African commentators are divided over the French military intervention in Mali. While some believe African countries need foreign support - others fear French aggression and a protracted war with regional implications.
"France intervention in Mali: Security co-operation or neo-colonialism?" asked Dr. Njunga Mulikita in an opinion piece for the online edition of Zambia Daily Mail. France's military intervention in Mali to halt the advance of Islamist fighters, appeared like a "case of a responsible major power collaborating with an African country to deal with an overt security threat to regional order and stability," the security expert continued.
However: "I am extremely concerned that fifty years after political independence, African countries should turn to their erstwhile colonial masters to address peace and security challenges."
The African regional body ECOWAS, and the African Union have remained too much on the sidelines, Mulikita wrote. "If Africa, through its collective security arrangement, the AU, cannot rapidly respond to this kind of security threat, then what is the meaning of African unity and sovereignty?" he asked.
"It is an illusion to assume that the African armies could be in a position, in the near or distant future, to take over from the French troops," the Algerian daily Le Quotidien-Oran agreed in its online edition. "Africa doesn't have the technical, logistical or organizational measures to coordinate a military structure. It has even less of a political intelligence to deal with such problems. Previous operations have clearly shown that."
Mali's neighbor Niger is among the countries sending troops as part of the International Support Mission in Mali (MISMA), as the African force is called which was approved by the UN last December. Républicain Niger wrote that, in contrast to other African leaders, Niger's President Issoufou had long foreseen that the apparent willingness for negotiation demonstrated by some of the Islamist groups in recent weeks was a "diversion": "Ansar Dine, Mujao and Al Qaeda in Islamist Maghreb (AQMI) are all forces of evil", the paper wrote in its online edition, "it was a waste of time to believe that you could discuss a return to peace with them."
The article warned of a protracted war that could impact on the neighboring states.
The biggest challenge for the African mission MISMA, warned Algeria's daily Elwatan, will consist in making sure that "the ‘reconquest of North Mali' doesn't turn into a revenge trip." Malian soldiers, the paper wrote, were humiliated when Touareg and armed Islamists conquered the North in early 2012. There was "widespread fear" now that they could "take revenge on the local population".
Ivory Coast's L'Infodrome commented on the recent hostage-taking of workers at a gas plant in Algeria by Islamist militants, who claimed the operation was launched in retaliation for France's military intervention in Mali. "Americans, British, Italians, Germans who have so far promised to limit their involvement in this war to logistical support could soon reconsider. Will they send troops on the ground? Nothing's excluded."
Le Quotidien-Oran from Algeria doubts the intentions behind the intervention by France, which it calls a "belligerent state". "No sooner have the French troops left Afghanistan than they intervene in Mali. […] France currently seems like the most aggressive country on the planet. Even the US seem fairly reserved in comparison", the paper wrote.
The fact that France, after the intervention in Libya, has "again come to Algeria and to the Maghreb region with its arms" was something, the paper wrote, that led to the fact that "every Algerian, every North-African is feeling an uncertainty because of the belligerent state on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea."
The conflict had "turned into a Western-run war in a Muslim country, despite the discouraging precedents of Afghanistan and Iraq", Gwynne Dyer analyzed in an opinion piece for Libya's English-language Tripoli Post.
Dyer argued that the West was supporting the Malian government which "behind a flimsy civilian facade, is controlled by the same thugs in uniform whose military coup last March, just one month before the scheduled democratic election, created the chaos that let the Islamist rebels conquer the northern half of the country."
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