The end of Operation Barkhane, an indication of France’s breathlessness in its African backyard.

2021 will have been a great vintage in terms of coups d’état in Africa: Niger in March, in Chad in April, in Mali in May and in Guinea in September.
But Mali’s coup d’état will have caused a shock wave with still incalculable consequences in that it has placed Mali in front of a test of truth whose stake is nothing less than the sustainability of the country. ‘State with the organization of presidential elections, on February 27, 2022, with a view to restoring the normal constitutional order, interrupted by a duplicate coup, in 2020 and 2021, unique fact in the annals of pronunciamientos, and the France’s subsequent decision to end Operation Barkhane.

((February 27, 2022 is not a deadline but a random deadline in that the elections could be postponed by several weeks or even a few months, according to the indications provided by the government in Bamako.))

Ten years after the Roman triumph reserved for François Hollande, in 2011, in Mali, after the launch of Operation Serval, the decision to withdraw French as well as the closure of the three French bases in northern Mali, undoubtedly marks beyond justifications of circumstance, the breathlessness of France in its African precinct. A country also weakened by public debt, which in March 2021 reached the record level of 118.2% of gross domestic product (GDP), or 2,739.2 billion euros, according to INSEE; last but not least, its poor diplomatic performance in Syria and Libya and the strategic snub inflicted on it by the United States, by excluding it from the UKUS, the exclusively Anglo-Saxon alliance in the Pacific.

In a century, the erosion of the West vis-à-vis Asia is evident, as evidenced by the American rout in Afghanistan, 46 years after the loss of Vietnam. Out of the seven world economic powers, according to the 2018 IMF ranking, there are now three Asian countries: China (1st), Japan (3rd) and India (6th), including two countries (China India) under Western domination in the beginning of the XXth century, and the 3rd, Japan, vitrified by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 1045) and great defeated of the II World War (1939-1945). China and Japan now surpass France and the United Kingdom, the two European countries which were at the head of the two great colonial empires at the beginning of the 20th century.

For the blind, the audio version of this text, on this link -de-larmee-francaise-du-mali /

With Serval then Barkhane, France played its rank of power and Mali its existence in this expedition from Mali, the first direct French military engagement, alone, in a theater of operations since the end of the Algerian War in 1962. .

The punitive Mali expedition of January 2013 presented itself in a strategic configuration significantly different from the previous sequences (Suez, Bizerte, Kolwezi).
In Mali, faced with furtive hordes, France was under American technological infusion, under European and African material and human transfusion (2,000 Chadians, 500 Nigeriens), under Arab financial injection through massive Saudi purchases of French weapons , which made the Kingdom of Wahhabite, the first customer of the French armament.

Coming three months before the withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan, France’s decision to put an end to Barkhane could be interpreted in the Third World as a renunciation, or even as a reflux of Western countries in the face of their adversaries in the war. asymmetric against terrorism. And in the particular case of France, superimposed on the diplomatic-military snub of its exclusion from the Australian submarine market, making the French atomic weapon appear as the very costly cache-misery of an inability to ensure its own safety. defense, as well as the inadequacy of nuclear power in asymmetric conflicts.

For the record, Colonel Assimi Goïta draws part of his political legitimacy from the support of the June 5 Movement (M5, the main Malian opposition movement) which emerged in June 2020 to demand the dismissal of the last elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta ( IBK).

This bad way made by France to one of the oldest allies aims, in an underlying way, to neutralize any possibility of the Malian jihadists to set up “as a great voter” of the French presidential consultation of 2022 in that a hostage-taking or a large-scale terrorist attack against French targets could stir up criticism of government ineptitude and tip the French electorate in favor of supporters of an ultra-security policy in order to endanger the re-election of President Emmanuel Macron.

But this “brutal surprise” of France in Mali could, paradoxically, promote a rapprochement between Mali and Russia, already present in the CAR (Central African Republic). As a reminder, Bamako signed a defense agreement with Russia in 2019 and Mali was, in the post-independence decade, one of the pillars of non-alignment in French West Africa (AOF) and, under the presidency of Modibo Keita, a weighty ally. from Moscow to Africa.

In five years (2014-2019), Russia has concluded 19 military and security cooperation agreements with five African countries, mainly from French West Africa: Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mali, CAR and Mauritania …… Military expertise provided in in return for advantages in African deposits, in order to circumvent the western blockade of Russia due to the annexation of Crimea.

