Mali: The Fate of Great Africa
September 22 is the Independence Day of the African state of Mali. In Antiquity, since the 13th century, a real African Empire was formed on the territory of this state. Its name comes from the Malinke people, which are part of the Mande group of West African tribes.
Previously, this area was dominated by the power of the people of Ghana, but after its decline, the initiative passed to Mali. The founder of the Mali Empire is considered the legendary ruler of Sundyatta Keita, about whom the whole epic “Sundiata” was composed.
Before European colonization, the inhabitants of West Africa, and in particular the Mali Empire, saw themselves as free subjects. They built cities, developed crafts, and created armies. Along with the spread of Islam in Africa, ancient archaic cults persisted. Mali was one of the most important centers of West African civilization, exerting a tremendous influence on neighboring peoples in the field of culture, politics, and economy. In Mali, huge reserves of gold were discovered long ago, which was considered not just a valuable metal, but endowed with important spiritual qualities.
The colonial-era reduced Africans to the status of pitiful slaves. Due to the lack of advanced technology and skin color, Europeans enlisted Africans in the category of subhumans. And this cruel cynical and greedy civilization will teach us what human rights are? Never in Russia did the state and society sink to that inhuman swinishness as the peoples of enlightened Europe. This is evidenced by the terrible centuries of their domination in Africa. The Europeans in the Age of Enlightenment created the vile myth that not all races are equal and that those who have achieved great success in technology and material apparatus have the right to rule over those who are supposedly behind in their development. The idea of progress itself had an initially racist and slave-owning motive: the more developed have every right to rule over the less developed.
But West African civilization and, in particular, the great culture of the peoples from the Manden Highlands, the creators of the Mali Empire, has nothing to do with the caricature that the European colonialists turned typical Africans into. It was a full-fledged beautiful and refined society with its own traditions and ideas, with its own art and special technologies. But colonialism canceled all this with one gesture.
Only in the 20th century did the Africans manage to throw off the colonial yoke. And it’s not up to the end.
The state of Mali was formed only in 1960. And of course, leaving the French, the colonialists tried to leave behind the mechanisms of dependence. Mali is getting rid of it to this day.
In particular, the colonial heritage is the coexistence of different ethnic groups in one state. So in the northeast of Mali, there are many Tuaregs, a people sharply different from the Malinke and close to the Berber tribes that in ancient times inhabited all of North Africa. The Tuaregs even tried to proclaim their separate state of Azawad. In recent years, radical Islamists – including the most extreme – such as Al-Qaeda, which is banned in Russia, have joined the Mali rebel movement.
France, by inertia, is still trying to manage its former colony, but it cannot, and may not want to, solve its problems either with the economy, or with separatism, or with extremism. The inertia of Western arrogance is reflected in everything. Pro-French President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was ousted in 2020. In Mali, you can even see Russian flags at rallies, the people demand that the new leadership turn to Russia as soon as possible.
In a multipolar world, Russia has a chance to come to Africa with a completely new mission. Russia has no colonial history in Africa. And Moscow’s traditional ties with African countries and anti-colonial movements have a long and generally completely positive history.
It’s time for Russia to come to Mali. Respect for its ancient history, culture, identity. Without the slightest hint of superiority or greedy intentions.
Russia can come to Mali as a friend, as a support, as a force capable of acting transparently and predictably. The successes of Russia in the fight against Islamic extremism are clearly visible in same Syria. It is quite possible to repeat. French or British Africa is a shameful shadow of the colonial past. Russia comes as an empire-liberator, which essentially does not need anything from the peoples of Africa. This is a very interesting role and quite traditional for a Russian person – to help the oppressed, humiliated, and insulted.