WRECK AND THE OFFENSE
"GIVE MALI BACK TO MALIANS"
Aminata D. Traore'
Aminata D. Traore'
"Every imperialist society
sees in the Other the negation of the ideal Self it is
trying to achieve. It seeks to tame him by drawing him
in the field of application of his own ideals and
placing him at a lower level"
WHAT HAVE WE BECOME IN MALI?
" Who should we hand the keys back to? " is the question posed by Pierre Lelluouche, MP of the UMP at the French Assemblée Nationale on the subject of Mali. It was April 22 2013 during the parliamentary debate that preceded the vote on the extension of Operation Serval. Hervé Morin, former UMP Minister of Defense replied: "There is no one to hand things over to". Just like a letter at the post office, the requested extension was granted unanimously. Presidential election in Mali were instead set for July 2013. Officially France was not only unanimous, but also intransigent.
I shall show a "firm resolve", anticipated French President François Hollande. His words are in our heads and they hurt. The Minister of Defense, Jean Yves Le Drian, thinks "things should be carried out with force" (RFI). Those Malians that greeted President Hollande as a liberator thought Operation Serval served the purpose of quickly ridding Mali of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) and of their affiliates from Ansar Dine and MUJAO and that life would have gone back to normal. The military intervention has definitely reduced the jihadists' strength, they have been killed in the hundreds and their weapons and fuel stock destroyed. But the cities of Gao and Timbuktu are free without truly being rid of groups the official rhetoric labels as "residual", but who nonetheless continue to carry out attacks. Even more worrying, Kidal is still in the hands of the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) that has banned the national army from entering the city.
In the fear of getting bogged down, France has reduced the number of its troops on the ground, but has not withdrawn. Its cooperation with the Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS) to mobilize troops for the International Mission in Support of Mali (MISMA) has not attained satisfactory results. The UN Integrated Multidimensional Mission (MINUSMA) will see the light in July 2013.
France will not get get stuck. But in what kind of adventure did it draw our country in with us being ready for it? What Mali will we leave for future generations? Will it be a country where the departure of the last French soldier will be the defining moment of decolonization while today we loose what sovereignty is left?
Self-portrayed liberator, President Hollande promised during his trip to Bamako a new independence "not from colonialism, but from terrorism". As if it is up to France to save us from a peril they know very well, as their recent intervention in Libya has proven.
Did Mankind in Mali sufficiently join history? Is he master of his own destiny to the point that he is capable of exerting his right to say "no" to the choices and decisions that directly affect him?
I hereby criticize militarization as a response to the failure of the neoliberal model in my country. Banned from sojourning in the Schengen area, I look up with admiration and respect to the rallies and determination of people across Europe in their fight against that very same system that is silently destroying Africa.
THE COLLAPSE OF THE "WINNING" MALIAN CAPITALISM
Mali does not suffer from a humanitarian and security crisis in the north of the country because of the rebellion and of radical Islam and from a political and institutional crisis due to the coup d'etat of March 22 2012. Such a reductive approach is the first true obstacle to peace and national reconstruction. What we have witnessed is the failure of an apparently successful Malian capitalism that generated extremely high human and social costs.
Structural adjustment, unemployment, poverty and extreme poverty are the prize we gained starting from the 1980s. France and the other European countries are only about 30 years late on Mali and its African companions that have been for decades the subject of drastic measures from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
According to UNCTAD (2001 Report), Africa is the continent where during the 80s and 90s Structural Adjustment Programs have been more massively, with greater drive and more destructively applied. And during those decades international institutions did not worry about correcting the macro-economic imbalance and market distortions, but they rather focused on having States write down strategies for the reduction of poverty (DSRP).
Margaret Thatcher's credo "There is no alternative" (TINA) marches in the sun under our skies. Translated on the economic level it means "liberalize your economies at all costs", on the political "democratize according to our rules and criteria" and, in the case of Mali, "vote in July 2013". To this risky agenda we also add the military level stating "secure your country according to our methods and to our best interest".
Sacrificed on the altar of so called free and competitive trade ? but totally unfair when it comes down to the production of cotton and gold as in our case ? and of formal democracy, Mali will soon also join the fight against terrorism.
The rebellion by the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA), the coup d'état and the recruitment in the ranks of AQMI, Ansar Dine and MUJAO of dozens of unemployed and starving youth from both the north and south of the country are part of an explosive national picture. This was marked at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 by rallies against price-hikes, unemployment, job insecurity, a constitutional referendum, the issue of land ownership, corruption and impunity.
