The Algerian hostage crisis, Mali, and how to respond

January 20, 2013 at 1:37 am (africa, Andrew Coates, fascism, France, islamism, John Rees, Lindsey German, reblogged, Stop The War, terror)

By Andrew Coates (reblogged from Tendance Coatesey)

The Algerian hostage killings are shocking.

El Watan reports up to 50 hostages dead, though there are serious doubts about the accuracy of this figure.

This has to be looked up with deep ethical and political seriousness.

These are some reflections:

The Algerian army’s operation was entirely their own. On France-Inter and Europe I this morning it was repeated that the Algerians were determined to put an end to the crisis without negotiating – a long-standing principle. They were determined to “deal with internal problems by themselves (more here). The experience of confronting armed and murderous Islamists in Algeria, from the 1990s civil war to the present, is that the state’s army is prepared to use maximum force with minimum respect for human rights.

The Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has been a leading figure in ’Al-Qaeda au Maghreb islamique (Aqmi), is now clearly identified as the leader of the attack. He is dead. Belmokhtar has operated in the north of Mali. The ’emir’ is held responsible for kidnapping several French nationals in the recent past. In December Belmokhtar announced in une vidéo publiée par Libération.fr,that he had broken with Aqmi and created a new group, Al-Moulathamin (those who sign with blood)»), close to the Mouvement unicité et jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (le Mujao, which controls the region of Gao in Mali). The reasons for this are likely to be connected to Belmokhtar’s personal smuggling rackets. However his men remain in alliance with Aqmi.

There are therefore clear links between the hostage taking and Mali. Belmokhtar is said to have demanded that the French intervention should end. Anybody going further into the shifting alliances and disputes in Mali should pause and look at this seriously before offering an analyses of, for example, the relations between the Tuaregs, their group, the l’Azawad (MNLA) (more here), and the Islamists. I would be very very cautious in this areas.

Belmokhtar is a man with an armed band with blood on their hands. It is no surprise that an Irishman who escaped from the Algerian hostage crisis had explosives tied around his neck.

“Primary responsibility for tragic events in Algeria rest with terrorists who murdered some and held others hostage”: For the first time it’s hard to disagree with Foreign Secretary William Hague.

How Not to Respond:

Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition directly links the taking of hostages to the French intervention in Mali. She states that, “This new scramble for Africa, where the old colonial powers of France and Britain try to reassert their control in the resource rich region, looks likely to end in tears very quickly. ” No doubt she can barely contain the floods of teardrops this morning.

She goes on to say, “When France began its air strikes and invasion in Mali last week the rebels there warned its government that there would be retaliation. Blowback has come more rapidly than anyone expected.”

German then says, portentously, “The spread of the wars and instability to Africa is a very dangerous development.”

Really!

The Stop the War Coalition have shown scant regard to what the people in Mali think themselves, or much awareness of what has happened in the country.

German now shows an astounding ignorance when she says, “The long running civil war in Algeria is being escalated as a result of instability elsewhere. “

Somebody should buy her a good Chronology and teach her how not to confuse the 1990s with, say, the year 2013.

Some Responses:

Let us make the point that the primary concern should be the wishes and interests of the people of North Africa and Mali.

It is clear that the Islamists, in their various shapes and alliances, are opposed to the most basic human rights. They torture and murder. They rape women who do not wear full Islamic covering. They destroy Muslim religious shrines that they consider ‘pagan’. They ban the wonderful music of the country. They fuel existing ethnic hatreds.

Opposition to them in Mali is not motivated by a ‘scramble for Africa’, which few outside the StWC and their ’anti-imperialist’ arm-chair generals have noticed at play in this crisis.

Still less, as some, like her partner John Rees suggests, is it a matter of the ‘West’ against ‘Islam’.

The fight against the Mali Islamists is motivated by common human decency.

And it comes from the people of Mali.

There are many issues around the French intervention, and the forces that govern the country. There is the background of the neo-liberal policies that have weakened the state and let the way open for this crisis. There is the responsibility of the country’s political class and army.

