente armados que lucharon en favor del dictador Muammar Gadafi.
El 1 de febrero una manifestación de mujeres, esposas y madres de militares muertos durante los combates entre el ejército de Mali y los rebeldes del MNLA, acusaba al gobierno de haber “enviado a sus hombres al matadero sin preparación y sin el material adecuado”. El motivo principal de la manifestación fue el anuncio del descubrimiento de una fosa común que contenía los cadáveres de 40 militares, aunque el gobierno solo había anunciado dos muertos en los enfrentamientos.
Según la Oficina de Coordinación de Asuntos Humanitarios de las Naciones Unidas, los combates entre el ejército maliano y los rebeldes tuareg han desplazado a 206.000 personas desde mediados de enero, sobre todo hacia Mauritania, Níger, Burkina Faso y Argelia.
Turé, entonces general, había llegado al poder gracias a un golpe de Estado en 1991 contra el dictador Mussa Traoré.
Entregó el poder a los civiles tras las elecciones de 1992 que llevaron al poder a Alfa Umar Konaré, de la Agrupación Democrática Africana [RDA, por sus siglas en francés], vinculada al PCF. Tras abandonar el ejército, Turé se convirtió en presidente en 2002 por medio de las elecciones.
Si bien los Estados occidentales y la ONU han proferido las recriminaciones habituales, se dejaba ver que la OTAN ya no consideraba a Turé un aliado fiable. El pasado 24 de noviembre L' Express citaba a un alto responsable francés familiarizado con la región y que conservaba el anonimato, el cual se quejaba: “Estamos muy enfadados con los malianos. Ya se trate de las células de al-Qaeda en el Magreb islámico que operan en el extremo norte del país, de sus relaciones con los tuaregs o del tráfico de cocaína latinoamericana camino de Europa, ya no se trata de la pasividad sino de la complicidad. Tenemos pruebas irrefutables. [Al-Qaeda] es hay más fuerte que antes de que se lanzara en 2008 el Plan Sahel, un dispositivo antiterrorista en el que París ha hecho inversiones enormes”.
El mes pasado Turé concedió una entrevista a L ' Express en la que declaró: “En relación a las rebeliones árabo-tuaregs locales, Gadafi se había comprometido en la mediación, el desarme y la reinserción. Su caída deja un vacío. […] Desde un principio habíamos avisado a la OTAN y a los demás de los efectos colaterales de la crisis libia, pero no se nos escuchó”.
De hecho, Turé mantenía una estrecha relación con Gadafi, de la que no “se arrepiente en absoluto. Libia ha hecho sustanciales inversiones en nuestro país en hoteles, turismo, agricultura y banca, lo que ha contribuido a nuestro desarrollo”.
La caída de Gadafi diseminó importantes cantidades de armas en esta región y más allá: el 15 de octubre la prensa dejaba constancia de un primer convoy de 400 veteranos a bordo de 80 vehículos militares que volvía a Mali y al día siguiente un primer soldado maliano había muerto en una emboscada en la región.
También en octubre el periódico alemán Der Spiegel citaba al presidente del Comité Militar de los Países de la OTAN, el almirante italiano Giampaolo Di Paola, el cual explicaba: “Más de 10.000 misiles suelo-aire, que representan una grave amenaza para la aviación civil, podrían salir de Libia y encontrarse en malas manos de Kenya en Kunduz”. En junio las fuerzas nigerianas habían interceptado un convoy de más 600 kilos de Semtex procedente de Libia.
Tradicionalmente los tuaregs solo reclamaban una autonomía interna en Mali y solo desde la caída de Gadafi y el establecimiento de unas relaciones supuestamente más estrechas con al-Quaeda reclaman la independencia completa. En reacción a la intensificación de esta lucha los tuaregs que viven en el sur del país son víctimas cada vez más a menudo de agresiones racistas.
La situación económica del norte de Mali explica en gran parte el atractivo que ejerce la rebelión sobre la juventud tuareg. Es uno de los 25 países más pobres del mundo, con un PIB anual de 1.300 dólares por habitante. La tasa de inflación pasó del 1% en 2010 al 3,6% el año pasado. El desierto cubre más de la mitad del país y no contiene petróleo; lo esencial de la actividad económica se concentra en el sur, en torno al río Níger. Los nómadas representan un 10 % de la población.
