Dimitris Rapidis

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the African Union approved a couple of days ago a political road map for Mali that foresees elections by April 2013 towards restoring stability after the coup d’état of last March. In addition, the Council of the African Union agrees to thaw Mali’s participation in the Union so that the country can be fully monitored in the months to come. Meanwhile, France is deploying drones in order to intervene and cease down Jihadist march in its ex-colony.

Since March, 22 Mali is faced with a fierce political crisis as a coup d’état against President Amadou Toumani Touré was launched. The military that came into power accelerated the fall of North Mali into the hands of Islamic militant groups and therefore led to the effective partitioning of the north and south part of the country. The African Union has approved a plan for the re-establishment of order in the north part, aligned with the effort to set up elections and bring the country back into political normality. The plan is going to be submitted for approval to the UN Security Council, but meanwhile the Union is ready to deploy a force of 3,000 soldiers in order to block the Islamist raid in the north part.

As an ex-colony of France, Mali is always considered as one of the most significant areas of geopolitical influence right in the center of Africa’s Horn resourceful region (i.e mines, gold, precious stones, oil). President Hollande’s decision to put surveillance drones to West Africa, along with the joint approval of the US military, is a move entailed in the battle against Islamic extremism, but also a move that reminds France’s pivotal role in the region. As for instance in the Maghreb region, and especially in Tunisia’s and Algeria’s “Arab Spring”, France is deploying power politics in order to increase its geopolitical leverage and remind that despite the Eurozone debt crisis, the country has never “abandoned” its hegemonic role over its ex-colonies in Africa.

For that purpose, the planned intervention is being carried out under the guise of fighting al-Qaeda in North and West Africa. The Tuareg tribal groups, along with the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), Ansar Dine, and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) are credited with leading the campaign for the seizure of several cities in the north of Mali earlier this year and the declaration of a separate state of Azawad. These groups, along with al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb, are the ones that France is planned to combat and cease down.

From a wider perspective, France is aimed at re-gaining political control over Mali and shift its military troops from US-interest regions (i.e. Afghanistan, Iraq) to regions with clearly targeted French geopolitical interests and direct influence. Although France is not seemingly aimed at deploying troops, it is planned to back African Union’s deploying forces and exert control over the future political conditions in the country.

Needless to mention that, above and beside any direct or indirect military intervention that would block Jihadist march over West Africa, Hollande’s move is possibly driven by his need to temporarily blur any concenrs about domestic and European politics by drawing attention to the war against al-Qaeda. His popularity is falling down since he has been elected, and especially now that he is managing to crash millionaires through austere fiscal policy, he is endeavoring to re-gain its lost field of support. Furthermore, he is possibly maneuvering to re-balance France’s role in the EU, by showing robustness and effectiveness in foreign politics, so that he can hit back any claims arguing about his country’s compliance with whatever Berlin and Chancellor Merkel are designing in the field of monetary and fiscal policy in Eurozone.

Power politics have always been an antidote against weak and unconvincing domestic politics. But after all, is there any French that is really concerned and carrying about the political future of Mali?

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