Apart from a small minority of wealthy newcomers, the people of Mali are the great losers from the opening with forceps of our national economy. They are amused by the mendacious and soporific speeches on the example set by our democracy and on the economic results considered among the best in the ECOWAS. Any dissent is hushed up.
DENIAL OF DEMOCRACY
Democratic within its borders, as the recent discussion in Parliament and in the streets on the issue of weddings for all, but intractable when it come down to its relationship with Mali. France sees nothing wrong with its forceful return on the scene. It plays down its agenda or pretends not to have one. You should only sing and dance to its glory if you wish to remain in her good graces, be able to exist politically and stay free to roam around Europe. Refusing to do so would imply not being with France, hence against it. It is like a leap in the past to the aftermath of 911 when U.S. President George W. Bush declared: "You're either with us or with the terrorists". In my case, it is the leftist ideals on the ravage caused by neoliberal globalization in Africa that have suddenly become subversive. Strangely enough the very same ideas had earned me an invitation to the French Parti Socialiste university in La Rochelle in 2010.
To obfuscate the meaning of my words and of my fight I have been labelled as in favor of the coup first and anti-ECOWAS later. Today I am stuck in my home. I owe to Karamoko Bamba of the N'KO movement for the following African thought according to which "he who has the gun does not use it to take power. He who holds power uses it in the interest of the people and under their control".
Why should I tbe entirely responsible for the wreck of the State in the hands of a wretched army afflicted, as the rest of the republican institutions, by corruption, nepotism and impunity?
We cannot blame the military for not having been capable of defending a country whose political and economic elite not only accepted opening up our markets at the worst possible conditions, but profited from it to enrich themselves. It is first and foremost their wreck for having claimed an economic model riming with the withdrawal and killing of the State, with the ruin of the peasants, the impoverishment of troops and endemic unemployment. If there were no means to halt the disaster of the system in the 80s, our leaders cannot ignore the impasse into which the system has dragged Greece, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus and... France, one of their role models.
FROM OSTRACISM TO A CRIMINAL
It was on April 12 2012, while preparing to travel to Berlin on invitation from the German leftist party Die Linke and to Paris to meet the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA), that I became aware that I had become a persona non grata in Europe on request from France. I shared the same fate as Oumar Mariko, Secretary General of the SADI (Solidarité Africaine pour la Démocratie et l?Indépendance) party. The German embassy granted me a Visa that allowed me to go to Berlin via Istanbul (Turkey), instead of by Amsterdam (The Netherlands) as initially planned. My stop in Paris was simply cancelled.
I got to know about my persona non grata status thanks to the following message sent to me by the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation:
« The German embassy in Bamako has informed us this morning that the conditio sine qua non to obtain a Visa for Germany is not to travel via a Schengen area country. This is why we have bought you a new ticket (flight via Istanbul/Turkey) that you will find attached. We are sorry you won't be able to stay for three days in Paris. But the German embassy has informed us that France has forbidden you from having a Visa for all the Schengen zone countries. We'll come to pick you up at the airport on Monday ».
The Association « Afrique Avenir », co-organizer of one of the Berlin conferences, has protested and so have other participants. I thank each and everyone for their solidarity and would like to underline the meaning of my struggle, for all those who believe France does not have the right to mine my freedom of movement on grounds of my disagreement with Paris whose policies only follow their interests.
How can I be accused of something the authors of the information report of the French Senate state so clearly: "France cannot loose interest in Africa, that has become, after decades, of strategic importance and in the future will be more populated than India and China (in 2050 Africa will host 1.8 billion people as opposed to 250 million in 1950), where the majority of scarce raw materials are held and that is undergoing an unprecedented, even though unequal, economic growth that is not the result of the price hike of raw materials, but of an emerging veritable middle class".
If the data on demographic and economic development is founded, the so called "economic growth" mentioned in the report is uncertain, source of conflicts because uneven, profiting only foreign corporations and part of the political and economic elite.
The stakes of the military intervention are: economic (uranium, thus nuclear and energetic independence), of security (the menace of terrorist attacks against corporate interests, in particular French company AREVA, hostage crisis, organized crime, i.e. drug traffic and arms trade), geopolitical (Chinese competition) and migratory.
What peace, what reconciliation and what reconstruction can we hope to achieve when the stakes are so accurately concealed to the people?
