The March 19 announcement that Canada will send “peacekeepers” to the west African country of Mali is an ominous signal that under Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, Canada is increasing its role in dirty wars intended to make the world safe for imperialist exploitation.
The deepening crisis in Mali has its origins in a variety of factors, from the history of intervention by French imperialism, to the overthrow of Libya’s Col. Gaddafi, and the scramble for hydrocarbons and uranium wealth by western-based corporate interests.
The resource-rich Sahel desert area, which spans Africa from west to east below the Sahara, has been devastated by the 2011 NATO war in Libya and the resulting French imperialist intervention in Mali. Violence across the region has escalated since a 2012 coup in Mali ousted a central government which had opposed French pressures to establish military bases in the country. According to the UN, 5 million people have fled their homes and 24 million people need humanitarian assistance in the region.
France currently has 4,000 soldiers in Mali. Under “Operation Barkhane”, 1,000 French troops are to be stationed in Mali indefinitely, ready to make a “rapid and efficient intervention in the event of a crisis” in the words of former French president Francois Hollande. Since his election as President last May, Emmanuel Macron has pushed to intensify the imperialist war launched by Hollande in France’s former colonial empire.
The European Union is preparing to double its funding for the G5 Sahel force, set up by Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger to fight Islamist jihadist forces. The G5 operates in coordination with French troops and the MINUSMA, the 12,000-strong UN “peacekeeping” force, fighting Tuareg fighters objectively allied with islamist forces such as AQMI (Al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb) or Ançar Dine, groups that flourished as a result of the destruction of Libya. To date, 162 UN troops have been killed in Mali, many of them the victims of explosive devices, similar to the long war in Afghanistan.
The situation has resulted in growing tensions between Europe, the United States, and China, which is an increasingly influential economic power in Africa. Although Macron says that French troops are engaged in Mali to “fight terrorism as long as it takes,” it appears that this military presence is mainly intended to protect imperialist interests.
The G5 force will cost an estimated 423 million euros in its first year alone, and Macron has called for huge new military spending increases. The impoverished Sahel countries under French domination are expected to provide most of the cannon fodder in this “anti-terrorist” war, and France has been forced to seek financial help from the EU, and also from key imperialist allies such as Germany and the United States. But Washington has declined to finance the G5, and it now appears that Canada’s initial contribution of “non-combat” troops to this imperialist misadventure is Justin Trudeau’s way of fulfilling his pledge to send “peacekeepers” into African conflicts. The government is tentatively sending two transport helicopters and four attack helicopters, for medical evacuations. But Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance warns that this number could change. The financial and human costs of a growing military mission in Mali will inevitably rise, and Canadian troops will sooner or later be involved in combat operations causing civilian casualties. If the Libyan disaster is any indication, the outcome can only be more chaos and destruction.
The Communist Party of Canada condemns this mission, which has nothing to do with keeping the peace, but does embroil Canada in a complex regional conflict involving militias, terrorist groups, and a weak central government which controls only the south of Mali. We demand that no Canadian troops should be sent to defend French imperialist interests in Africa, and that the funds earmarked for this mission should instead be devoted to non-military humanitarian aid projects which can benefit the people of Mali and the rest of the Sahel.
Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada