Roger Annis

“France is in Mali for the long haul.” That was the headline of France’s daily newspaper Le Monde on February 4. The newspaper's front page, as well as pages 2 and 3, were devoted to a discussion over “what next” for France in Mali.
France, the former slave power of west Africa, has poured into Mali with a vengeance in a military attack launched on January 11. French warplanes are bombing towns and cities across the vast swath of northern Mali, a territory measuring some one thousand kilometres from south to north and east to west. French soldiers in armoured columns have launched a ground offensive, beginning with towns in the south of the northern territory, some 300 kilometres north and east of the Malian capital of Bamako.
A social and political rights movement of indigenous people is rising across Canada and making international headlines. Protests by the “Idle No More” movement began last month and continue to grow. The movement has rallied daily across the country in shopping malls, at US border crossings and on major railway lines. Three days ago, it compelled Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to climb down from his refusal to meet with indigenous leaders to discuss their very deep concerns.
A popular movement against tar sands oil production and pipeline transport is on the rise and gathering steam in Canada. Its biggest expression so far came on October 22 when 4000- 5000 people rallied in front of the British Columbia legislature to send a forceful message to the tar sands industry and its political representatives. “No tar sands pipelines across BC! No oil tankers in coastal waters!” read the lead banners.
About 200,000 people marched in London, Glasgow and Belfast on October 20 against the austerity programs of British Prime Minister David Cameron's government. The trade unions that called the actions put the numbers of participants at: London 150,000, Glasgow 10,000 and Belfast 10,000. Marchers were of all ages and backgrounds — trade union members, students, families affected by cuts to health and social services and women's rights advocates, among others.
Women and girls are among the hardest hit by the anti-working-class policies of Britain’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government. A report published in The Guardian earlier this year showed that rising taxes and cuts to social spending have hit women three times as hard as men. Women aged 50-64 have been hit hardest by rising unemployment since the coalition came to power. It is up 31% compared to an overall rise of 4.2% in the country (to 2.6 million people).
Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to Montreal's streets on August 22 for the monthly protest march of Quebec's student movement. The movement has organised big marches on the 22nd of each month since March of this year. The march was an impressive display of militancy and determination just 12 days before the September 4 provincial election. Some members of the radical Broad Coalition of the Association for Student Union Solidarity (CLASSE) student association said that 100,000 people took part.
People and governments across Latin America are rising up against foreign mining companies in a wave of revolt generating alarm among investors and their political operatives in the imperialist governments. In Haiti, United States and Canadian gold mining companies are rubbing their hands over the riches that they believe await them. A recent study by Haiti Grassroots Watch estimates up to US$20 billion, at gold’s current price of $1600 an ounce, lies in the ground.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Montreal on August 1. The protests came the day after the call for an election in the Quebec province by the Liberal Party government of Quebec Premier Jean Charest. Quebec has been rocked this year by a large student strike against a proposed tuition fee hike and huge street demonstrations. In response, the Liberal government introduced the draconian Law 78, which severely restricts the right to protest.
The student movement in Quebec is facing a crucial summer of discussion and organising. Law 78, which suspended classes at strike-bound institutions in May, directs their resumption in mid-August. The government of Liberal Party Premier Jean Charest is preparing a judicial and police assault against striking students and their associations. It aims to force open school doors and see its proposed 82% university tuition fee hike over seven years prevail.
The opening salvo in a promised, summer of protest by Quebec’s student movement was delivered at the annual, Montreal Grand Prix auto race and surrounding festivities from June 7 to 10. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of students and their allies used the high-profile event to press demands for a freeze in post-secondary tuition fees and an end to police and state repression.
”Nothing is working anymore in Quebec City.” So began the report on Radio Canada (French language CBC) of the collapse of negotiations between the Quebec government and the four associations of post-secondary students on strike. Around 4 pm on Thursday, Minister of Education Michelle Courchesne walked out of the talks.
Quebec’s student movement, and the swelling ranks of its popular allies, staged a huge rally and march in Montreal on May 22. The march supported the students’ fight for free, quality public education and rejected government repression. Estimates by some mainstream news outlets and by many independent observers put the number of participants as high as 400,000.
The strike of post-secondary students in Quebec has taken a dramatic turn with the May 18 approval by the provincial government of a special law to cancel the school year at strike-bound institutions and outlaw protest activity deemed disruptive of institutions not participating in the strike. Details of Bill 78 were unveiled the day before and debated in a special, overnight session of Quebec’s National Assembly.
The new, interim president of Mali is holding out the possibility of “all out war” against the rebellion of the oppressed, Touareg nationality that has swept the north of the western African country. Dioncounda Traore took over the presidency on April 12 in a deal with the military officers who overthrew the elected president on March 21. He immediately called on the rebels to "return to the fold and to strengthen this nation instead of dividing it". BBC reported on April 12 that Traore said if they did not yield, "we will not hesitate to wage a total and relentless war".
The African country of Mali suffered a coup d'etat against its elected government on March 21. Mali, a landlocked former French colony in western Africa with a population of 15 million, was one month away from a national election. The coup was carried out by the country’s armed forces.


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