Para Pierre Boilley, director del Centro de Estudios de los Mundos Africanos [CEMAF, por sus siglas en francés] “esto traduce su amargura concerniente a lo que ellos consideran la marginación de su región y el fracaso de las políticas de integración que se establecieron a su favor en la década de 1990”.
En la entrevista concedida a L ' Express Turé explicaba que “la pobreza y la precariedad ofrecen un terreno fértil al terrorismo y al integrismo. Los yijadistas avanzan ocultos bajo una cobertura caritativa. Inteligentemente, su objetivo son las familias desfavorecidas o la juventud desocupada. Un chaval roba un 4 X 4 o hace de guía no por adhesión ideológica sino por dinero. Nuestros enemigos se infiltran a través de lo humanitario, hay que responderles por medio del desarrollo”.
Lejos de tratar de proteger las vidas de sus hombres, los dirigentes de la Junta se lanzaron a una batalla de envergadura alrededor de Kidal en el noreste contra las fuerzas islamistas tratando de luchar militarmente contra un movimiento cuyas raíces están en la crisis económica y en la desestabilización de la región engendrada por la guerra de la OTAN en Libia.
* Traducido del francés para Rebelión por Beatriz Morales Bastos
Nota: Para más información sobre el movimiento Touareg a comienzos de la década del '90 leer, Héctor Vega. Episodios del Sahel. Editoria Apostrophes. Santiago. Chile. [$5000]
Apostrophes Ediciones. Santa Rosa 276, casa E. Santiago, Chile. Tel: 56 633.1200. E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In February I sent out an article about the role of AFRICOM in Mali after the fall of Libya. I repeat it today so that a better all-around picture can be drawn of the current civil war in Mali and the overthrow of Toure.
See Mali: U.S. Africa Command's New War?
Rick Rozoff, OpEd News 16/2/12
The press wires are reporting on intensified fighting in Mali between the nation's military and ethnic Tuareg rebels of the Azawad National Liberation Movement in the north of the nation.
As the only news agencies with global sweep and the funds and infrastructure to maintain bureaus and correspondents throughout the world are those based in leading member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization -- the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, BBC News and Deutsche Presse-Agentur -- the coverage of ongoing developments in Mali, like those in most every other country, reflects a Western bias and a Western agenda.
Typical headlines on the topic, then, include the following:
'Arms and men out of Libya fortify Mali rebellion' Reuters
President: Tuareg fighters from Libya stoke violence in Mali' CNN
'Colonel Gaddafi armed Tuaregs pound Mali' The Scotsman
'France denounces killings in Mali rebel offensive' Agence France-Presse
'Mali, France Condemn Alleged Tuareg Rebel Atrocities' Voice of America
To reach Mali from Libya is at least a 500-mile journey through Algeria and/or Niger. As the rebels of course don't have an air force, don't have military transport aircraft, the above headlines and the propaganda they synopsize imply that Tuareg fighters marched the entire distance from Libya to their homeland in convoys containing heavy weapons through at least one other nation without being detected or deterred by local authorities. And that, moreover, to launch an offensive three months following the murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after his convoy was struck by French bombs and a U.S. Hellfire missile last October. But the implication that Algeria and Niger, especially the first, are complicit in the transit of Tuareg fighters and arms from Libya to Mali is ominous in terms of expanding Western accusations -- and actions -- in the region.
Armed rebellions are handled differently in Western-dominated world news reporting depending on how the rebels and the governments they oppose are viewed by leading NATO members.
In recent years the latter have provided military and logistical support to armed rebel formations -- in most instances engaged in cross-order attacks and with separatist and irredentist agendas -- in Kosovo, Macedonia, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Libya and now Syria, and on the intelligence and 'diplomatic' fronts in Russia, China, Pakistan, Sudan, Iran, Indonesia, Congo, Myanmar, Laos and Bolivia.
However, major NATO powers have adopted the opposite tack when it comes to Turkey, Morocco [with its 37-year occupation of the Western Sahara], Colombia, the Philippines, the Central African Republic, Chad and other nations that are their military clients or territory controlled by them, where the U.S. and its Western allies supply weapons, advisers, special forces and so-called peacekeeping forces.