THE EXPLOITATION OF WOMEN
The ban on my access to the Schengen area does not strike me as a woman, but shows that those who refuse to be exploited in the defense of mainstream ideas can be fought. I have been experiencing this on a national level for a long time. But I did not expect to be ostracized by a country cradle of human rights and in the precise moment my country is at war. This is a violation of UN Resolution 1325 on the participation of women in decision-making processes, in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in reconstruction.
Should I remind that on March 8 2013, World Women's Day, this is how French President François Hollande replied to his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, on why French troops are in Mali: "Because there were women victim of oppression and savagery! Women who were forced to wear a veil! Women who dared not venture outside their homes. Women that were beaten!".
With regard to the veil, I am one of those Malians and Sahelians who managed to escape from illiteracy and I try to eradicate the more pernicious economic ignorance that keeps Africans in the dark on the neoliberal policies affecting their lives and that have turned them into electoral herds. Would President Hollande be so intractable on the date of Mali's presidential elections if voters and the political debate were centered on economic, monetary, political and military sovereignty?
With respect to women that "dared not venture outside their homes", until now I freely left my country and with as much freedom travelled in Europe and in the world. Whatever the reason behind my present situation, this should not discourage other Malian and African women with the will to understand our globalized word from fighting against it and becoming active and aware citizens".
DEVELOPMENT AID OR MILITARIZATION
The reply to armed jihadism should be, or so apparently it seems, an armed solution. This paves the way to the purchase of weapons, instead of analyzing and curing religious radicalism that flourishes where an adjusted and privatized State is lacking or simply absent.
To play donkey to obtain hay is the sort of prevailing behavior in a context of widespread poverty, both at a State level and in some Non-governmental organizations. War -the worst of all evils- is also the occasion to pump some fresh money into our ailing economy.
Disappointed by Europe's hesitations and slowness, whose show of solidarity was limited to training the Malian army and to some bilateral support, France has invited her European partners to share the financial burden of defending its strategic interests in West Africa. Other donors will also join in.
On May 15 2013 in Brussels donors will examine an urgency and priority actions plan (for 2013 and 2014). Will the resources made available (or pledged) benefit the people of Mali or will they irrigate those same economic circuits along the same lines that have aggravated poverty and inequality?
In light of a restart of cooperation, the French minister charged with development has announced 240 million euros will be allocated to agriculture, basic services like water and electricity in the north of Mali and to the return of IDPs.
It is worth remembering that Tripoli, the Libyan capital, hosted on November 29 and 30 2010 the Third Africa-EU Summit and that the Libyan guide Muammar Geddafi welcomed in grand style leaders of 80 African and European countries.
Job creation, investments and economic growth, peace, stability, migrations and climate change were all on the Summit's agenda. Participants agreed on a "plan of action" for an Africa-EU partnership from 2011 to 2013.
In that occasion, the EU reaffirmed its commitment to dedicate the 0.7% of its GDP to public development aid by 2015 and to earmark from 2011 to 2013 50 billion euros to the objectives identified in the partnership. We are now in 2013 and still very far from the Millennium Development Goals and no roads or means are in sight to reach them by 2020. Like a worm in the fruit.
Peace, reconciliation and reconstruction in Mali have no chance for success if they will rely on political agreements based on the hoarding of "external aid".
The State, or whatever is left of it since the rebels fight and negotiate along the same paradigm that has worsened unemployment, poverty and tensions. Disagreements are solved over investments in infrastructures, the ideal place for rapid enrichment and corruption. The list of badly constructed or unfinished public works is long. It partly explains the discontent of the people in the north of Mali that continue to suffer while the homes of certain designated individuals grow left and right through embezzlements and money from the drug trade.
LET US DARE A NEW ECONOMY
Nothing will ever be the same. What was difficult before, will become even harder when militarization will start absorbing resources we desperately need for agriculture, water, health, homes, environment and jobs.
Operation Serval, the International Mission in Support of Mali (MISMA), the UN Integrated Stabilization Multidimensional Mission, the defense of our country and security, are not only a military issue, but first and foremost an intellectual, moral and political challenge.
I share candidate François Hollande's remarks when he stated that "the time has come to choose another path. It is time to choose another politic". This time has definitely come both for France and its former African colonies. The time for economic, social, political, civil and environmental transitions that bear nothing in common with the route traced by the "international community". They plea for a change of paradigm.
