Neocolonial war in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger


French soldier in Mali with skull mask

This photo of a French Foreign Legion soldier, part of the invasion of Mali, shows the real face of that war.

That war is not “against Al Qaeda terrorism” (supported by the French government in Libya, and still in Syria). It is not for women’s rights, human rights or secularism.

It started in support of a military dictatorship.

It brings death, mainly to Malian civilians.

This war is a neo-colonial war.

The French Foreign Legion became infamous in the nineteenth century for its atrocities while imposing colonial rule in Algeria and elsewhere. Now, it plays a role in twenty-first century neo-colonialism as well.

By Thomas Gaist:

Mali war spilling into Burkina Faso, Niger

18 July 2017

Four and a half years after the January 2013 invasion of Mali by a US-backed French force, the war is spiraling toward a larger regional conflict, prompting border closures by neighboring governments, and spurring escalations by the Western governments.

Mali’s border areas are experiencing “a significant expansion of violent extremist and terrorist activities, including coordinated cross-border attacks against security posts and ransacking of border settlements,” the United Nations top official for West Africa said Thursday.

Additionally, opposition groups staged protests over the weekend in Bamako, Mali’s capital, rallying thousands of demonstrators in the name of blocking proposed legal changes that would transfer emergency powers to the government of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Last Monday, eight Malian troops were ambushed and killed traveling between Gao and Menaka. On Wednesday, Burkina Faso armed forces clashed with heavily armed militants along the Burkina-Mali border. On Friday, Mauritania declared its northeastern border a closed, militarized area, announcing that “any individual circulating or transiting in this part of the national territory will be treated as a military target.”

On July 8, JNIM attacked a French Army base near the town of Tessalit, killing at least three French soldiers. On July 9, JNIM fighters attacked a police station in Mobti province. In March, Mali’s main Islamist factions, Ansar Dine, Al-Mourabitoun, the Massina factions and Al Qaida announced their merger into a new formation, Nusrat-ul-Islam, under the leadership of Iyad Ag Ghaly.

An Al Qaida branch in Mali known as the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) attacked a Nigerian garrison near the village of Tsawah along the Mali-Niger border in June.

French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to Timbuktu at the beginning of July to discuss plans to expand the “G5 Sahel” multinational army, an imperialist proxy coalition established in February 2014, consisting of forces from the governments of Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. On July 2, Macron called on the G5 coalition to contribute 5,000 soldiers in support of French military activities against “terrorists, thugs and murderers.”

“This force is first going to secure the borders, particularly in the areas where terrorist groups have developed,” French Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian told Le Monde.

“It doesn’t look like France will be pulling out of Mali anytime soon,” France 24 noted in response to the announcement.

Complementing expanding French military operations the German parliament voted in January to expand troop deployments in Mali from 350 to 1,000, making Mali the German military’s largest overseas mission.

The immediate causes of the Mali war flowed from the fallout from the 2011 US-NATO war against Libya. Beginning in January 2012, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a Tuareg ethnic militia, launched an insurrection against the central government and established control over portions of northern Mali. In March 2012, a coup d’état led by government soldiers declaring themselves the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State (CNRDR), removed President Amadou Toure from power. Rebel militia groups seized control of Malian cities of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal in wake of the coup.

From January 2013, Paris responded with repeated waves of troop deployments, with backing from Washington. The 2013 invasion, “Operation Serval,” served as the spearhead for a major expansion of French militarism across the country’s former colonial holdings in West Africa.

In exchange for French “assistance” in stabilizing northern Mali, Paris demanded and received basing rights for its troops throughout the country. Previous Malian governments had been among the few regimes in Francophone Africa to resist such arrangements, limiting French military activities to small-scale training of local forces. Prior to 2013, French combat troops had been absent from Malian territory since their withdrawal following the country’s formal independence in 1960.

As part of “Operation Barkhane,” the successor to “Serval,” some 6,000 French ground troops, hundreds of armored vehicles, war planes, attack helicopters, and drones are now deployed throughout the Sahel. Additional German and French troops deployed under European Union flags in February 2014, for the official purpose of training of Malian units.

The American and European ruling elites are determined to tighten their grip over the Sahel, which is home to massive natural resource deposits, including uranium and numerous precious metals, and is speculated to have the largest untapped petroleum reserves in Africa.

