The Belgian government has decided to participate in the military intervention of France in Mali, contributing two C-130 transport planes, two helicopters and 75 soldiers. The Western military force is avowedly aimed at stopping the advance of Islamist rebel groups in the North of the country, at the demand of Mali’s government and with the support, provided only after the start of the intervention, of the UN Security Council.
With the military intervention of France, French President François Hollande plays ‘cavalier seul’. By his act of war, he undermines a peace initiative the UN elaborated with several African countries. The fact that Mali has recently become a hornets’ nest is largely due to the consequences of the NATO war in Lybia and of decades of Western political meddling in the country’s affairs. In Mali’s complex situation, the only chance for peace, stability and development to succeed is by extremely cautious initiatives that have a large base of support and are principally African.
France’s intervention is of course not devoid of self-interest. As the former colonial power, France continues to have huge economic interests in the region. Mali possesses gold mines and petroleum, while also uranium is extracted in the region, which is used for part of the French nuclear industry.
Just like with the deadly NATO bombing on Lybia two years ago, Belgium has been very quick to offer its participation to the French military intervention. And this without any democratic debate about its objectives, consequences or cost. In a period of painful austerity measures and cuts in the social budgets, any increase in the Defense budget is simply cynical.
The Belgian government is not clear about the duration of its military intervention in Mali. Defense Minister Pieter De Crem only informed the Belgian taxpayers that it could be of a « very short, short, or medium » duration. As a first evaluation will be made only at the end of February, the mission will take at least six weeks. That is, as a starter, because this period may be prolonged several times yet, as was the case with the Belgian military mission in Afghanistan. In the meantime, for how many deads, wounded and refugees in Mali the Belgian government of Di Rupo (PS) will be responsible ?
The Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB) is opposed to any imperialist intervention in Mali, as elsewhere.