From Liberia to the Congos and Somalia; Sierra Leone to Rwanda and Burundi; Sudan to South-Sudan and Kenya; Ivory Coast (Cote D’Ivoire), Nigeria and now Mali, significant proportions of post-colonial or neo-colonial Africa are witnessing state failures.
As the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), has always emphasized, the major undercurrent of this failure, whether manifesting as wars, terrorist rebellions, coup d’états and unstable governments, is the incapacity of the states to meet the basic necessities of the ordinary masses.
But the slide into chaos and anarchy is further exacerbated, every now and then, by unresolved nationality questions, the roots of which lie in the resource-grabbing motivated partitioning of Africa and the drawing of artificial boundaries by the erstwhile colonial powers.
There is also the fact of the integration of neo-colonial African countries into the global orbit of capitalism – in truth a re-colonization agenda - that comes with the attendant imposition of neo-liberal anti poor economic policies, through which wealth remains consolidated in fewer hands while the vast majority of the poor working masses suffer economic deprivation.
The real tragedy of Africa is that these countries are rich in vast human and natural resources, so much so that poverty should be an aberration. However as it is daily revealed, these resources have brought less of succour but more of pains. Sometimes, the richer some of the countries are in mineral resources, for example Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo, the more they account for wars, chaos and civil wars.
Along this line, the crisis in Mali therefore, is only the latest chapter of a sordid tale. The reality is that despite the intervention of French imperialism and the ECOWAS forces, it won’t be the last, due to the increasing fragility of so-called African democracies. It is this fragility that made the Malian ruling class – both military and civilian – to embrace foreign intervention. The US trained junior army officers, who initially staged a coup against the civilian government, had to back-track having realized how ill-equipped and indeed ill motivated their troops are.
Neither can the defeat of the Islamist forces in Northern Mali, bail the vast majority of Malians out of poverty as long as the capitalist system of exploitation holds sway.
While the immediate cause of the current crisis is the push by the remnants of the Tuareg forces, which had been erstwhile loyal to the regime of Muhammad Gaddaffi, to spearhead a move to forcefully grab a homeland, the remote factor which made the job much easier was the fact that the government in Bamako has virtually lost all legitimacy based on its inability to solve any of the fundamental problems confronting the Malian society. In calling for foreign military intervention, the Malian ruling class was only acting to type, having pushed the economy to a state of dependence on foreign aid to barely survive. As Walter Rodney wrote in his famous book ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’, “if economic power is centred outside of national African boundaries, then political and military power in any real sense is also centred outside until and unless the masses of peasants and workers are mobilized to offer an alternative to a the system of sham political independence”.
Indeed, it is this economic dependence that also makes Mali vulnerable to any crisis in the international commodity market being an economy that rests on the twin pillar of Agricultural production and the mining of Gold. In 2001, Mali became Africa’s third largest producer of Gold with 41 t coming after South Africa and Ghana which respectively had 394 t and 72 t in the same year. It is not ruled out that the country’s rich Gold deposits could also have been a major attraction for the rebels; just as the array of vast mineral resources in the DRC have continued to encourage repeated armed rebellion. And just like Diamond blood money constituted a central factor in the Charles Taylor led rebel wars that gripped the Mano River region – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote D’Ivoire – in the 1990s up to the recent period.
Yet, Mali ranks among the twenty five poorest countries in the world while according to the African Economic Outlook, economic growth actually declined to just 1.1% in the country in 2011, a development also attributed to the “post-election crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, the Libya war, and the rise in oil, gas and food prices”. As a consequence poverty is on the rise while unemployment has hit the more youthful segments of the population including 15.4% of 15‑39 year olds while “young job seekers represent 81.5% of all unemployed people”. All this happened after the country had taken an IMF loan and preceded the rebels’ incursion into Northern Mali.
Unfortunately, this level of poverty will not stop the imperialists from making the country to pay for the cost of the on-going war, just as Iraq was and still is being made to pay for the Gulf war with her oil resources; and Liberia is being made to pay her own with her abundant Rubber plantations which are now being recklessly sold to foreign economic interests so much so that the world’s largest producer of rubber cannot boast of a single rubber factory even to manufacture common house-hold rubber foot-wears.
In Mali, this will come in the form of further ruthless exploitation of the Gold deposits and other neo-liberal economic policies of privatization of the leading sectors of the economy.
Countries like Nigeria are so eager now to contribute troops in Mali, faced as they are by their own intractable internal crisis. Already the Nigerian ruling class is relying on foreign intelligence – America, Israel, UK – to deal with the bombing campaigns of Boko Haram. Apparently, the intervention is also meant to send warnings that brute force backed by foreign powers could become an option in future.
However, we should warn ahead that this strong-arm and military measure and response will fundamentally and woefully fail to curb the menace posed by the Boko Haram insurgency. It should be recalled that it was the brutal military responses including cold-blood murder of Muhammed Yusuf, the leader of Boko Haram, in 2009 that triggered the escalation of Boko Haram activities with its attendant mindless killings and wanton destruction of targeted state institutions and churches considered as the enemies.
Similarly, after years of military expedition by the leading world capitalist power led by the United States costing hundreds of billions of dollars with attendant killings of hundreds of thousands if not millions of combat forces and defenceless citizens, the countries of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, etc where the imperialist forces have waged wars against so-called terrorism remain more volatile, poverty-ridden, undemocratic and divided than ever. Predictably, the aftermath of the current imperialist/capitalist military expedition and adventure to Mali will only worsen the general socio-political situation in Mali and Nigeria which has also sent troops as part of ECOWAS intervention force. Already, the insurgents ambushed and killed some of the soldiers who were being deployed to Mali.
Socialists and genuine working class activists will continue to oppose imperialist intervention in Mali and other parts of Africa as they offer no hope for the working masses. But the forces of disintegration will continue to surface in the absence of the decisive intervention of the working class acting in solidarity with the poor peasants and farmers.
It has therefore become imperative to raise the social consciousness of the working class through the building of powerful political movements that seeks to take power on the basis of socialist ideas. For example, only a government of workers and poor farmers can counter pose the guarantee of the right to self determination to attempts by armed groups to forcefully and undemocratically impose themselves on the people.
From Mali to Nigeria, Liberia, Kenya and the Sudans, such a government will also have to take the decisive step of nationalizing the commanding sectors of the economies under working class democratic management and control in order to liberate the resources needed to embark on a programme of massive public works in education, health, housing, roads and rural infrastructure etc.