Recently, the military junta in Mali under what it calls the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (NCSP) threw the moggy amidst pigeons. In its desperation and ploy to keep power, the army appointed Bah N’Daou, retired military man, to be president of the 18-month transition government–––if indeed, that’s what it intends to achieve–––with Assimi Goita, the power behind the throne, as his vice president. This chicanery speaks to the fact that the army is still in power. Shall the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) buy into this façade, the army will have successfully maintained power in Mali illegally, setting a very bad precedent for other power-hungry ogres to topple the governments in their jurisdiction.
Although the statement that was put on TV indicates that the army appointed N’Daou, the reality is that Goita is the one who did everything. What Goita did isn’t new. It once worked in Rwanda when Pasteur Bizimungu was appointed president with Paul Kagame vice president to end up being used to warm up the presidential chair. The same is ongoing in Sudan where Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo is calling the tune. In Zimbabwe, the vice president is the former Chief of Staff, Constatino Chiwenga who betrayed his boss, former president Robert Mugabe.
Mali’s new president is a string-puppet that Goita will use to rule the country from behind the blinds as in North Sudan where the civilian prime minister is used by the army to rule the country for the detriment of the masses that forced former dictatorship out of power.
There are various reasons why the ECOWAS and Malians need to stay put to see to it that the army is purged from power and returned to the barracks. The following are the reasons for this stance:
First of all, N’Daou is a soldier. Thus, there’s no difference between him and other active military men forming the junta. N’Daou was quoted recently as saying “Mali has given me everything. I am happy to be its submissive slave, willing to do everything for it to return to full constitutional legality, with elected authorities, legitimate representatives.” N’Daou is a slave of the junta but not of Malians. Therefore, Malians should not be fooled by such avowals. Actually, what happened in Mali is nothing but old wine in a new bottle. It doesn’t work that way. There’s nothing new that former military junta didn’t do or promise. The job of the army is to protect the boundaries of the country but not to rule it. If dictatorship under a civilian president was bad, the same under the military man will be worse.
Secondly, who gave the army the authority and job of appointing the president? The power to appoint, employ or make a president belongs to the people who do so through the ballot. The president appointed by the army will be answerable to it as it is for the president who is voted for by the citizens according to the constitution is always answerable to the citizens. Yes, nobody can serve two masters at a time.
Third, the narrative that the junta appointed the president is but a cover. The one who appointed the president is Goita. Thus, the president will be answerable to Goita and his colleagues but not the Malians.
Fourth, after assuring itself that it can get away with murder, the junta allowed the president to appoint a civilian prime minister. President N’Daou appointed Moctar Ouane prime minister in order to overcome the sanctions. The Al Jazeera (September 25, 2020) cited ECOWAS Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou as saying that sanctions would be lifted when a civilian prime minister is named.
No condition was tough to the junta like economic sanctions that the ECOWAS has imposed on Mali. There is no way it can function without economic linkages. Ouane is the junta’s biggest gamble because, among many accolades, he was an advisor to the ECOWAS. Thus, the army thinks he might use his connection to the organisation to soften its stance against it. Will this work; and thereby allow the putsch to get away with murder?
In sum, shall the ECOWAS remove sanctions against Mali, it will be making it easier for the junta to cling to power even longer than expected. For, after establishing itself in power, it will create a conducive environment for staying even longer through legitimising itself through democratic processes. Shall the ECOWAS allow the junta in Mali to cling to power, it won’t only be degrading itself but also partaking of the crime against the people of Mali. As for Malians, don’t accept to buy a goat in the sack. Don’t wait to open the sack and find that the goat you bought is nothing but a hyena.
By Nkwazi Mhango
The author is 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.