Does France intend to stay? Will its intervention, as the Nouveau parti anticaptialiste argues, make things worse?

But until we get that point, of combating the Islamists – in solidarity with Mali and North African peoples – across we will be as morally and politically bankrupt at Lindsey German.

11 Comments

  1. chris Brace said,

    Yes lazy, institutionalised thinking is rarely productive.

  2. Mike Killingworth said,

    The French have a long history of treating their former colonies as puppet states,

  3. Babz Badasbab Rahman said,

    What did the Stop the War coalition propose while the world watched in horror as Islamists in Mali started destroying UNESCO cultural heritage sites?

    Still I can’t help but agree with some of the things they say. Western (namely US) direct involvement in the affairs of other nations has led to some horrendous blowback. The current Mali episode can be traced back to the Libyan campaign. So much effort goes into bombing the ‘enemy’ to smithereens and yet comparatively little is spent on what comes next.

  4. SteveH said,

    What makes this article so surprising is that you support Islamists in Libya and Syria. Somehow in those countries the Islamists are all progressive and girls not being allowed to go to school is not a problem.

    “Let us make the point that the primary concern should be the wishes and interests of the people of North Africa and Mali.”

    What if they wish to support the Islamists, as they did in the battle of Gao?

    “The protestors opposed the Tuareg rebels and the partition of Mali. Two were killed as a result of the protests, allegedly by MNLA troops. The protesters used both Malian and Islamist flags, and France 24 reported that many locals supported the Islamists as a result of their opposition to the Tuareg nationalists and the secession of Azawad.”

    I guess Shiraz will decide for them, what they wish. Those under colonial rule are not afforded the luxury of having wishes of their own.

  5. Jim Denham said,

    The so-called “Stop the War Coalition” supports the Islamist fascists:

    http://stopwar.org.uk/index.php/resources/stop-the-war-coalition-statements/2178-no-foreign-interv

  6. Jim Denham said,

    Geoff: as far as I can make out the AWL article (unlike the STWC) doesn’t take amn position at all on the French intervention, but is merely an analysis.

  7. modernity's ghost said,

    No one should be surprised at attitudes found amongst western “anti-imperialists”.

    After all, the conflict in Syria is evidence enough of that.

    In the space of two years, not one national demonstration against Assad’s murderous regime has been organised by the StWC or any other western “anti-imperialist” groupings.

    Not one national demonstration.

    That’s coming up to two years of watching Syrians getting slaughtered and the StWC does precious little.

    That’s 60,000+ Syrians killed and not one StWC national demonstration.

    That’s millions of Syrians displaced, 100s of 1,000 injured or maim yet the StWC can’t really be bothered by it all.

    And this from activists who once considered themselves internationalists, a positive lethargy on Assad’s murder of Syrians.

    If they can’t be bothered by state-sponsored murder in Syria then, I imagine, the fate of Malians is hardly going to trouble them too much.

  8. Jim Denham said,

    The predictable response from Posh-boy Milne in today’s Graun.

    But worth of note is this remarkable (even for Milne) example of:
    sleight-of-hand:

    “The fastest blowback yet in this disastrous war on terror” [the headline]:

    “French intervention in Mali has now produced the fastest blowback yet in the war on terror. the groups that seized the In Imenas gas plant last week – reportedly with weapons supplied to libya by france and Britain – insisted their action was taken in response to France’s operation, Algeria’s decision to open its airspace to the French and western looting of the country’s natural resources.

    “it may well be that the attack had in fact been planned for months…”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/22/mali-fastest-blowback-war-on-terror

  9. Jim Denham said,

    ‘How the west misread Mali': a very well-informed and sensible piece in today’s Graun by Ian Birrell. he could equally have entitled it ‘How idiots like Posh-boy and Stop the War misread Mali:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/25/west-misread-mali-sahel-intervention

    • Mike Killingworth said,

      Two generations ago, the OAU set colonial boundaries in stone. But even stone wears out…

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