The drumbeat of alarmist news concerning Mali is a signal that the West intends to open another military front on the African continent following last year's seven-month air, naval and special operations campaign against Libya and ongoing operations in Somalia and Central Africa with the recent deployment of American special forces to Uganda, Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. In Ivory Coast, Mali's neighbor to the south, last February the French military with compliant United Nations troops -- 'peacekeepers' -- fired rockets into the presidential residence and forcibly abducted standing president Laurent Gbagbo.
U.S. Africa Command [AFRICOM] first became operational as the warfighting force it was intended to be from the beginning in running the first two weeks of the war against Libya last March with Operation Odyssey Dawn before turning the campaign over to NATO for seven more months of relentless bombing and missile strikes.
Mali may be the second military operation conducted by AFRICOM.
The landlocked country is the spoke of the wheel of former French West Africa, bordered by every other member except Benin: Burkina Faso, Guinea [Conakry], Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. It also shares a border with Algeria, another former French possession, on its north.
Mali is Africa's third largest producer of gold after South Africa and Ghana. It possesses sizeable uranium deposits run by French concessions in the north of the country, the scene of the current fighting. Tuareg demands include granting some control over the uranium mines and the revenue they generate. Major explorations for oil and natural gas, also in the north, have been conducted in recent years as well.
The nation is also a key pivot for the U.S.'s Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Partnership established in 2005 [initially as the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative], which grew out of the Pan Sahel Initiative of 2003-2004.
In May of 2005 U.S. Special Operations Command Europe inaugurated theÂ Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative by dispatching 1,000 special forces troops to Northwest Africa for Operation Flintlock to train the armed forces of Mali, Algeria, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Tunisia, the seven original African members of the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative, which in its current format also includes Burkina Faso, Morocco and Nigeria. Libya will soon be brought into that format as it will the NATO Mediterranean Dialogue military partnership.
The American special forces led the first of what have now become annual Operation Flintlock counterinsurgency exercises with the above nations of the Sahel and Magreb. The following year NATO conducted the large-scale Steadfast Jaguar war games in the West African island nation of Cape Verde to launch the NATO Response Force, after which the African Standby Force has been modeled.
Flintlock 07 and 08 were held in Mali. Flintlock 10 was held in several African nations, including Mali.
On February 7 of this year the U.S. and Mali began the Atlas Accord 12 joint air delivery exercise in the African nation, but Flintlock 12, scheduled for later in the month, was postponed because of the fighting in the north. Sixteen nations were to have participated, including several of the U.S.'s major NATO allies.
Last year's Flintlock included military units from the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Nigeria and Senegal.
When AFRICOM became an independent Unified Combatant Command on October 1, 2008, the first new overseas U.S. regional military command established in the post-Cold War era, AFRICOM and Special Operations Command Africa's Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara took control of the Flintlock exercises from U.S. European Command and U.S. Special Operations Command Europe.
In 2010 AFRICOM announced that Special Operations Command Africa 'will gain control over Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara [JSOTF-TS] and Special Operations Command and Control Element--Horn of Africa [SOCCE-HOA].'
Last year the AFRICOM website wrote:
'Conducted by Special Operations Command Africa, Flintlock is a joint multinational exercise to improve information sharing at the operational and tactical levels across the Saharan region while fostering increased collaboration and coordination. It's focused on military interoperability and capacity-building for U.S., North American and European Partner Nations, and select units in Northern and Western Africa.'
Although the stated purposed of the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Partnership and its Flintlock multinational exercises is to train the militaries of nations in the Sahel and Magreb to combat Islamist extremist groups in the region, in fact the U.S. and its allies waged war against the government of Libya last year in support of similar elements, and the practical application of Pentagon military training and deployment in Northwest Africa has been to fight Tuareg militias rather than outfits like al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb or Nigeria's Boko Haram.
The U.S. and its NATO allies have also conducted and supported other military exercises in the area for similar purposes. In 2008 the Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS], the regional economic group from which the U.S.- and NATO-backed West African Standby Force was formed, held a military exercise named Jigui 2008 in Mali, which was 'supported by the host governments as well as France, Denmark, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the European Union,' as the Ghana News Agency reported at the time.