Mali’s northern Taoudeni basin has been known to contain large gas and petroleum reserves since the 1970s. In 2011, the French firm Total claimed to have found “the El Dorado of petroleum reserves” in the northern desert region. A 2015 US geological analysis found that the Taoudeni Basin contains “160 million barrels of conventional oil, 1,880 billion cubic feet of conventional gas, 602 million barrels of shale oil, and 6,395 billion cubic feet of shale gas.”

Involvement by French, German and other European Union (EU) forces in the Sahel is part of “a major new direction in European security policy,” according to the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

For the European powers, the Sahel represents “a second front in the war on terror,” that is “building alongside a growing number of multinationals hoping to extract oil and gas reserves of Mali and Mauritania, and strong French military presence,” according to Environmental Justice Atlas. In addition to seizing control over the continent’s resources, and asserting the interests of the dominant European banks and corporations, the European powers view the militarization of the Sahel as a means to suppress the flood of refugees northward toward the Mediterranean.

These policies are aimed at reasserting the colonial order established by world imperialism during the 19th and 20th centuries. Throughout the period of “decolonization” from the 1960s onward, the economies and societies of West Africa were subordinated to the needs of French imperialism through an array of mechanisms, including control over African currency reserves and raw materials, monopoly rights for French firms in all key sectors of the economy, and permanent military and police basing arrangements on African soil.

Dozens of coups d’etat have been engineered from Paris against African governments, beginning with the assassination of Togo’s head of state, Sylvanus Olympio in 1963, who made the fatal mistake of attempting to transition Togo’s economy to its own national currency. Malian President Modiba Keita met a similar fate after seeking to leave the French currency zone in June 1962.

In 1975 and again in 1989, French military officers organized the overthrow of Chadian Presidents. In 2003, French troops toppled Central African Republic (CAR) President Ange-Felix Patasse, placing in power General Francois Bozize, after Patasse sought to expel France’s military presence from the CAR. At present, nearly 2,000 French troops are operating in Central African Republic as part of “peacekeeping mission” alongside African Union troops.

More recently, in 2009, Paris organized a coup against the Madagascar government of Marc Ravalomanana, after he sought business deals with rival imperialist interests at the expense of French corporations.

“France established military bases in Africa during the colonial period, and maintained a military presence in Africa after the ‘flag independence’ of its former colonies in the 1960s,” Gary Busch wrote in an article for Pambazuka News this week.

“These agreements allowed France to have pre-deployed troops and police in bases across Africa; in other words, French army and gendarme units present permanently and by rotation in bases and military facilities in Africa, run entirely by the French. The Colonial Pact was much more than an agreement to station soldiers across Africa. It bound the economies of Africa to the control of France,” Busch noted.

Notwithstanding the incessant rhetoric about “fighting terrorism,” the thousands of Western soldiers invading Africa are sent primarily to secure strategic interests. The stage is being set for a ferocious antagonistic struggle between the major powers for control over the continent. The coming to power of the Trump administration, with its ultra-nationalist “America First” agenda, is intensifying the inter-imperialist tensions and fueling conflicts in every sub-region of Africa.

This week saw Western media issuing ominous warnings about the dangers of piracy and terrorism in the Gulf of Guinea, Niger Delta, and the Lake Chad Basin. Some 5.2 million have already been displaced by the Western-backed Chadian-led invasion of northern Nigeria, justified in the name of “fighting” Boko Haram.

The expansion of the Mali war is an advanced expression of the tendencies toward war and social breakdown at work throughout Africa and worldwide. Two and half decades after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the supposed “End of History,” Africa’s governments are tottering in the face of war, famine and disease. The only response of Africa’s national elites is further war preparations and deeper integration into the corporate, political and military establishments of North American and Western Europe.

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Rare Egyptian vulture discovery in Niger


This video says about itself:

Egyptian Vulture – equilibrist

Azerbaijan. Turianchai reserve. June 24, 2013.

From the Vulture Conservation Foundation:

17 August 2015

Egyptian Vultures found breeding in Niger

The Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) – one of the smallest vultures in the world – is still declining fast across its vast range that includes Europe, Asia and Africa, and was in 2007 uplisted to Globally Endangered.

While populations in Europe are relatively well studied – although still declining fast – knowledge about the species in Africa is very poor. We know the species used to breed across the continent, from northern Africa through the Sahel zone to north Tanzania, down to south-west Angola and north-west Namibia, with a gap around equatorial Africa.

