As Mali boils, will the Army keep its promise? asks Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

Posted by News Express | 9 September 2020 | 780 times

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•Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

 

A section of Africa, Mali, is in the news again. As usual, on a negative note! For the umpteenth time, the vast country, stretching into the Sahara Desert, is among the poorest countries in the world. Mali is boiling again over another military takeover. Mutinying soldiers ousted the country's President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, with the claim that “they plan to set up a civilian transitional government and hold new elections.”

While the spokesman for the soldiers said “they had acted to prevent the country falling further into chaos,” Keita acted gentlemanly, unlike his contemporary African leaders whose ambitions worth more than the blood of their subjects. He resigned, saying: “I did not want blood to be spilled to keep me in power.”

The mutiny has generated widespread condemnation, even among some African leaders who are saddled with the history of coup d'etat.

The UN Security Council has urged the immediate release of the president and his officials, while directing all troops should return to their barracks without delay.

On its part, African Union’s 15-member Security Council called for the restoration of constitutional order and the release of the president and other government officials.

Recent events in Mali were not palatable and could as well spark uprising. It will be recalled that President Keïta won a second term in the election of 2018. But since June he has faced huge street protests over corruption, mismanagement of the economy and a dispute over legislative elections. There has also been anger among troops about pay and the conflict with jihadists.

It is equally obvious that the war in Libya, almost a decade ago, is instrumental in nudging the country into chaos. As always the case, availability of weapons from the warring Libyans are believed to have fuelled the separatist conflict in Northern Mali. This morphed into an Islamist militant offensive which, analysts believe, prompted a coup in the capital, Bamako.

So, it is not out of place to state that the coup in Mali was prompted by security challenges, corruption, disputed elections, and political drift.

On the other hand, other events trailing the coup in Mali were strong signals that the country was sitting on a keg of gun-powder. For instance, in 2019, Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga and his government resigned following an upsurge of ethnic violence.

The ugly event was trailed by the kidnap of the opposition leader, Soumaila Cisse kidnapped as he campaigned ahead of parliamentary elections.

On April 30, the Constitutional Court overturned some parliamentary election results amid fraud allegations.

As the months go by, things began to degenerate. In May, opposition coalition led by popular Imam, Mahmoud Dicko, called for President Keïta’s resignation while in June ECOWAS called for creation of a “consensus government of national unity”, following massive opposition street protests.

Events came to an ugly head on July 10 when, at least, 10 people were killed after opposition supporters clashed with security services.

Africa’s long history of ousting unpopular governments through coup d’etat is gaining prominence. A few years back, elements in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces gathered in the nation’s capital, Harare, and seized some major institutions in the city, including Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation. This event led to the ousting of one of the Africa's longest-serving despots, Robert Mugabe.

Just like tensions currently brewing in Mali, situations in Zimbabwe prior to the ousting of Mugabe were not favourable. The centre of the conflict was who would succeed Mugabe, then 93 years. At the centre-stage of the contest were the then embattled vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was allegedly backed by the army, and Mugabe’s spouse, Grace Mugabe, who was allegedly backed by the G40 faction.

Intrigues and fouled power-play were let loose. The situation led to the firing of Mnangagwa and his subsequent forced exile to South Africa. There were rumoured poisoning of Mnangagwa during an August 2017 political rally led by the president, and his airlifting to a hospital in South Africa for treatment.

The question begging for urgent address in Mali’s situation is: “Will the soldiers, who call themselves the ‘National Committee for the Salvation of the People’, fulfill their assurance of not staying in power?”

Will they live up to their promise? "We are keen on the stability of the country, which will allow us to organise general elections to allow Mali equip itself with strong institutions within the reasonable time limit.”

The whole world is watching!

•Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu, a public policy analyst, writes from Aba, via keshiafrica@gmail.com


Source: News Express

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