Monday 8 June 2009

Dyer's murder in Mali: do the Americans share the blame?

I wish this post wasn't here, but it needs to be marked that the British hostage Edwin Dyer was killed last week in Mali, and the web of motives and connections behind his murder needs some exposure. I've no idea how close Jeremy Keenan's analysis here, in the Independent, is to the truth, but it feels uncomfortably plausible that the US has supported al-Qa'ida in the Maghreb. This sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it's nothing new – the Mujahideen in Afghanistan were supplied by the US to oust the Russians. And look what a mess that got us all into. Then again, there may be further levels of complexity beneath what Keenan outlines. And perhaps Barack Obama would like to do something about this. . . Perhaps he would dearly like to clear his "advisors" and intelligence people out of West Africa. But perhaps he simply cannot. Perhaps Bush's legacy, described in Keenan's book, The Dark Sahara: American's War on Terror in Africa, is going to persist, sickeningly, through Obama's first term.

Dyer's murder is a tragedy not just for his own family but for the desperately poor people of northern Mali, where a nascent tourism, based around music and cultural festivals along the Niger River, was just emerging. Insurance cover to go north of Timbuktu was already a problem, and the future of the festivals is seriously threatened if travellers stay away. But as Andy Morgan's article about the Festival in the Desert makes clear, this is an intrinsically safe part of the world, no matter what the British foreign office and the US State department might dryly advise, with their frightening statements and unhelpful lack of statistics.

Photo: on the road between Douentza and Gao: cracked windscreen, but cracking scenery and the buses felt safer than riding the K9 through Kingston on a Friday evening.

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