Do not rely too much on the title of the documentary, War in Mali, backstage of a gear, at the risk of being disappointed. No diving behind the curtain hiding the secrets of this conflict in the Sahel in which the French army got stuck in the sand. On the other hand, the director and journalist Jean Crépu meticulously dissects the springs, following a chronological framework starting from the appearance on the scene in Mali, in the 2000s, of the first radical groups, bloodthirsty avatars of the Algerian Islamist movements, until the withdrawal, pitiful, started a few months ago, French soldiers of the “Barkhane” force.
On this subject, the words of former President François Hollande called to testify in front of the director’s camera illustrate the extent of the failure of this “opex”, as the military say to describe their external operations. Jean Crépu went to find an archival soundtrack dating from the French intervention “Serval” (later renamed “Barkhane”) in January 2013.
The French army then intervened at the request of the interim Malian president, Dioncounda Traoré (2012-2013), to prevent a coalition of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and Tuareg separatists from taking the city of Sévaré, the last lock. security before the capital Bamako.
Illusion of a victory
The French strike force had stopped the offensive. The attackers who had survived had vanished into the sands, creating the illusion of a frank and definitive victory. We hear François Hollande say that “France has no vocation to stay in Mali but that it has an objective, it is that there are no more terrorists who threaten the integrity of the country when it leaves” . Nine years later, the soldiers of “Barkhane” pack up; the Support Group for Islam and Muslims and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara hold, from north to center, a good part of Malian territory.
The documentary does not go into the strategic or tactical detail of the French military rout in the Sahel. “Barkhane” has certainly filled his list with the heads of many jihadist leaders but has been unable to stop the return, then the inexorable advance of armed groups in Mali and even their overflow into border countries. Nor does he raise any indictment against this intervention. Because, the French responsibility, although real, is far from being the only one, nor even the main one.
Thus, less than embarking on a journey behind the scenes of a fatal gear, Jean Crépu does the autopsy of the bankruptcy of the Malian state, eaten away since its independence by the corruption of its ruling classes. This same bankruptcy which made the bed of the armed groups by throwing into the arms of the Islamist leaders Iyad Ag Ghali and other Amadou Koufa thousands of frustrated and left behind fighting in the name of an instrumentalized religion.
In this context of a ravaged country, institutionally, economically and socially on its knees, we must look far for notes of hope. It is the only clearing of this solid and realistic documentary, that of a youth who does not want to give up living his dream of democracy, today dysfunctional but which he intends to reinvigorate.