The bigger question is not why France decided to intervene but why America has held off. Is it simply imperial overstretch and war-weariness? That seems a little thin, given the hue and cry in Washington about ‘ungoverned spaces’ and ‘terrorist safe havens’. After all, the Sahara is six times as big as Afghanistan and Pakistan combined. And why sink money into the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership – more than $1 billion since 2005 – or foot the bill for Operation Enduring Freedom Trans-Sahara, if at the end of it all al-Qaida is allowed to march on Bamako? Why would Obama order more drone strikes than his predecessor against the leaders of Somalia’s al-Shabaab, a group with relatively weak links to international terrorism, but not lift a finger to stop AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Maghreb) from taking over Mali? Unless, of course, in addition to a division of labour with the French, the point is to ‘disaggregate’ the multiple terrorist threats in Africa, tackling each individually rather than addressing any common denominator, and so deny jihadism a chance to coalesce. In this regard, even if the French were drawn into the quicksand in Mali, Nigeria would most likely remain the region’s focal point for the US: with 150 million inhabitants, it is the most populous state as well as the biggest oil producer south of the Sahara, and has an active homegrown salafist-jihadist group, Boko Haram (‘Westernisation Is Sinful’). When I put these thoughts to a US military staffer involved in anti-terrorism in Africa, he replied tersely: ‘What we’re doing in Africa is a sort of Whac-A-Mole’ – a reference to an arcade game in which players force moles back into their burrows by hitting them on the head with a mallet. He went on to quote the sixth president of the United States, John Quincy Adams: ‘America goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.’ Well, not any longer perhaps. But France has done precisely that.
Until African officials stop lining their pockets with money that could be spent identifying and developing the best young talent the continent has to offer, dreams of an African nation winning the World Cup will remain elusive.
The Senegalese football jersey is a powerful symbol of nationhood and independence.
Football in Senegal is magic. That the team has qualified for their second World Cup, heightens the joy.
How do you tell a different story of Indians in South Africa, one that shatters long-held and reproduced stereotypes?
20 years after English and Tunisian football fans clashed in the streets of Marseille, their teams again meet in their opening match up.
A remembrance for Father’s Day.
One Ghanaian football fan wrestles with which teams to support in this year’s World Cup after the Black Stars failed to qualify.
A Canadian immigrant father’s Egyptian football nationalism, and reflections on World Cup fever from Cairo.
Reliving the epic quarterfinal match between France and Brazil at Mexico ’86.
We are exploring the culture and history of the World Cup for the next month while the tournament goes on.
It is worth revisiting the context for the mass killings, how historians have studied it since and casting a revisionist eye.
What will the renewed land debate in South Africa mean for the border woes of neighbors such as Lesotho?
Paul Biya’s inability to address the crisis in the country’s Anglophone region is pushing the nation to the brink.
South Africa’s national rugby team, the Springboks, gets a black captain for the first time in its history–24 years after the end of Apartheid.
Has migration policy reckoned with epidemics like Ebola?
A reflection on police brutality in Nigeria on the anniversary of the death of the ‘Apo Six.’
A group of esteemed Nigerian thinkers come together and chat about rapper Falz’s take on the viral “This Is…” video meme.
Why has Childish Gambino’s “This is America” video resonated with so many people around the world?
In INTL BLK episode 5, deejays Chief Boima and Francesca Harding take a look at race and cultural difference in Latin America through the lens of trap music.
While entertaining, the showy presidential campaign of Zimbabwe’s opposition may not amount to much on July 30th.