Some things are even worse than colonialism – at least the people of northern Mali feel that way after months of being oppressed and tormented by Islamists. They wave Frech flags, they smile, they want the French to stay.

Mali was one of the most successful democracies in Africa until insurgents began trying to take it over.

Besides taking many lives, the insurgents have destroyed historic shrines in Timbuktu that date to the 15th century. The attackers say the shrines offend Sharia law.

Such allegations have spurred the International Criminal Court to launch a war-crimes investigation, its chief prosecutor announced Wednesday. Fatou Bensouda said Mali’s government asked the U.N. tribunal to investigate in July, after Islamists had taken control of much of the country.

“The international crimes committed in Mali have deeply shocked the conscience of humanity,” Bensouda said Wednesday. “The legal requirements have been met. We will investigate.”

The ICC has found “reasonable basis” to support allegations of murder, torture, mutilation, rape and pillaging, Bensouda said.

Well, “colonialism” is probably the wrong word. As the journalist in the video points out to the guy in the car who says the French should stay, France is the former colonial power in Mali – but all the same, there’s a difference between liberation and colonialism.


  1. says

    There’s also a difference, alas, between liberation and a half-cocked intervention that will become more unpopular in France the longer it goes on, and may not go on long enough to do any good.

  2. anon1152 says

    Thank you for posting this. I wouldn’t have seen/read the CNN article otherwise.

    I wonder if an Islamist takeover could be considered a form of Colonialism. (I’m not sure.. I’m just throwing that out there as an idea. I’ve only read a few articles about the conflict in Mali. I need to read much more).

    One thing I’m more sure of: I think that there needs to be economic exploitation (and perhaps also “settlers”) for the actions to count as “Colonialism.” Will there be? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see whether or not “colonialism” is the right word.

  3. dirigible, despite the admins says

    The cookie-cutter anti-imperialism argument is that France is just defending the plutonium.

    Which makes a nice change from defending the oil.

  4. Simon says

    Every military endeavor is allegedly an effort to “liberate”. Hitchens would still be talking of “liberating” Iraq if he was alive today.

    The fact is this is neither colonialism nor liberation. It’s an armed intervention. And yes, France and it’s partners do have economic interests in the country. It may sound more noble to talk solely of freedom and fighting Al Qaeda (which they may well be doing in the process), but no this is not “cookie-cutter” arguing. It is reality and it does matter.

    How much stability their intervention will offer long term is questionable, given that the armed conflict seems to have started due to the demands by the Touaregs for independence. The Islamists came in after the fact on the side of the Touaregs (and pushed them out of the way) with the results that we see today, but the fact is that there is a longer standing dispute than will be solved by removing Islamists. But lest there be any doubt, I do think removing the Islamists is a good thing as long as it’s not done in a ham-fisted way.

  5. johnthedrunkard says

    Why do the anti-colonialists EVER notice the way that Islam got to Mali in the first place?

    How is the deeply racist ‘arabcentric’ nature of most Islamist movements NOT imperialist?

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Um, just how and where did the residents of northern Mali get French flags to wave?

  7. Lyanna says

    Yes, this isn’t colonialism at all—Mali isn’t being annexed as a colony.

    It is, as Simon said, armed intervention. France’s economic interests there are real, but that doesn’t de-legitimize the intervention by itself. Knee-jerk anti-interventionists are starting to bug me. I used to be one of them, and I’m still an anti-imperialist, but I don’t think all interventions amount to imperialism.

    On balance, I think this is probably a good thing, even though interventions are always dicey.

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