Those African leaders that have bowed to the lies on the unavoidability of war to put an end to the jihadist danger should not deceive themselves: the contagion they fear has little to do with terrorists moving around, but rather with the economic, social and political similarities induced by the neoliberal model.
If terrorist chiefs come from abroad, the majority of their fighters are young, unemployed, devoid of interlocutors and of any hope in the future Malians. Even drug traffickers can hire couriers or dealers from the ranks of the same disenchanted youth.
The material and moral misery of young graduates, peasants, herders and of other vulnerable groups is the veritable source of both unrest and rebellions. The fight, without bloodshed, against terrorism and organized crime in Mali and West Africa requires an honest analysis and a thorough evaluation of the past three decades of savage liberalism that have destroyed economic and social fabric, as well as the ecosystem. Unless the African States and their financial and technical partners are capable of revising the neoliberal model, nothing will stop hundreds of thousands of young men and women from Mali, Niger, Chad, Senegal, Mauritania and elsewhere that swell the ranks of the unemployed and Visa applicants from joining the terrorists.
THE NECESSARY CONCURRENCE OF STRUGGLES
We ask for an outburst of solidarity to tackle the militarization, get back our dignity and safeguard our lives and ecosystem.
Everything would be fine if the 15 thousand soldiers were teachers, doctors, engineers and if the billion of euros that will be spent were allocated to those who need them the most. Our sons and daughters would need not to get killed acting as underpaid soldiers, drug traffickers or fanatics of God.
We all should, starting from ourselves, get to work on a primordial task such as the transformation of our deepest and weakened Self and of our dying country. The considerable advantage of a systemic approach is the de-tribalization of the conflict in favor of a political conscience reconciling all the damned of the global economy. Tuareg, Peul, Arab, Bamanan, Sonrhaï, Bellah, Sénoufos would stop quarreling with one another and fight together.
This alternative approach returns our "dignity" in a context where we tend to feel guilty and hand ourselves, hands and feet tied, over to the "international community", that is both party and judge of the issue.
We ask for the concurrence of all the struggles within our borders and among all those actors within our society devastated by the savagery of the capitalist system that do not want, do not give up and will not bow down. Together we need to explore the alternatives to war.
Liberalist States have privileged war and invested in weapons of destruction of lives, social ties and ecosystems. Let us innovate through the battle of ideas and let us call for a conference of the citizenry for another development of Mali capable of loosening the loop of capitalist globalization. We need to open a debate on the relationship between neoliberal policies and each and every aspect of the crisis: endemic unemployment of the youth, rebellions, mutinies, coup d'Etat, violence against women, religious radicalism.
This would be an unprecedented and intense work of information and citizen education in our national languages allowing Malians to talk amongst themselves about the future of their country.
Since all Men are born free and with equal rights, we claim our right to:
another economy, that will allows us to manage the wealth of our country and to freely choose the policies to enact to put an end to unemployment, poverty, migrations and war;
a truly democratic political system that is intelligible to all Malians, inflected and debated in the national idioms, founded on widely shared values of culture and society;
freedom of expression and of movement.
HAND US BACK THE KEYS TO OUR COUNTRY!
French officials that declare urbi et orbi that we don't have anymore "a State worthy of this name", nor "an army worthy of this name" surely also believe that we don't exist as a people anymore if they get to the point of asking themselves "who should we hand the keys back to" and ask for elections to be held in July 2013. Furthermore, they also ease down on the cancellation of national talks that should have allowed Malians to reclaim the reins of their country. And foremost they make themselves comfortable in the State of Emergency that has been installed, prolonged one time and then another in order to "secure" the transition.
I don't believe that the "war on terrorism" brought peace to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or that the Blue Helmets have been capable of protecting the population of the Democratic Republic of Congo or Haiti as was expected from them.
But I am convinced that in each and every Malian man and woman lies a soldier, a patriot that can participate in the defense of his interests and of those of Mali starting from a good consciousness of the true state of the global economy.
The reply to the intolerable question posed by Claude Lellouche is clear: Mali should be given back to Malians. Only we can take care of it because, as reminded by Bouna Boukary Dioura, we know, we the people of the Sahel, that even rocks can blossom through love and perseverance.
Rendez les clés du Mali au peuple malien !
Aminata D. Traoré, Bamako le 03 mai 2013
* Wolfgang Sachs et Gustavo Esteva : Des ruines du developpement. Les Editions Ecosociete' 1996.