France and the bloody war of uranium in Mali

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By José E. Mosquera / Source / The Dawn / December 1, 2015.


The terrorist attack in which 170 people were held hostage by jihadist group Al-Mourabioun, Al Qaeda, at a hotel in the center of Bamako, Mali’s capital —old French colony in the Sahel region in West Africa— that left a tragic toll of 27 dead, has brought to the fore the expansion of radical Islamist cells in Africa.


Undoubtedly, it is a consequence of France’s military intervention in Mali two years ago, a story that occupied the front pages of newspapers, Internet portals, news radio and television in the world. At that time, the French president, Francois Hollande was seen as the new champion of the fight against terrorism for his crusade against the progress of cells of Al Qaeda in the Maghreb and the Sahel with Operation Serval, that aimed at reconquering North Mali.


The message sent by France to the international community with that military operation that sought to restore ‘order and peace’ in Mali was to show that France is a country that fights terrorism, as it does now in its own territory after the attacks in the Bataclan and other sites of their capital, Paris. The controversial part of this “humanitarian” action developed two years ago were its economic and strategic interests in the territory controlled by Tuareg separatists and radical jihadist groups.


The question that arose in face of the trappings of the French war in Mali is: what were the underlying reasons that the French government had for releasing an unilateral military intervention in a country that is landlocked, with mostly desertic territory, and with more than 60% of its population surviving on less than two dollars a day, and one of the highest mortality and illiteracy rates in the word?


Why did France reject the voices who asked for a dialogue, for convening presidential elections and negotiating with the Tuareg? It is clear that France did not advance this military offensive because of altruistic purposes of restoring democracy and peace in Mali, nor to protect French citizens in Mali, nor was it to protect EU interests, but to defend its strategic interests in the Sahel, especially those related to uranium.


For France, the situation in Mali was a national security issue, because its nuclear industry depends largely on exploiting uranium in the Sahel. Moreover, France is one of the countries with the greatest dependence on nuclear energy because more than 75% of its energy production depends on its 58 nuclear plants.


So it is clear that behind the sophistry of the fight against Al Qaeda, what was sought with this war was to shelter uranium concessions of the French multinational Areva in the territories in dispute in Mali and Niger. Maybe that was why the United States and its European partners only offered timid logistical help, because they knew that what was intended was to safeguard the strategic interests of Areva, the State-owned conglomerate, a world leader in the field of nuclear energy.


Mali is the third gold producer in Africa and the eighth in the world, and for over a decade gold has become its main export product, whose holdings are controlled largely by French companies.


Mali and Niger are holders of one of the largest uranium reserves in the world and most of those sites are in the conflict zone and on the border between both countries. In the territory of Agadez in northern Niger, in the Mali-Nigerian border, Areva, through two subsidiaries, controls the uranium exploitation mines of Arlit and Akauta.


The fear that the government of President Hollande had was that the French lost control of concessions if the separatists managed to consolidate a new Islamic State in the North. They were also afraid of the domino effect that could be triggered in Niger, after a triumph of radical and Islamist and the Tuareg in Mali, given that the Tuareg in Niger are also fighting for their independence and, as part of their demands, they call for greater participation in uranium holdings.


Another of the fears that the Gauls had, like the United States and other powers in the West, is that of there was a consolidation of an Islamic State, those uranium reserves would remain under the control of the regime in Tehran. That would explain the support that the UN and NATO gave to French intervention in Mali.

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