Mali: the scramble for Africa by Paddy McGuffin

15 January 2013 — Morning Star Online

Western powers are once again using anti-Islamist rhetoric to justify colonial interventions, anti-war campaigners Stop the War Coalition claimed today. 

The comments came as Britain pledged to continue its “limited” support for French military action against Islamic militants in Mali, which has already seen numerous civilian casualties due to the indiscriminate nature of the bombing.

While France has taken the lead in the military intervention in Mali, Britain has deployed two C-17 transport planes in support of the operation, although one of the two aircraft has reportedly been grounded due to a technical fault.

But campaigners have expressed concern that Britain‘s role could escalate as in previous conflicts such as Afghanistan, Iraq and most recently Libya.

A spokeswoman for the Stop the War Coalition said that France‘s intervention in Mali was “part of a growing scramble for Africa.”

She said: “The civil war in Mali is a direct consequence of the disastrous intervention in Libya and shows that the war on terror is a source of instability in Africa as in Central Asia and the Middle East.

France occupied Mali as a colony until 1960.

“It was at the centre of its historic colonial empire and is now at the heart of its effort to control a mineral-rich area including Senegal, Burkino Faso, the Ivory Coast – all former colonies in which the French once again have troops.”

Addressing the Commons on Monday night, Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds set out Britain‘s approach and its support for the French military deployment to assist the government of Mali.

“The situation in Mali is a serious concern for the UK.

“It would not be in our interests to allow a terrorist having to develop in northern Mali.

“As a responsible member of the security council, we must support the region in limiting the danger of instability in that part of Africa, threatening UK interests.” 

However, Stop the War Coalition slammed the decision.

The spokeswoman said: “That Britain was the first to support the French adventure, with no democratic discussion or debate, only shows how keen the government is to participate in a new rush for influence on the African continent.

“It is extraordinary that the government has not learned from the terrible legacy of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

“The experience of the last decade and more has been that foreign wars bring nothing but suffering, destruction and instability.”

Meanwhile Amnesty International called on all parties to the armed conflict to ensure civilians are protected citing human rights abuses on both sides.

Amnesty International Africa deputy director Paule Rigaud said: “There are real concerns that the fighting might lead to indiscriminate or other unlawful attacks in areas where members of armed Islamist groups and civilians are intermingled.

“Forces involved in armed attacks should avoid indiscriminate shelling at all costs and do their utmost to prevent civilian casualties.”

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