Mali has also considered seeking the help of the private Russian military company Wagner to fight the terrorism that plagues the country, creating leverage in France’s shields against this inadmissible intrusion into its private preserve.

Back to this country, the most important Muslim country in West Africa, collateral victim of the destabilization of Libya due to the Western intervention against the Jamahiriya, a country without external debt endowed with significant natural resources. A team led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in tandem with Qatar.

On the hideous role of France in Libya, see this link

Mali’s irresponsibility

Mali seems to have established irresponsibility as a mode of government, and impunity as a cardinal principle of Malian political life since the coup d’état by Colonel Moussa Traoré, in 1968, against President Modibo Keita, father of independence. of Mali, judging by the exorbitant treatment reserved for the many factions and bankrupts who have crisscrossed the country since its independence 60 years ago.

In addition to causing a regression of democracy in Mali, beyond in Africa, such behavior has lastingly damaged the image of Mali in the world and undermined its credibility, at the same time as that of France, the tutelary power in the area.

Let us judge. Three coups d’état in 60 years, i.e. a putsch every 20 years, without the slightest consequence for the factions, Moussa Traoré, Amadou Haya Sanogo, and Assimi Goita in 2020, not to mention the tragic destabilization of northern Mali by Ansar Eddine, so dramatic for the survival of the country.

A coup d’état in the coup d’état.

Better: The sophistication has reached such a degree among the Malian putschists that Mali was, in May 2021, the theater of a coup d’état in the coup d’état. Nine months after disembarking President IBK, the putschist colonels, under the leadership of their leader, the “serial putschist” Colonel Assimi Goita, arrested the main civilian leaders, in particular the transitional Prime Minister, Moctar Ouane. Two emblematic figures of the junta had been removed from two key ministries when the new government was announced on Monday, May 24: defense and security, positions they had occupied since the coup d’état. They were replaced there by more neutral generals who were not on the front lines.

This reshuffle was seen as a snub by the putschists who intended to remain in command for three years and who, with bad grace, had already committed to return to power within 18 months. On August 18, 2020, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keîta, weakened by the protest led for months by the Movement of June 5 – Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5 / RFP), a collective of opponents, religious and members of the civil society, ceded power to a junta.

Symbol of the deterioration of the state, the third coup d’état in ten years in Mali, which put Colonel Goïta in power, weakened the French anti-terrorist operation “Barkhane”.

The end of Operation Barkhane

Mali is a crucial country for the stability of the Sahel, but its forces are sorely lacking in resources. Maintaining international partnerships is therefore an issue of great importance.

Scared by the new coup, France first announced the suspension of its joint operations with the Malian army, after eight years of close cooperation against the jihadists, before putting an outright end to the operation. Barkhane.

The situation in the Barkhane action zone remains worrying, however. In Mali, eleven members of a Tuareg community were killed on Thursday, June 3, 2021, by unknown persons near Ménaka (northeast). Neighboring Burkina Faso, for its part, suffered in the night from Friday to Saturday the deadliest attack carried out by suspected jihadists since 2015. The appalling death toll stands at at least 160, according to local sources. The Malian soldiers are also working to reassure the former independence rebels from the North, united in the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), signatory of a peace agreement in 2015.

From Barkhane to Tabuka

On the eve of the NATO summit, the first of Democratic President Joe Biden’s term of office, President Emmanuel Macron announced on June 120, 2021 the end of Operation Barkhane and its replacement by a European intervention force, a structure more suited to France’s resources with burden-sharing with its European allies.

The fight against terrorism will be made “with special forces structured around[l’opération] “TAKUBA” (Saber in Tamachek) with, obviously, a strong French component – with several hundred more soldiers – and African, European, international forces “. This alliance “will have vocation to make interventions strictly in the fight against terrorism”, specified the French president.

This decision reshuffles the cards in the Sahel less than a year before the French presidential election, against a backdrop of disenchantment of French opinion with regard to the engagement of the French army in the Sahel zone. It marks, in any case, the exhaustion of France in what was once its African home. It puts an end to the less and less shared illusion of a possible military victory against a protean insurrectionary movement, now firmly anchored in the local populations.

