The year was 1997, in Harare Zimbabwe - this was the time the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU), thereafter the African Unity (AU), on its 33rd summit – resolved to ban passed coup d’états in Africa. The host of the summit, the then Zimbabwe President, Robert Mugabe, was quoted saying “We are getting tougher and tougher on coups. Coup-plotters and those who overthrow democratic governments will find it more difficult to get recognition from us. Democracy is getting stronger in Africa and we now have a definite attitude against coups.” Ironically, Mugabe was toppled 20 years thereafter and the AU didn’t live up to its promise.
What transpired recently in Mali pokes holes on the AU’s tough stance. After suffering from long-time wrangles, brutalities, massacres by terrorist groups and hoo-ha over power among politicians, the world on Tuesday 18thAugust, 2020 woke up to the news that the army had arrested Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, his Prime Minister Boubou Cissé and other top officials in the upper echelons of power. This is the fourth coup that Africa has recently experienced after the militaries in Egypt, Algeria and Sudan respectively.
Like the coups in Algeria, Egypt, Sudan and Zimbabwe, Mali’s coup came on the milieu of carps as citizens wanted their president out of office. Thereafter, the military and the civilians agreed to share the spoils. Many still wonder why in Sudan (the revolutionists) and Zimbabwe (the ruling party, the ZANU-PF), the duo entered a shotgun marriage and ended up messing even more. Did they bow before the pressure exerted from within and outside; or just because one of the duos, the military juntas, agreed for the sake of argument in order to devise more methods of usurping power? Will the demonstrators seek the share of the cake in Mali as was in Sudan? Will the AU sanction such criminality hence motivate other putsches to power?
I once warned that the revolution in Sudan was likely to go haywire and be grabbed as it transpired in the neighbouring Egypt where the army robbed the civilians of the victory just a year after the mass overthrew Hosni Mubarak whose elements, like in Mali, stepped in and deposed a democratically elected president, the late Mohamed Morsi whom the army killed thereafter. The difference is that in Egypt, the status quo waited for a year.
The causes of revolution in Egypt, Algeria, Sudan and Mali are the same in nature, endemic and systemic corruption, failure for many regimes to deliver and long-time economic adversities. Another reason is impunity and lack of a conducive environment for democracy, development and peace.
Dictatorships fall however long they try to cling unto power because they create many enemies within and without. What’s in the cooking currently in Sudan speaks volume shall the junta grab power in Mali. The majority in Sudan still view their revolution as incomplete after the junta robbed it. The junta in Sudan seems hellbent to cling unto power.
Will juntas survive and stay in power; and if they do, for how long? Will the current carbuncular religo-civimilitary regime adequately address and solve the problems that geared them to take power by handing power to civilian transitional governments that will prepare them for democratic elections? Will the powers that be behind the curtains snatch this opportunity to exploit Mali vis-à-vis foreign powers that are currently operating in Mali under the decoy and ploy of combating terrorism?
Has the AU surrendered to the putsches? What precedent does that set for other ticking bombs under dictators? For, apart from condemning the junta’s taking of power in Mali, the AU hasn’t convened an ad hoc meeting to look into the matter nippily and timely. Will the AU see the light and make a U-turn by coercing the juntas to leave the business of politics to politicians? Is it possible after the Malian strong man Assimi Goita has already embedded himself in power? Will military or diplomatic solution work in Mali? Will the army manipulate the demonstrators as was the cases in Egypt, Sudan and Zimbabwe? Will the Malians–––who seem to stoop towards the junta–––buy into this chicanery wherein the conflict seems to have been postponed?
In conflict resolution, we understand that wherever there’s conflict, what we see is but the tip of the iceberg. What transpired in the above-mentioned countries and now in Mali is but the beginning of a big problem yet to come. The process of making the government under the military is naturally flawed. Further, the military juntas have no knowhow of economic and political matters.
The duty of the military is the security of the country, not politics. If the juntas think that they’ll have their cake and eat it–––expecting to have a very smooth ride just like has been the case in Egypt–––let them be told that the two cases are completely different. In Egypt, superpowers from the west have their interests to maintain and safeguard, particularly if we consider the centrality of the Middle East with its oil-rich nations not to mention Israel which has always been the project of the west.
Thanks to regional geopolitics, the Malian junta will never make it. What created the problems the military’s used to seize power such as mega graft, tanking economy, unemployment and hardship have to be addressed. More importantly, the force behind Mali coup is nothing new but the kamikaze youth who have nothing to lose except their chains. Such desperate people can support whoever comes to them with sweet words. That’s why an Iman Dicko took a lead in the demonstrations that weakened the deposed government.
In sum, now that everything’s on the agora as far as the resurgence of coup d’états in Africa is concerned, what’ll the AU do to nippily discontinue this delinquency?
By Nkwazi Mhango
A lifetime member of the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador (WANL) and author of over 20 books among which are Africa Reunite or Perish, 'Is It Global War on Terrorism' or Global War over Terra Africana? How Africa Developed Europe and contributed many chapters in scholarly works.