French intervention in the armed conflict in Mali: Aid with strings or ‘the messiah’? - Chofor Che
African states remain fragile despite much praise of Africa having the emerging economies in the world. Having emerging economies in an atmosphere of conflict is bad for development. Many a time when African states are hit by conflict, western nations step in to intervene. There has been a lot of debate about foreign intervention in African conflicts. Is the west assisting because of interest or they care about peace, democracy, good governance and development in Africa?
An African state which has been recently plagued by conflict, and is benefiting from foreign intervention especially from France is Mali. Mali is a vast, landlocked state situated in the Sahara Desert and whose borders touch Algeria to the north and Ivory Coast to the south, linking North Africa with sub-Saharan Africa. Mali also borders Senegal, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Guinea. Mali’s north is currently under the rule of radical Islamists, whereas the weak central government is in the country’s south.
Conflict broke out in Mali and the state cried out for assistance especially from the West. Mali slid into dictatorship after gaining independence from France in 1960, but then a 1991 coup led to elections the next year. Mali’s then-president stepped down after the maximum two-term limit and Amadou Toumani Toure was peacefully elected in 2002.
Toure was just months away from the end of his term when mutinous soldiers overthrew him in a coup in March 2012. The coup leader nominally handed over power to a weak, interim civilian government but is widely believed to still be controlling the country. The turmoil has left Mali’s military in disarray, raising questions about how helpful Malian soldiers can be during the French-led intervention.
In as much as assistance from the West especially France is welcome in trying to curb the conflict in Mali, such intervention is not a sign of love for Africa. Of course such assistance comes with strings. According to Krista Larson of the Associated Press, the country’s third-largest export after cotton and livestock is gold. There is definitely some interest in the West benefiting from this resource.
The African Union has still proven to be a toothless bulldog with respect to this conflict. The African Union proved to be ineffective during the Libyan crises and allowed the West to dominate peace efforts. Libya remains in a critical situation despite foreign intervention to instil so called ‘democracy’. This same scenario will play out in Mali.
The continent of Africa needs to take a drastic stand via institutions and actors especially the African Union, in ensuring that leaders are accountable to the people and there is participatory development. One of the root causes of conflict is because the people are usually not given a chance to participate in government affairs via concrete measures like decentralisation and/or federalism. Such is the case of Mali. If Africa wants to conveniently harbour the acclaimed emerging economies in the world, then we need truly democratic states. Africa, especially francophone Africa cannot always rely on France especially to curb conflicts, because instead of curbing these conflicts, the West continues to encourage the existence of weak states in Africa.
Chofor Che is an integral associate of African liberty’s Voice of Liberty project. He is also a Doctoral candidate at the Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape, South Africa. He blogs at http://choforche.wordpress.com/