The French president has promised a reduction in the French military system and a “change of model” of this engagement which should involve the departure by early 2023 of half of the 5,100 soldiers currently deployed …. for the simple reason that the record of eight years of French intervention in the Sahel is not brilliant
The conduct of a large-scale external engagement in order to carry out patrol, surveillance and combat missions within an area stretching 3,500 kilometers from east to west and 2,000 kilometers from the north in the south clearly showed the French operational and logistical limits

Admittedly, the deployment of “Serval” at the beginning of 2013, under the presidency of François Hollande, at the request of the Malian authorities, had stopped the advance of jihadist groups in its tracks and even undoubtedly avoided the collapse of the Malian state.

But since then, jihadist groups have resumed their progress. Not only has the Sahel become the “epicenter of international terrorism”, in the words of Emmanuel Macron, but countries in the Gulf of Guinea that were thought to be safe are now targeted. Local states have not been able to take over to secure the liberated areas. The human toll continues to increase. According to the NGO Acled, more than 8,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso since 2013. Two million inhabitants have been displaced by the fighting. Fifty French soldiers died in service.

Of the coherence of France

France’s position would become more coherent if President Emmanuel Macron did not rush to Chad to ensure a hereditary transition of power between Idriss Déby, -assassinated by Chadian opponents based in Libya and supported by an ally of France-, and her son, in defiance of the democratic principles that she so often brandishes against the times.

Or if France did not fight terrorism in Mali, and, “at the same time” did not support the absolute incubator of world Islamic terrorism, Saudi Arabia, in its war in Yemen, against the Houthis, Yemeni nationalists who claim their rights as a minority. Or if, finally, it did not support the independence of the Kurds in Syria, and oppose “at the same time” the independence of Corsica in France.

Back to the coup phenomenon in Mali.

In the beginning was Moussa Traoré

The parricide of the “father of independence” Modibo Keita, Colonel Moussa Traoré was certainly condemned to the death penalty in February 1993, during a qualified trial of Malian Nuremberg, thus becoming the first African head of state to be killed. having to answer for his acts before the justice of his country. But, oddly enough, he was pardoned in 1997. President Alpha Oumar Konaré commuted his sentence for “economic crimes” to life imprisonment on September 21, 1999, before pardoning him in May 2002.

Moussa Traoré was accused of having embezzled during his reign more than 2 billion dollars of public money. Since his release he has lived in a large villa in the Djikoroni-Para district in Bamako offered by the Malian government. Worse, he was until his death considered a “wise man”, even receiving a few days before his death ……… his followers of whom he served as an example: the colonels who led the 2020 coup. Well, let’s see, we don’t change the winning habits.

Amadou Haya Sanogo

Arrested in 2013, the felon officer has still not been sanctioned, in 2021, nine years after his putsch, having even been entitled to provisional release on January 28, 2020 … pending judgment.

Amadou Toumani Touré: This general, who presided over his country for two terms, took to the skies at the first shot, however commander-in-chief. Overthrown by his younger brother, Captain Sango, he lived in exile in Senegal. On December 27, 2013, the Malian government seized the National Assembly, where the High Court of Justice sits, to try the former president. Three years later, in December 2016, the Assembly finally rejected by an overwhelming majority the initiation of proceedings against him.

On December 24, 2017, with the agreement of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, he returned to Bamako with his family. Without being in any way worried about the mismanagement, or the corruption or even the nepotism which plagued Mali during its double term of office, at the origin of the collapse of its country.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK), such a badly elected president with diminished legitimacy.

Far from being a Roman triumph, the re-election of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, alias IBK, in 2019, to the Malian presidency, provided proof that the Malians have reached the zero degree of politics, in that this president so badly reelected, so decried throughout his first presidential term, has nevertheless triumphed over all his rivals. Against a backdrop of growing pauperization of the population, disinterest in public affairs, and even discouragement, the 2018 presidential election in Mali will therefore have propelled a president to legitimacy if not diminished at the very least tainted. And this mortgaged the 2nd term of IBK, also weighed down by scandals linked to businessism.

Malians have lived through a terrible nightmare ever since. Worse, by designating as the winner of the presidential consultation, IBK, the business partner of the Corsican casino operator, Michel Toumi, the Malians have engaged in what amounts to a rare case of political suicide live under the guise of democracy.

The destabilization of Mali with complete impunity:

Worse. It is common knowledge that Mali has been destabilized by Ansar Eddine, an Islamist group sponsored by Qatar, France’s most recent ally in the anti-Arab outfits of Zionist philosopher Nicolas Sarkozy.

