Mali: The Politics of Resource Security (Part II)
France’s “welcomed” intervention in Mali, which began last Friday may have had Bamako talking about nothing else but their appreciation for France’s military support against “Islamists” in the north, but France’s presence in its former colonial territory is a reminder that western imperial interests prevail in the region; restoring national security in Mali is the guise to ensure regional interests are protected.
Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries is also one of the richest in gold, metals and ore. Mali’s Taudeni Basin which straddles Algeria and Mauritania is one of the most coveted untapped oil fields in West Africa. Sonatrach, the Algerian state owned oil company where employees were dramatically taken hostage this week by militants from the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, secured oil exploration rights in 2007 along with other companies seeking riches in the sand. But Mali is also suspected to be uranium rich like its neighbor Niger. The Kidal Project in the northeastern part of the country, the very part of Mali now under siege, has been marked by uranium prospectors for exploration. Areva, the French uranium mining company has been extracting in Niger for 50 years exporting uranium to power France’s nuclear plants. Protecting this area to secure future operations is primary for France and its energy clients, namely Germany. France sells electricity generated at its nuclear plants to Germany and Areva employs 5,200 employees in Germany. Germany’s number one soccer club FC Nurnberg sports Areva jerseys courtesy of their corporate sponsor. This past week Germany vowed public support for France’s incursion into the region. So did Canada, Belgium and Denmark countries that domicile major gold and metal mining companies conducting operations in Mali. The joint undertaking to oust Mali’s trouble makers in the name of quelling regional instability tells a tale different than that found in state official’s rhetoric.
We have one goal. To ensure that when we leave, when we end our intervention, Mali is safe, has legitimate authorities, an electoral process and there are no more terrorists threatening its territory.
This is the official narrative France and its backers profess. The hollow protect-democracy-and-freedom spiel might not continue to be so captivating when resource exploration transitions into resource extraction. Let’s see how welcoming Malians will be to Areva Mali when radioactive substances begin to turn up in wells, when the harmattan winds blow radioactive clouds across the Sahara and into the Sahel. Today hundreds of thousands of Malians have fled their homes as violence engulfs their towns and cities. The displaced may return only to be uprooted from their communities again by the humanitarian saviors who secured their land for “development”. In a region recognized as a literal corporate gold mine providing investors assurance that their ventures will be protected and profits will be turned is the central aim of the current intervention. To be misled again by the trumpeting of “enlightened states” carrying out humanitarian interventions with all the altruism and moral fervor needed to cloak the underlying motives of war, is to willfully ignore the economic factors pulling western imperialists into this conflict.