AFRICOM also runs annual Africa Endeavor multinational communications interoperability exercises primarily in West Africa. Last year's planning conference was held in the Malian capital of Bamako and, according to U.S. Army Africa, 'brought together more than 180 participants from 41 African, European and North American nations, as well as observers from Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS], Economic Community of Central African States [ECCAS], the Eastern African Standby Force and NATO to plan interoperability testing of communications and information systems of participating nations.' The main exercise was also held in Mali.
The U.S. military has been ensconced in the nation since at least 2005 and Voice of America revealed in that year that the Pentagon had 'established a temporary operations center on a Malian air force base near Bamako. The facility is to provide logistical support and emergency services for U.S. troops training with local forces in five countries in the region.'
The following year U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Command Europe chief Marine General James Jones, subsequently the Obama administration's first national security advisor, 'made the disclosure [that] the Pentagon was seeking to acquire access to'bases in Senegal, Ghana, Mali and Kenya and other African countries,' according to a story published on Ghana Web.
In 2007 a soldier with the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group based in Stuttgart, Germany, where AFRICOM headquarters are based, died in Kidal, Mali, where fighting is currently occurring. His death was attributed to a 'non-combat related incident.' The next year a soldier with the Canadian Forces Military Training Assistance Programme also lost his life in Mali.
Last year the Canadian Special Operations Regiment deployed troops to the northern Mali conflict zone for what was described 'an ongoing mission.' Canadian Special Operations Regiment forces also participated in the Flintlock 11 exercise in Senegal.
In September of 2007 an American C-130 Hercules military transport plane was hit by rifle fire while dropping supplies to Malian troops under siege by Tuareg forces.
According to Stars and Stripes:
'The plane and its crew, which belong to the 67th Special Operations Squadron, were in Mali as part of a previously scheduled exercise called Flintlock 2007'Malian troops had become surrounded at their base in the Tin-Zaouatene region near the Algerian border by armed fighters and couldn't get supplies'[T]he Mali government asked the U.S. forces to perform the airdrops''
In 2009 the U.S. announced it was providing the government of Mali with over $5 million in new vehicles and other equipment.
Later in the year the website of U.S. Air Forces in Europe reported:
'The first C-130J Super Hercules mission in support of U.S. Air Forces Africa, or 17th Air Force, opened up doors to a future partnership of support between the 86th Airlift Wing and upcoming missions into Africa.
'The mission's aircraft commander, Maj. Robert May of the 37th Airlift Squadron, and his crew were tasked to fly into Mali Dec. 19 to bring home 17 troops who were assisting with training Malian forces.'
The U.S. has been involved in the war in Mali for almost twelve years. Recent atrocity stories in the Western press will fuel demands for a 'Responsibility to Protect' intervention after the fashion of those in Ivory Coast and Libya a year ago and will provide the pretext for American and NATO military involvement in the country.
AFRICOM may be planning its next war.
In fact it is an election ploy for Sarkozy.
After being re-elected, he will 'deal with Mali'.
Coup in Mali Possible Consequence of Libyan War
Mali's Tuareg rebels caused a split between the military and government after returning home with arms from Libya
by John Glaser, March 22, 2012
Rebel troops have toppled the democratically elected government in Mali after Tuareg rebels in the north returned home from fighting as mercenaries for ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi.
Late Thursday, Tuareg combatants fought a weakened government as the rebel troops in the capital sought to complete their coup by arresting the president.
Mali’s Tuaregs have long clashed with the southern government and had been fighting an ongoing insurgency for years. Gadhafi had hired and armed many of the fighters to defend him against the NATO-backed rebellion in Libya, and they returned to Mali at the Libyan war’s end to form the strongest Tuareg-led rebel group yet – the Azawad National Liberation Movement [MNLA].
Mali’s army had grown upset with President Amadou Toumani Toure for not arming them sufficiently enough to quell the Tuareg fighters and staged a mutiny on Wednesday which turned into a coup on Thursday. The coup’s leadership has imposed a national curfew and announced the suspension of the constitution at least until the Tuareg rebellion can be subdued.
A UN report released in February assessing “the Libyan crisis” claimed that the impact of the NATO-backed rebel victory over Gadhafi “reverberated across the world” as “such neighboring countries as…Mali,” among many others, “bore the brunt of the challenges that emerged as a result of the crisis.”