On Qatar’s financing of terrorism in the Sahel -sahel-gC5-bmJ9THO2ctzX9jLVtA

Thus, a recent ally of France, Qatar, undertook the destabilization of a long-standing ally of France, Mali, without the friend of the two countries, France, not saying a word about the bad manner made by the nouveau riche to one of the most important contributors of African “cannon fodder” of the two world wars of the twentieth century. With complete impunity, without any coercive action against him.

Mali has never brought a complaint before the International Criminal Court against France or against Qatar to record their direct and indirect responsibilities in the destruction of the country. Instead, Bamako accepted that France should come to its aid, as part of Operation Serval, in other words to place itself under the caudine forks of the country author of its misfortune, its executioner, to perpetuate its dependence on l with regard to its colonizer.

But the instrumentalization by Qatar of the jihadist group Ansar Eddine against Mali served as a pretext for France to make a comeback on the Malian scene and to exonerate itself cheaply from its colonial liabilities. In doing so, Mali is a loser for two reasons: It has laundered France of its colonial liabilities and must once again undergo the French military presence under the conditions of its former colonizer, with the construction of a military base in Kidal, in the northern Mali, the first since the country’s independence in 1960. “There is someone worse than an executioner his valet”. Mirabeau.

If Serval (small feline of the desert) in Mali and Sangaris (butterfly) in the Central African Republic enriched the onomastics of military operations in Africa with two bar codes in 2013, disrupting geostrategic data, these two French interventions in its precinct, have nevertheless created a new dynamic, of which Mali, the CAR, beyond French-speaking Africa in its entirety, will suffer and pay the price for a long time.

The repetitive French military interventions in Africa had the secondary effect of laundering France of its colonial liabilities due to the fact that the recourse to the colonial power to restore its independence definitively weighs down any discourse on independence and dignity because of venality. and the cowardice of the African political class, particularly Malian, its indignity and its lack of patriotic meaning.

The traffic, in parallel, of djembes and briefcases beyond the tolerable, in all indecency, constituted a practice which shames all Africa and France in that it does not belong to the Arab Third World. African to support the lifestyle of the French politico-media elite and its paradisiacal vacations, on the budget of the taxpayer of starving peoples.

A shame for Africa to feed its executioners in that French venality and African corruption constitute a corrosive combination, degrading for the donor, degrading for the beneficiary. This observation applies to all African customers in France.

A year after the fall of Gaddafi, the Sahelian zone has thus taken on the appearance of a lawless zone of 4 million km2, a perimeter, under electronic surveillance by American aviation, towards which the Islamists of the South now converge. of Niger, Chad and Nigeria (Boko Haram), placing Algeria in a formidable dilemma of accepting the development of the Islamist insurgency on its southern border, or of tolerating military intervention by the Economic Community of the States of West Africa (ECOWAS), under strong supervision of the United States and France…. With the proliferation of private military companies in perspective and its corollary the proliferation of terrorist groups.

Western countries were credited with the intention of obtaining from the future Azawad Republic what they could not obtain from Mali, namely the highly strategic base of Tessalit economically and militarily, as well as firmness in the struggle. against “illegal” emigration.

A maneuver intended, in addition, to take from the rear Algeria, the ally of Russia, the protector of Syria, in addition, the last secular Arab state to have escaped the maneuvers of destabilization of the petromonarchies of the Gulf that Qatar threatened reprisals for opposing the exclusion of the Alawite regime from the Arab League.

Gaddafi, of course, has since been dispatched ad patres under ignominious conditions, so true that it is never healthy to trample a man on the ground, but Nicolas Sarkozy and his regional satrap, the Emir of Qatar, Hamad Al Khalifa, were not spared by bad luck, thrown unceremoniously into the traps of history.

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René Naba | Journaliste, Ecrivain Français d’origine libanaise, jouissant d’une double culture franco arabe, natif d’Afrique, juriste de formation et journaliste de profession ayant opéré pendant 40 ans au Moyen Orient, en Afrique du Nord et en Europe, l’auteur dont l’expérience internationale s’articule sur trois continents (Afrique Europe Asie) a été la première personne d’origine arabe à exercer, bien avant la diversité, des responsabilités journalistiques sur le Monde arabo-musulman au sein d’une grande entreprise de presse française de dimension mondiale.