Fahamu (Oxford)

Africa: Mali - African Solution to an African Problem

interview

Photo: Thomas Martinez/IPS
Soldiers belonging to the African-led International Support Mission to Mali.

Omoyele Sowore of SaharaTV interviews Prof. Horace Campbell on the crisis in Mali

The jihadists in Mali are a real threat to freedom, peace and security in the country and region. But French military intervention will not solve the problem. The regional bloc ECOWAS must take the lead in the search for a political solution. Professor Horace Campbell is a noted peace and justice international scholar and a professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY. He has a book coming out in March called 'Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya'. Professor Horace Campbell, welcome to Sahara TV.

Let's go into this directly. What do you think is happening in Mali? Why is the world suddenly interested in Mali and how do you think we got here, because apparently now France is bombing and there are troops over there and there have been a lot of responses all over the world? People need to understand this and that is why we have you on our show today.

HORACE CAMPBELL: Well, I think your viewers should remember that it was two years ago that African politics changed with the revolution in Tunisia and in Egypt. With these two revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt we had counter revolutions in Libya. The western financial speculators along with their army which is called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - called NATO - used the expedience of the responsibility to protect to invade Libya and destabilize the country, creating a situation with militias and eventually executing the president, Muammar Gaddafi.

Mali and South Africa are two countries in Africa that have a very strong civil society, which in Mali is organized at different levels: in trade unions, in youth groups, students groups, women's organizations, cooperatives, Islamic organizations and they have been active since 1992 to change the political process. Now in the context where South Africa and Mali have this tradition of people organizing to defend their livelihood, western countries are afraid of the potential of the ideas of revolution - that came from Tunisia and Egypt - that those ideas may cascade and spread across Africa, as they will, and that there is nothing to stop the revolutionary momentum because the revolution is calling for one thing: The people of Africa want a better quality of life; the people of Africa want the resources and wealth of Africa to change their standard of living; the people of Africa want unity and reconstruction of Africa; and the people of Africa want peace.

Today the most important Malian singer, a woman, came out with a new song calling for peace and says that peace can come from the people of Mali. Now, here we have a situation where the worst imperialist in relation to Africa for the last 180 years [is involved in military intervention]. France invaded Algeria first in 1830. France was involved in a brutal war against the Algerian people when they fought for independence. France assisted in destabilizing Africa in the Congo. France has supported military dictatorships all over Africa. How could France suggest to people that they are in Africa to help Africa? That is something Africans will not accept.

However, Africans are put in a very difficult situation because of the jihadists who destroyed one of the most important cultural sites in Africa - Timbuktu. These jihadists have been financed by the United States of America for the last ten years under the so-called Pan Sahel Initiative and the United States of America with their African Command financed these jihadists to overthrow Gaddafi. So Africans...caught in a trap, what do we do against these jihadists?

Can ECOWAS send troops to fight beside France, which is a bigger enemy than the jihadists? These are real problems and these problems require priority, organization and political mobilization for peace in Africa. It cannot be short-term and be driven by the Western propaganda about what is going on in Mali.

OMOYELE SOWORE: Thank you, professor. You have just laid out what happened and how we got here, but it is also important going forward, what would you suggest - with the kind of leadership in Africa now, that led to the leadership in Tunisia and Egypt, the kind of leadership we have in Nigeria that has been engaged in corruption and looting of the common wealth ... in several African countries where there have been dictators and where they have refused to allow the civil society, you mentioned, which exists in Mali and South Africa to flourish. How do we trust these internal colonialists? Are they not bigger enemies in some cases to Africa than even the western countries who have financed and supported and sometimes helped them hide their loot in their various vaults?

HORACE CAMPBELL: No possibility. Most of these African exploiters that you have mentioned would not be able to stand on their own two feet without the support of western military and financial institutions. What we saw in the Congo in 1997, where after 32 years of Mobutu, who was supposed to be this strong person, collapsed overnight. Now with the Mali situation I cannot be very simplistic. It is a complex situation and as the French say, it is a complex operation. But that complexity should have us not take our eyes off the number one question, which is: This matter cannot be solved militarily, it has to be solved politically by the organization of the people of Mali to isolate these people, and ECOWAS must come in to support the people of Mali and we must call for the withdrawal of French troops. That is the bottom line. ECOWAS must be the main force and in my view this attempt by France to intervene in Mali is to lay the foundation to bring the United States into a war to further militarize Africa because France on its own cannot afford a military operation in Africa at this particularly historical juncture. They have a financial crisis and for France to continue fighting it needs the support of the European Union and the United States of America - well, the European Union is bankrupt.

We have heard about a telephone call between the French President Hollande and the British Prime Minister Cameron that was very instructive. He was calling on the British to give more support. The Europeans do not have the financial or the military wherewithal to intervene in Africa at this particular moment. Therefore they need the United States and the United States Africa Command but it is the United States Africa Command that created a condition for what we see in Mali today. One: Half a billion dollars was spent in the last ten years on what was called the Pan Sahel Initiative; Number Two: What's happening in Mali is a direct result of the destabilization of North Africa and the war in Libya. Number Three: The United States African Command was discredited when its ambassador was killed in Benghazi because it was allied with militias - the same militias and jihadists that they are financing to fight in Syria - and the United States African Command is under review, because progressive African scholars are calling for the dismantling of Africom.

Now, if Africom and the United States get involved in this war in Africa it will create a situation where we will have to mobilize even greater in the United States of America and lastly, this is about Nigeria. Nigeria is a giant and a powerhouse in Africa. The attempt by the Wahabi, who are the conservative Islamists, to destabilize Nigeria is part of the plan of imperialism to make Nigeria weak. They have failed so far. They may kill a few people with what they call Boko Haram but the Nigerian people, since 1970, made a commitment that there will never be another civil war in Nigeria that will kill three million people and the Nigerian revolution which now requires political organization, mobilization, education from the Nigerian people to root out the corrupt elements in Nigeria is at the heart of the unification of Africa, bringing one currency for Africa, one freedom of movement across Africa.

So this invasion of Mali has complexities that we have to be clear about and that is why we have to be tactical to say the United Nations Security Council must call for the withdrawal of France from Mali and give support to ECOWAS to fight the jihadists.

OMOYELE SOWORE: Prof Horace Campbell, that's all the time we have for you but it's important to mention that you have struck at the heart of something that is important to us on this show - you have said that Nigeria needs a revolution and looks like they know that Nigeria is on the path to a revolution that will root out the corrupt elements that have held Nigeria down and this can also be linked to what we are saying now, maybe to slow down the momentum. I think it's a very deep and fundamental submission that you have made and we appreciate you coming onto this show. We want to remind viewers that you have a book coming out - 'Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya'. It will be coming out in March.

Thank you very much.

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