Besides leading the NATO charge in Libya against Gaddafi in 2011, leading up to the Malian campaign, France actually sent troops to two different countries within a month. In December, soldiers were deployed to the Central African Republic and then, in early January, a helicopter commando mission in Somalia failed to free a French hostage. They also maintain the largest and readiest Western military presence on the continent, with permanently stationed troops in countries like Chad and Gabon. Not to mention the rich history of corrupt African dictators being propped up by French political leaders in exchange for syphoning natural resources.
When it comes to Africa, since the wave of independence movements directly following WWII, the French secretly considered the continent its colonial playground, even without the title of imperial overlord. In fact, there’s evidence of all sorts of sinister stuff, like alleged connections between Hutu militiamen in Rwanda and French military officials before the 1994 genocide.
In “Françafrique,” colonial influences have translated into extensive economic holdings that a delicate French economy now requires. While the current intervention in Mali could easily be justified on humanitarian grounds, or—if you’re feeling all War on Terror about it—preventing al Qaeda from finding a new home, if Iraq taught us anything, it's that war is rarely fought without economic interests at play. And with the rampant fiscal invasion of Chinese entities threatening France’s traditionally dominant sphere of influence in Africa, the war in Mali helps reinvent French power in the region.
Just consider that French state-owned nuclear engineering company Areva has huge interests in neighbouring Niger (the number four producer of uranium, globally) and the nearby Central African Republic. Add to that Guinea and Mauritania’s valuable iron deposits and Burkina Faso and Chad’s major cotton resources, and you can do the math. If the contagion of militancy from an Islamist Malian territory spread across borders, it could legitimately threaten those vital interests. - Vice Beta