It is a single document. Nathalie Prévost and Olivier Jobard managed to turn at the height of the diplomatic crisis between Paris and Bamako in the zone of asymmetric wars that are tearing Mali apart. Timbuktu, Mopti, Gao, Kidal, so many Sahelian cities with names that have become familiar to the French public but whose images – excluding immersion in the French forces – were rare because of the risk of kidnapping. "We noticed that in most of the reports Malians are almost always silent. We wanted to give them a voice, and to achieve that we had to go everywhere," says Nathalie Prévost, who knows the region having lived in Niamey, Niger, a country caught in a spiral of conflict.
- Survey - Who is your favorite columnist in "TPMP"?
Even if it meant taking risks to shoot this documentary entitled Mali, the lost war against terrorism, the team managed to get to the tri-border area. A desert territory largely controlled by the Islamic State, escorted by a fleet of pick-up trucks of Tuareg fighters. "Everything is doable, as long as you only deal with the boss," says Nathalie Prévost. "We arrived in Mali in the middle of a period of 'dégagisme', a sequence marked by the expulsion of the France ambassador and the end of Operation Barkhane, asking ourselves a question: why such a stalemate?" she continues. The causes are eminently Malian, they are rooted in communal rivalries that can go back to the old local empires. The successive powers in Mali and the elites who profit from rents seek to buy time not to confront them.»
"At dusk, everyone is afraid"
Despite the tensions between the junta in Bamako and Paris, journalists in the capital - where war seems so distant - have not felt any particular aggressiveness towards them. Yet the rejection of France and its values is very real. "We want dictatorship! Democracy is about waste! " says a protester in front of the Kati military camp. In the center rumbles the Fulani revolt. In the north, Tuareg irredentism is fueled by ancient revenge. Here and there is holy war with its jihadists in short pants and Chinese motorcycles. Banditry, racketeering, kidnappings, targeted assassinations, inter-communal massacres... "At dusk, everyone is afraid," said a Timbuktu resident. The France is perceived as a powerless power. It is now replaced by Wagner's Russian mercenaries and their exactions.
Spite towards Paris
Until the end, the officers of Operation Barkhane continue their mission by praising their civil-military actions. But how to "conquer hearts and minds" when people feel abandoned and trapped in a war in perpetual extension in a country with multiple fractures? How to control a territory as vast as France with 5,000 men at the height of the intervention? "We lost out of vanity! We have fallen into the traps set by terrorists and Malians," says Nathalie Prévost. The counterinsurgency strategy has failed, as it has failed in Iraq and Afghanistan. There remains the spite towards Paris, the anger against a central state incapable of assuming its responsibilities.
In Bamako, the junta braggarts. It claims to "restore order and security". A few discordant voices try to be heard. For them, there is still time to dialogue, to negotiate because "peace has no price".