BY COSMAS ODOEMENA
As an ardent believer in democracy, the happenings in Mali are maddening!
As I feared, the junta that carried out the coup to remove the Malian president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, has come clean on its real intention: It wants its grubby paw in Mali’s political pie!
Initially, the junta, in altruistic toga, had latched onto demonstrations calling for the President to resign, which we know is part of democracy. Gun-toting, it seized power and detained the President, his deputy and some other political office holders.
The President resigned, because there was a gun pointed at his head. Who wouldn’t?
First, return Mali to status quo ante. By this, I mean the President should be reinstated, and the soldiers find their way back to the barracks. Let civilians solve their problems themselves. Regional peacekeepers can help the process.
But the Economic Community of West African States delegation said Keïta told them that “he has resigned, that he was not forced to do so and that he does not want to return,” according to Nigeria’s former President, Goodluck Jonathan, who led the delegation. And they believed him! Keïta who had said, “Do I really have a choice?” The man now fears for his life, and that of his family.
In the worst case scenario, the junta should immediately hand over to an interim government made up of civilians, and leave.
Instead, the junta has unmasked itself as also power-thirsty. It says it wants a military government that will be in place for three years, headed by the head of the junta! How preposterous! Indeed, for Africa and coups, old habits die hard.
Even with all the things Americans have accused President Donald Trump of doing, they have not called for his resignation, they have not protested, and the military has not taken over. They are only waiting for the day of reckoning in November to quietly ease him out. That’s democracy.
The junta is capitalising on the weakness of ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations when it comes to dealing with coups and other unconstitutional ways of taking over a legitimate government.
The ECOWAS, short of condemning the coup and suspending the country from its membership, has no teeth. The subregiinal body is “negotiating” with the junta, and it remains to be seen how that will pan out.
The AU itself adopted a declaration against “unconstitutional changes of government”, also called the Lome Declaration. The policy was formalised and is followed by the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
The AU usually suspends a country from its membership after a coup, as in Mali’s case. Otherwise, it has largely been a toothless bulldog when it comes to coups. It’s even more stumped when a coup follows popular protests.
Take the case of when the military removed President Mohammad Morsi in 2012 after days of popular protests. The AU agreed it was a coup and condemned it. It suspended Egypt from the AU and demanded a return to civilian rule.
It turned out that the coup leader, Fattah El-Sisi, contested to be president in 2015 and was successful. But this was against the AU’s rule that banned coup leaders from taking up political positions.
In the end, it was the AU that caved in, and Egypt was reinstated in the AU.
Again, in November 2014, in Burkina Faso, President Blaise Compaore had taken flight, with the vacuum in government, the military took over. It was immediately rejected by the AU, which demanded that a civilian government be put in place.
The AU gave the military two weeks to effect it. It did honour it. But one of the military leaders was made the Prime Minister.
Similarly in Zimbabwe, following a military intervention, the head of the military that led the intervention was made Vice President.
In 2014, an AU High Level Panel considered allowing coups if led by popular protests. But that the military will not be part of the government. The report was never adopted. Thank God it didn’t!
And the UN and coups in Africa? Jawless!
Unfortunately, what gives the Malian coupists the effrontery to go on is the ignorant Malian people, and the equally ignorant opposition who think that military is a viable solution. The aphorism by Chief Obafemi Awolowo that, “The worst civilian rule is better than the best military dictatorship”, still holds true.
The military project has repeatedly failed. And it will always fail. And it should never be allowed to stay for any period. If the coup plotters are desirous of leadership, they should resign, join a political party, and contest elections like others.
A coup is the highest form of bullying. It’s power gained through the backdoor. And the coup plotters know the world is distracted by the coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming election in the US.
If these coupists are allowed to have their way, it will open a veritable Pandora’s box in Africa, undermining all the gains of democracy in Africa.
Moreover, the rest of the world that believe in democracy won’t want to cooperate with a sham Malian government led by coup plotters. Illegitimacy, combined with instability, will make Mali a safe haven for terrorists to thrive. From there, they can plan attacks on any part of the world.
France as its former colonial master, and America, must rise up to the occasion. They have a lot to gain with a stable and democratic Mali.
The madness in Mali must stop, by whatever means possible!
Dr Odoemena, medical practitioner, is based in Lagos