“The Governments of these countries, especially those in the Sahel region, had to contend with the influx of hundreds of thousands of traumatized and impoverished returnees as well as the inflow of unspecified and unquantifiable numbers of arms and ammunition from the Libyan arsenal,” the report said.
“The Libyan crisis didn’t cause this coup but certainly revealed the malaise felt within the army,” the Malian newspaper columnist Adam Thiam told the BBC News. ”President Amadou Toumani Toure hasn’t been active in tackling drug trafficking and al-Qaeda fighters, and the emergence of new rebel movements only added to the soldiers’ frustration.”
Apart from the extremely troubling aftereffects of the U.S.-led regime change inside Libya, NATO can now count among the consequences of its intervention a military coup in a neighboring democratic country.
Is Mali's coup doomed?
By Martin Vogl BBC News, Bamako
The Malian rebels are moving forward rapidly
Continue reading the main story
The Tuareg rebels in the north of Mali had warned that they were going to take advantage of instability caused by a coup d'etat in the capital, Bamako, to move forward rapidly.
And that is just what they have now done.
On Friday, they attacked the town of Kidal. It is the first regional capital they have taken control of and a much bigger town than all the other localities the rebels have held since their attacks began in mid-January. The forces which had been fighting with the Malian army in Kidal either deserted or retreated.
On Saturday, the advance continued, and the town of Gao, another regional capital, also fell. Gao is an even bigger town than Kidal and it is where the headquarters of the Malian army for all its operations in the north are based.
The irony is that the reason for the coup d'etat was that many of the rank and file in the Malian army felt that the war in the north was being badly handled by ousted president Amadou Toumani Toure.
The army was being humiliated by Tuareg forces time and again. The army complained that the government was not equipping them well enough, not sending reinforcements when needed and keeping the population in the dark about the deaths of government troops.
So a week and a half ago, a spontaneous mutiny in a military camp near Bamako evolved into a full-blown coup. Soldiers took over the presidential palace and the state broadcaster.
Ecowas wants coup leader Capt Amadou Sanogo to step down
Rebel forces are also surrounding the town of Timbuktu, the last town in the area that they call the Azawad, which some Tuaregs would like to see as the territory of their independent state.
Other Tuareg fighters, however, are not interested in independence from Bamako. Instead they say they are fighting so that Sharia law can be imposed in Mali. The leader of this faction is said to have close ties with an al-Qaeda-linked group, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM].
AQIM has been active in northern Mali for some years. They have bases from where they have been carrying out kidnappings and attacks across the region. The link between a Tuareg faction and AQIM is worrying many.
Now that the military are in charge in Bamako, however, not only are they having to deal with the critical situation in the north, but also with the fact that the heads of state of Mali's neighbours have decided to make an example of the current situation to try and make sure that a military coup never happens to them.
The regional grouping Ecowas [Economic Community of West African States] says sanctions will be imposed on Mali from Monday if Captain Amadou Sanogo, the coup leader, does not step down. The sanctions are similar to those which put so much pressure on Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast when he refused to hand over power last year.
Ecowas members say they will block Mali's access to cash from the West African central bank and will also close all their land borders with Mali.
Mali imports all its petroleum products. If sanctions were imposed, transportation would grind to a halt. Electricity and running water would start running out without fuel to power turbines.
Capt Sanogo does not really seem to have understood the Ecowas message and instead of discussing how he can hand power back to a civilian government, he has been calling on the regional heads of state to help him sort out the rebellion in the north.
Capt Sanogo is also asking Ecowas to take more time to understand the situation in Mali and the reasons for his coup.
Although he has a point that the man he deposed was looking like he did not have a solution to the crisis in the north, and although Capt Sanogo does have some real support among the population, his request is likely to fall on deaf ears.
Ecowas wants Capt Sanogo gone and he cannot hold out forever if all his neighbours are against him. If he does not step aside in the next couple of days, he will probably be gone in the next couple of weeks.
The problem that will remain once the junta is gone, however, is Mali's north.
Any new regime in Bamako is going to have to deal with a zone where all sorts of interests - dreams of independence by some Tuaregs, calls for the imposition of Sharia by others and a thriving drug-smuggling trade - collide and where the Malian state has very little presence.
Any government in Bamako that wants to regain control of the north is going to face a task that is going to take months, if not years.