chapter  12
Defending neoliberal Mali: French military intervention and the management of contested political narratives
Pages 22

The French military intervention in Mali, which began on 11 January 2013, exposed the complex dynamics of Malian politics, the rising regional threat of ‘terrorist’ and illicit networks in the Sahel, the limits of African conflict management organisations, and the mechanisms of French militarism in Africa. Generally, comments and analyses have so far focused on the problem of Mali’s ‘state failure’ and its articulation with a ‘terrorist’ threat. The legitimacy and necessity of the French military interposition have hinged on this articulation. According to French President François Hollande, the request of interim Malian President Dioncounda Traoré for French military intervention was justified on the basis of an external terrorist threat. The same request by President François Bozizé of the Central African Republic (CAR) was rejected on the basis that France would not ‘protect a regime’ against the Séléka rebels because this crisis was considered, in Paris, an internal CAR affair. Both states suffered a coup d’état and showed their chronic incapacity to face serious security threats, but only Mali received massive French and international attention and support.1