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Opinions of Thursday, 5 April 2012

Columnist: Dowokpor, Romeo Adzah

Mali in Political Crisis, ECOWAS Failing Again?

Mali,embracing constitutional rule after the overthrow of Major Gen. Moussa Traore’s dictatorial regime from 1968 -1991 which saw him doubling as the Head of State and President of Mali respectively, descended into the abyss of military rule when officers in the Armed Forces led by Captain Amadou Sanogo ousted President Amadou Toure, on March 22,2012 and suspended the constitution

President Amadou Toure ,a former military officer and a coup leader himself,whose legal limit of serving for two terms was expected to end when Malians go to the polls on April 29 to elect a new leader ,was accused by the military junta for failing to keep security threats posed by the Tuareg Rebels up north of the country under control. In the wisdom of the coup makers, waiting for one more month for his tenure to end , was a sure recipe for the rebellion to escalate into a more precarious situation because the military had ran out of adequate supply of weapons, ammunition and food as they confront the insurrection of the Tuaregs, helplessly watching their fellow soldiers being killed and captured by a surprisingly more sophisticated ,armoured rebels.

The Tuareg rebels who are nomads, live in Azawad, the northern part of Mali which they see as their ancestral homes and have since fought from the pre and post colonial era for an independent and autonomous state from France and Mali respectively dating back to 1916. They hold the three provinces of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu in very high honour for their liberation cause. Complaints of neglects and marginalization by governments after governments with regards to developments up north is a major concern raised by the Tuaregs. Various peace treaties and agreements have been reached on the way forward to resolving the impasse between both parties which have most often become recurring. Indeed, in a meeting held in Algiers early this February, the May 23 Alliance agreed with the Malian government led by Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, the former Foreign Minister, to smoke the peace pipe. However, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), another rebel wing fighting for secession, rejected the deal claiming they had not been consulted . There is also the lslamic Ancar Dine, another rebel faction which has been fighting for the imposition of Sharia Laws in Mali.

The coup d’état was condemned by all lovers of democracy in the world and was seen as a setback to the consolidation of efforts to building our fledgling democratic experiments on the African continent. There is no justification for military interventions in any civilized democracy insofar as the powers of election of leaders solely rests in the hands of the people mandated by the constitution to be exercised through a franchise. However, some coups may just be necessary evils. I live that to your judgements.

The National Committee for the Rectification of Democratic and Restoration of the State (CNRDR) led by Captain Sanogo have since promulgated a new constitution which guarantees the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the people of Mali. Provisions of the constitution also debars members who took part in the coup d'etat from standing for elections. Also, a transitional committee of 26 members drawn from the security forces and 15 civilians have since being instituted to steer the affairs of administering the unstable nation of over 14.5 million people.

This however notwithstanding, the international community has isolated the Sanogo regime and threatened to impose sanctions if he does not take immediate steps to relinquish power and return the country to legality and constitutional rule. ECOWAS , the sub-regional body, gave a 72 hour deadline to the regime to hand over power to a civilian regime, failure to which would lead to the closure of borders of member countries with her, freezing of assets and the withholding of credits. If these sanctions are applied after the deadline which is today,Monday, has expired, the Malian economy will suffer suffocation as the provision of essential services and basic needs of the people would be affected and unfortunately, the ordinary people would bear the brunt most. One wonders whether in the face of threats posed to the sovereignty of Mali by the rebels up north, if it was appropriate for ECOWAS to have threatened the Sanogo regime with sanctions just because it was an unconstitutional one. Whiles, the military struggles to calm the situation up north of the country, they also have to deal with a sub-regional body whose foremost reaction was to issue an overused and pale democratic sermons and admonitions which are mostly applied on military interventionists

The situation in Mali is a unique one, it therefore calls for a more unique approach in handling it. Here are two illegitimate regimes: the military junta and the Tuareg rebels. The former, military officers, overthrew a democratically elected leader in order to control an insurgency fueled by separatists( the latter) bent on seceding from a sovereign state. The leaders of this particular regime came through power by a bloodless coup and has since not characterized their rule with human rights abuses which are rampant in other cases. Even though there were few cited examples of looting of shops and other excesses ,they were all condemned by the Sanogo regime. Indeed , the deposed leader, Amadou Toure, is still safe and has been heard calling for calm.

The current unconstitutional regime has since after the coup called for foreign support in order to fight the rebels before returning the country into a democratic rule.In the fairest of conclusions, one can say they indeed deserve some amount of support and considerations from ECOWAS in that regard given the nature of the situation. The least they deserved were threats of sanctions and expulsions especially from a sub-regional body because they rather go to worsen an already volatile situation. The ruling regime will now have to face an internal insurgent group and also an external barrage of bromidic sermons on constitutionally this, constitutionally that by countries and bodies that are not likely to offer any form of military support to them or even proffer plans to dealing with the rebellion up north in the immediate terms. The rebels have since capitalized on the inaction or reprisal attacks from the Malian Army due to their of state helplessness and made major inroads for their quest for the liberation and formation of an independent Azawad state to be carved out of Mali which they have long since dreamed of from 1960 after France granted them independence from colonial rule.

Whom should the Sanogo Regime hand over power to? Of course,to a constitutionally mandated regime which can only come about through the conduction of free and fair elections. Elections cannot hold in the north of the country obviously because of the instability up there especially in the provinces of Timbktu, Gao and Kidal that the rebels have coolly taken hold of as their most expensive treasures. ‘We want an independent state for the people of Azawad’, sings the uncompromising chorus of the Tuareg rebels. The nation needs to be stabilized first and freed off the threats posed by the rebels before any meaningful elections and democratic reforms can be made. All ECOWAS is concerned about now is the return of the country to a constitutional rule without factoring in the uniqueness of the situation in Mali.

The sub-regional body and the international community must think through the situation in Mali critically and make conscious efforts in resolving the crisis and stop making knee-jerked reactions which have the potency of rather deepening the woes of the people. As usual in circumstances like this, the unseen hands of vampires, vultures and cockroaches of profiteers of wars and misrule, would like to make economic capital out of it to the detriment of the masses. I can only pray and hope they are exposed and their evil intentions killed. The people of the world deserve better and are tired of their greed and inhumane hearts

There are also rumours of the subtle involvement of the United States African Command (AFRICOM ) in this whole mess because Captain Sanogo had received special trainings from over six US military institutions. Even though Washington has condemned the coup d'etat and dispelled rumours about their tacit connivance with the military junta,history has not always been the case as they have covertly and overtly supported coup d'etats on the African continent.One can only hope it is not the case this time round. The US government spends millions of Dollars yearly on military supports to the Malian government in order to fight the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) whose operations are mainly criminal including the smuggling of weapons and drugs and also the kidnapping and killing of of foreign diplomats. How huge is the security threat posed by AIQM to the Malian state that the United States of America should be spending millions of their tax payers monies on fighting them? What is their interest in Mali and the entire West African sub-region through the activities and operations of AFRICOM? AFRICOM,which is a major neo-colonial military tool of control and suppression in the long run, is definitely not in the interest of Africans and their resources and the leaders of the continent must be wary of the so called military training exchanges and supports they receive from the West.The interest of continent must be paramount at all material times

Would Mali eventually become another classical case of the Sudan-Darfur conflict which saw over millions of people died as a result of war, famine and disease? Would the Azawad in Mali also become another independent state like South Sudan, carved of Omar al-Bashir's Sudan, as the Tuaregs up north are bent on seceding? ECOWAS,AU and the international community must prevent another looming disaster from happening. The women and children of Mali deserve their support and intervention.

Submitted by Romeo Adzah Dowokpor