Even though data is lacking, breeding Egyptian vultures suffered a large decline in Africa too, and the species may be extinct in many countries south of the Sahara as a breeding species – although in the winter Africa receives many migrant Egyptian vultures coming from Europe.

Recently, colleagues from the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) have found that the species is still breeding in Niger – the first recent breeding record in the country. They found two pairs breeding in the Koutous Massif. This is good news for the species – incidentally, the area is close to the wintering quarters of European Egyptian vultures.

Congratulations to SCF for the fruitful work and for pushing vulture conservation in that part of the world.

Giraffes helped by photographers


This video is about Niger‘s endangered white giraffes (full documentary).

From Wildlife Extra:

Citizen science project launched to help the world’s giraffes

The Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) with the support of the Polytechnic of Namibia has launched a project to develop an online citizen science platform for giraffes.

GiraffeSpotter.org is an easy to use web-based application that allows people to upload their photos of giraffes they have seen, together with the location where the image was taken and any other valuable information they can supply to help in conservation efforts, such as herd size, sex and age class of the giraffe.

With the help of GiraffeSpotter.org, GCF will be able to improve its understanding of giraffe ranges, distribution, numbers and ultimately the various species of giraffes’ conservation status across Africa.

At the same time, the charity hopes that the project will also engage people and raise awareness of the plight of giraffes in the wild.

15 years ago there were 140,000 giraffes in Africa. Today there are 80,000: here.

Chechnya offers to save second Danish giraffe Marius


This video is called Niger‘s Endangered White Giraffes (Full Documentary).

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Ramzan Kadyrov offers to adopt second Marius giraffe facing slaughter

Chechen president tells Instagram followers he is ready to take in giraffe facing death in Denmark ‘on humanitarian grounds’

Shaun Walker in Sochi

Thursday 13 February 2014 16.47 GMT

To sentence one giraffe named Marius to death may be regarded as a misfortune; to sentence two would be a catastrophe, according to Ramzan Kadyrov.

The Chechen president has used his Instagram account to offer to take in the second Marius, which, it emerged on Wednesday, has been threatened with the same fate as his namesake.

Kadyrov, who has been implicated in torture and human rights abuses, is a known animal admirer and has a huge personal zoo.

He frequently posts pictures of himself on Instagram with exotic animals, and made his offer of shelter for the second Danish giraffe on the social network.

“I read the information about the fact that in Denmark they are going to end the life of another giraffe,” wrote Kadyrov beneath photographs of lions eating the first Marius, which the Chechen leader said was killed for “invented” reasons.

“On humanitarian grounds, I am ready to take Marius in. We can guarantee him good living conditions and care for his health,” he added.

Only days after the euthanasia of a healthy young giraffe named Marius at Copenhagen zoo sparked controversy around the world, a second Danish zoo announced that it was considering a similar fate for another giraffe, also named Marius.

Jyllands Park zoo, in western Denmark, currently has two male giraffes, but has been approved to participate in the European breeding programme. If zookeepers manage to acquire a female giraffe, seven-year-old Marius will have to make way.

The first Marius was considered useless for breeding because his genes were too common. The prospect of his death prompted an international petition that garnered more than 27,000 signatures, and controversy continued after he was killed when he was dissected in front of a large crowd and then fed to lions.

A new petition to save the second Marius currently has 3,500 signatures.

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Endangered Dama gazelle on Sahara camera trap


This video from the USA is called Critically endangered dama gazelle born at Smithsonian’s National Zoo takes its first step.

From Wildlife Extra:

Camera traps capture Critically Endangered Dama gazelle in Sahara

Barbary sheep, caracal and poachers also caught on camera

October 2013. Listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Dama gazelle is one of the world’s rarest and most endangered antelopes. Formerly common across its grassland habitats of the Sahelian zone of Africa, it now only exists in a small handful of tiny, isolated populations in Niger and Chad.

Overhunting means just 300 Dama gazelle left in the wild

With overhunting by far the major cause for its demise, the Dama gazelle is also prone to encroachment of its preferred habitats by livestock development and agriculture, as well by severe drought and desertification. In all, there are probably no more than 300 Dama gazelles in the wild today.

Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) has been working to conserve the gazelle for several years and the need for more nonintrusive ways of monitoring the presence and distribution of this shy and highly vulnerable species are urgently required to formulate viable management plans.

