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(McCann, Pierre)
(McCann, Pierre)

LYSIANE GAGNON

In North Africa, the chickens come home to roost Add to ...

“Mr. Harper, you and your allies have delivered Mali to the Salafists of al-Qaeda: This is a collateral damage of your intervention in Libya …”

This is an excerpt from a spirited open letter published in La Presse by Boucar Diouf, a biologist of Senegalese origin. Mr. Diouf is right, although, in fairness, he should have addressed the letter to all Canadian party leaders since Parliament unanimously favoured Canada’s participation in the air raids over Libya. The NATO operation was actually directed by a Canadian, Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard.

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Now the chickens are coming home to roost. As anyone remotely familiar with North Africa should have known, the improvised war against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime is having dire consequences in a region that was already extremely unstable.

Last week, an Islamist rebel faction known as Ansar Dine swept across northern Mali, seized control of Timbuktu, proclaimed sharia law and forced women to cover their faces. This faction is linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the group that kidnapped Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay in 2008 and that has taken dozens of Westerners as hostages.

The Ansar Dine takeover was facilitated by its alliance with Tuareg nomads who had worked as mercenaries for Col. Gadhafi and who had returned home – with their arms – after he was overthrown. The bitter irony is that, in recent years, Canada spent more than $100-million annually to help Mali resist the push of jihadist forces.

“In Africa,” writes Mr. Diouf, “we have an old saying: ‘If someone cuts a baobab that falls on someone else’s house, he must rebuild the house.’ By attacking Libya with your French and British friends, Mr. Harper, you have cut a baobab whose branches were covering the territories inhabited by the Tuaregs.”

Antoine Glaser, a French expert on Africa, predicts that countries such as Niger and Burkina Faso might soon suffer from the shock waves generated by the Libyan war. Meantime, weapons stolen from Col. Gadhafi’s huge arsenal are moving throughout North Africa and as far as Gaza, where Palestinian groups have received Russian-made missiles that could be used against civilian airliners.

Libya itself is descending into chaos, with various tribal clans at war with each other and militias refusing to cede their weapons to the fragile and fractious transitional government.

And there’s a push for separation in the eastern part of the country. The military governor of Tripoli, Abdelhakim Belhadj, is a former jihadist, but, as ruthless as he is, he’s unable to restore order – the capital is torn by violent militias struggling for power.

The new rulers at the local level routinely torture and murder their opponents, while Western “liberators” turn a blind eye. France, whose president initiated the international attack against Col. Gadhafi, is in the middle of a presidential election; but no one there is talking about Libya.

I was against the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but at least the Americans tried to rebuild the society they had destroyed. They failed, but they lost 4,500 soldiers in the process. In contrast, NATO’s venture into Libya was a coward’s operation: Fighter planes bombed the country for months – and the only victims were Libyans. Then the governments involved just washed their hands of the Libyan file, without bothering about the future of the war-ravaged country.

The baobab fell and no one helped with the reconstruction.

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