Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Algerian Hostage Killings, Mali and How to Respond.

with 2 comments


French Troops in Mali (El moudjahid)

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 not 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.”


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 ne0-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.


Written by Andrew Coates

January 18, 2013 at 11:18 am

2 Responses

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  1. Not everyone in Mali is cheering the French intervention. This piece http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/civilians-could-pay-heavy-price-as-france-uses-air-strikes-to-block-advance-of-islamist-rebels/article7317583/
    illustrates the clear point that while defeating the Islamists is the public reason for French intervention, humanitarianism is not the main concern, otherwise methods other than indiscriminate bombardment might be used.
    I thought Owen Jones’ analysis was a lot more nuanced than Stop the War. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-war-in-libya-was-seen-as-a-success-now-here-we-are-engaging-with-the-blowback-in-mali-8449588.html
    Likewise this


    January 19, 2013 at 12:36 pm

  2. Yes Mike, Owen shows that there are very few ‘good guys’ in the war, beginning with the Mali army and the Tauregs.

    But he has no analysis of Islamism in its regional shape.

    None whatsoever.

    Andrew Coates

    January 19, 2013 at 1:27 pm

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