Another coup in Africa. Another decision by an elite group of citizens to take the fate of millions into their own hands. Another threat to peace and security on the African continent. Well here is the thing; it all begins with such events, a coup, a rebellion, a mutiny. Then it gets prolonged and for years we shall write about political instability in one or the other of the African countries affected.
In the beginning, as is the case with Mali, the UN or the AU or both will make statements about how terrible it is for something like this to happen then bide their time to see if the situation will calm down. The UN Security Council has called for the “immediate restoration of constitutional rule and the democratically elected government”. ECOWAS has said the soldiers’ behavior is reprehensible. The AU called it a’setback to the democratisation process in Mali.’
Then if the trouble continues for a while, the AU will suspend Mali’s membership and “continue to engage them to restore democratic governance.” And then the war with the rebels will continue and grow in intensity. One or such other Western powers will clandestinely give arms to the Touareg separatists to continue fighting the Malian government feeding their own economies on wars in Africa and then publicly condemn the protracted war and send peacekeepers to bring back sanity and ‘peace’ to the land of Mali. Then maybe the UN Security Council will meet to decide if they should pass a resolution for action, either to intervene-which is rare- or to send the perpetrators of crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court. And then China or Russia or the US will veto that decision. Civil society organizations will make a huge outcry and continue lobbying for action.
Meanwhile thousands will be losing their lives.
Then if lucky, the conflict will abate. Then some young and inexperienced European and American citizens, in a KONY 2012 style, will come to Africa as ‘experts’ on Demobilisation, Disarmament and Repatriation, Transitional Justice and Peace building to Africa, paid huge sums of money because they are in ‘risk zones.’ They will purport to bring peace to Mali and the process and the cycle goes on and on and on.
That has happened before and it could happen again in Mali.
The reality is that for years, Africa has been riddled by these changes of government which are unconstitutional and chaotic. They chip away at any progress that could have been made in improving the governance patterns on our conflict and poverty ridden continent.
In this case, the coup by the military against the Malian government is said to have been started by the military’s anger and disgruntlement with the inadequacy of the government’s response to a rising separatist movement by Tuareg rebels in Northern Mali. This movement is alleged to have been boosted by the flow of arms remaining from the Libyan revolution. The rebellion began on 17 January. Many soldiers have been killed in the fighting and they claim that widows of the deceased have not been compensated.
To refresh our memories a bit, in August 2011, when the Libyan- NATO assisted rebels took over Tripoli- Colonel Muammar Ghaddafi made a statement to the effect that the forces that defeated him were ‘rats’ and ‘dogs.’ I wrote an article questioning this statement and wondering who the real rats and dogs were. Now, Ghaddafi is dead. NATO has left Libya. The Transitional Council is in power and all should be well in Paradise park isn’t? But really no.
Why do I say so?
The story that began as just a Libyan story and a Libyan civil war has now become a real threat to peace and security in the whole Sahel region and the recent coup in Mali is evidence of that. On 19 March 2012, the African Conflict Prevention Programme of the Institute for Security Studies in their Daily Briefing gave a clear warning about the situation in Northern Mali and said;
“The demise of Gaddafi and the subsequent proliferation of arms in the region have fuelled rebellion and terrorist activities in West Africa and the Sahel region. One such negative outcome is the Touareg rebellion in Northern Mali, where the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) has launched an insurgency against the government in Bamako. It is believed that MNLA, made up of some 600 fighters, has been armed with sophisticated weapons acquired mainly from Libya or through the illicit arms proliferation channels that have emerged after the fall of Gaddafi’s regime in Libya… The rebellion has taken new threatening dimensions to the extent that MNLA is believed to have some territories under its control, as its fighters are well armed and better managed.”
Indeed their prediction was on point. However this coup has got me asking a lot of questions?
First, the warnings about the flow of arms from Libya to the Sahel region and warnings that this would lead to destabilisation of the region were widespread even before Gaddafi himself died and yet neither the NATO forces, the UN nor the AU Peace and Security Council took concrete steps to ensure the demilitarisation of this zone. Why was that?
Second, the irony of the coup having taken off immediately after an African Union Peace and Security Council Ministerial meeting, has got me wondering whether the African Union peace and security architecture is an effective tool for securing peace and security on the continent.
Third, the coup has got me wondering, how effective-if at all, are Declarations by the AU such as the one it made tow days ago noting that the Sahel region is faced with multiple challenges, linked to terrorism and transnational organised crime, proliferation of weapons, illicit trafficking and latent armed conflicts. The PSC noted that these challenges were compounded by the Libyan crisis, in particular the influx of hundreds of thousands of returnees, as well as the inflow of arms and ammunition from the Libyan arsenal, which provided a source of armament to terrorist and criminal groups in the region. But why did they wait until these arms were being used to actually do something?
Fourth, how much real and tangible change do the Communiques such as the one passed by the AU Peace and Security Council Ministerial meeting PSC/PR/COMM(CCCXI) bring to ensuring that the peace and security situation in Mali does not disintegrate further?
The coup itself is said to have been necessitated by the military’s wish to ‘defend the country’s security.’ Really? Can that be done? Can a coup restore the country’s security given Mali’s history?
A little history on Mali
* 19 November 1968, Moussa Traoré led a bloodless coup, organised elections and subsequently became President after winning 99% of the votes.
* Between 1979 and 1980, with Gen. Moussa Traoré in power there were 3 failed coups or coup attempts.
* 26 March 1991, Amadou Toumani Touré led a coup together with 17 other military officers, suspended the constitution, formed a transitional committee as its head and spearheaded the move towards a civilian government.
* 8 June 1992 Alpha Oumar Konaré won the election and became Mali’s third President
* Today, yesterday and for an uncertain period to come as the success or failure of the coup has not been determined President Amadou Toumani Touré is being ousted by the military.
I keep wondering and never get concrete answers. The complexities of this world, the global politics, the toll on human suffering all seem like one big maze where nothing is ever what it seems. And so the ‘rats’ and ‘dogs’ in the equation remain unclear. Is it NATO? Is it the UN? Is it the AU? Is it the rebels? Is it the government of Mali? Is it the Partitioners of Africa who gathered in Berlin centuries ago? Is it the drafters of neocolonialism? Is it it just us as African peoples? How will we ever have peace in Africa?