Archive | September, 2016

Stability in Mali: re-emergence of old French counterinsurgency models?

By Roel Vandervelde  ( Paper c0-published with the WAPSN website at In the last four years French forces have conducted major military operations in two African states. In 2013, the French government promised to ‘clean up the area’ in Central African Republic as well as return ‘stability’ to Mali through the ‘reconquest’ of Northern Mali under operation Serval after disgruntled military men had ousted the elected Mali president and lost the North to a Tuareg rebellion.[1]  Between January and April 2013 French air and land forces acted unilaterally and decisively to roll back southbound offensives of an alliance of multifarious Tuareg clans, Islamic tribes and groups like Ansar Dine, and outsiders like Al-Qaeda, which had sprung up the year before.[2] President Hollande quickly announced French deference to the Mali authorities in February 2013, “The changeover is soon enough, now it’s the Malians who have the responsibility to assure the transition and above all the stability of their country.”[3] France deftly handed operational responsibility to the MINUSMA UN mission in July 2013. Eerily reminiscent of the flight-deck announcement of US president George W. Bush in Iraq in 2003, the following January the French President announced troop reductions, now that the […]

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France, the UN, the EU, and the US summoned to sort out a family squabble in sub-Saharan Africa

Something like a deja-vu occurred in Gabon on September 2, 2016 when Jean Ping called a press conference at his Libreville home to declare himself the rightful president of Gabon, before official results of the presidential election held on 27 August 2016.  A few years earlier, André Mba Obame had done the same following the 2009 presidential election, hoping to receive the support of the international community. However, until his mysterious death in exile in 2015, this former adviser to Omar Bongo and government minister never recovered from the fact that despite a wealth of evidence indicating that the election had been rigged in favour of Ali Bongo (Omar Bongo’s son), France (and others such as the US) accepted the inverted election results which declared Ali Bongo winner. History is stuttering this time around as the main protagonists of the recent presidential election (Jean Ping and Ali Bongo) are maneuvering exactly like their political godfather, Omar Bongo, had taught them. Omar Bongo singlehandedly ruled the small but oil-rich central African nation of Gabon for 42 years until his death in 2009. Just a few months before his death though, the frail and ill-stricken dictator was to pull a hitherto rarely […]

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