Community engagement

In recent years, hunters from the local population of Toubou pastoralists have been the gazelles’ main threat, with animals being shot opportunistically in ones and twos. Work with the herders and their community leaders is, however, having a positive impact.

Recognizing the value of working closely with the local people to conserve the gazelle, the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute recently donated $10,000 to employ community game guards with a Dama gazelle-specific mandate to work with the local community. The two guards were recruited from among the local Toubou people to help SCF in its efforts to raise awareness locally about the plight of the Dama gazelle and serve as both ambassadors and protectors for the Dama conservation effort. The guards provide a vital link between SCF and the local people and their activities include assisting in the installation and maintenance of the camera trap grids.

Barbary sheep and caracal

The first batch of data from the camera traps is just now being analysed. As could be expected, other species besides the Dama gazelle have been caught on camera. We are particularly thrilled to report sightings of both the Barbary sheep and the locally very rare and elusive African lynx or caracal. Also captured on camera are armed poachers looking no doubt for Barbary sheep and Dama gazelles. The images was [sic] taken just several hours apart.

With this type of data and information we are far better set than before to identify hotspots for extra surveillance and key areas of passage used by the animals as they move between areas of grazing, shade, etc.

The impact that visual evidence of wildlife presence and threats is also a key factor in mobilizing support locally for action and increased vigilance.

December 2013: The world’s largest tropical desert, the Sahara, has suffered a catastrophic collapse of its wildlife populations according to a study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Zoological Society of London: here.

African Parks, a non-profit organisation that manages eight national parks and protected areas in seven countries, has announced that it has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Chad to assess the challenges and opportunities that would result from setting up the area of Ennedi as a protected one: here.

Niger Permian reptile fossil discovery


After the South African discovery of an early Triassic amphibian and a mammal-like reptile together … now a discovery from a few million years earlier, more to the north in Africa.

Bunostegos

From the BBC:

24 June 2013 Last updated at 19:02 GMT

A bizarre reptile with knobbly growths on its head roamed a vast, isolated desert about 260 million years ago, researchers say.

New fossils from northern Niger in Africa have been described in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The distinctive creature belongs to a new genus of pareiasaur – plant-eating creatures that flourished during the Permian period.

The cow-sized specimen has been named Bunostegos, which means “knobby roof”.

During Permian times, the Earth was dominated by a single supercontinent called Pangaea.

Animal and plant life dispersed broadly across the land, as documented by identical fossil species found on multiple modern continents.

But the new research by an international team supports the idea that there was an isolated desert in the middle of Pangaea with distinctive animals.

Most pareiasaurs had bony knobs on their skulls, but Bunostegos sported the largest, most bulbous ones ever seen in this group, which were common in the Middle and Late Permian, about 266-252 million years ago.

In life, these were probably skin-covered horns like those on the heads of modern giraffes.

“We can’t say for sure, but it is most likely that the bony knobs on the skull of pareiasaurs did not serve a protective function,” Dr Linda Tsuji from the University of Washington in Seattle told BBC News.

“They vary quite markedly in size and shape between different species, with some species lacking prominent knobs entirely, so I think that they were purely ornamental. The most probable use was for inter-specific (between species) or intra-specific (within species) recognition.”

Dr Tsuji and colleagues performed an analysis showing that Bunostegos was actually more closely related to older and more primitive pareiasaurs.

This led them to the conclusion that its genealogical lineage had been isolated for millions of years.

Climatic conditions may have conspired to corral Bunostegos – along with several other reptiles, amphibians, and plants – and keep them constrained to the central, arid area of the supercontinent.

“Our work supports the theory that central Pangea was climatically isolated, allowing a unique relict fauna to persist into the Late Permian,” said Christian Sidor, another author of the paper.

This surprised the scientists because areas outside this central region show fossil evidence of regular faunal interchange.

Geological data show that central Pangaea was extremely dry, discouraging some animals from passing through, while keeping those within from venturing out.

The long period of isolation under these parched conditions gave Bunostegos lineage time to evolve its unique anatomical features.

Much of what was once central Pangaea remains to be explored by palaeontologists.

“It is important to continue research in these under-explored areas,” said Dr Tsuji.

“The study of fossils from places like northern Niger paints a more comprehensive picture of the ecosystem during the Permian era.”

See also here.