Mali’s Assassins of Democracy By Steve Ogah

What is the way forward now that Mali has fallen into the hands of soldiers? Well, the obvious way forward is that no one who values freedom should allow Malians suffer the loss of it under draconian laws.

Non-Malians and Malians alike must rise up for this landlocked west African country which is on the verge of total collapse, and falling into the hands of religious fundamentalists.

The central question is this: does Mali need a West African force, the type previously deployed in Liberia and Sierra Leone; to drive away an unwanted force? Should a new Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group(ECOMOG) be scrambled to Bamako, now that the diplomacy of Nigeria’s former president, Goodluck Jonathan did not stop civil protests and the army, in spite of all the peaceful preachments the serene lover of democracy made to major actors in the conflict? These puzzles are not without responses, since the cultured world knows what Mali is in desperate need of.

The situation in Mali demands that the coup plotters return to their barracks. Nothing more. Nothing less. But this is not going to be as easy as boiling an egg! It is not yet clear if protesters who railed against president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita can oust the army. Having tasted some political juices by now, and the splendor which exists in presidential palaces, will the coup leader; colonel Assimi Goita be willing to return to the drudgery and monotony of barracks life? There is little evidence to show that ordinary Malians are not in for a long and tortuous battle with insurgents in the north and the army.

Mali suffers from a cocktail of ailments. Tuareg rebels want a country of their own. Civilians desire a better handing of the economy and greater freedom. The army is dissatisfied with the way former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita had handled the battle with the Tuareg rebels, who have obviously lost the sympathy of some western powers by instigating rebellion and demanding a free state by force of arms, with the ultimate aim of forming an Islamic republic; which is not entirely a bad idea. But the fears from some quarters is that such a fragile republic may become breeding ground for Al-Qaeda terrorists who showed their brutal intentions in the 2012 Tuareg insurrection, by hijacking the Tuareg militancy.

The Tuareg rebels will pose a major obstacle for the new rebel government which is already appearing as incompetent as a soldier in democratic offices can be. A true man of the people doesn’t need to introduce himself. But col. Assimi Goita according to Aljazeera, began his address with these words: “let me introduce myelf…” An offhand interrogation of that speech indicates that the colonel is from the backs streets of the army and politics in Mali. His credibility and acceptance seems in doubt, a situation which prompted his hasty introduction. But again, how does a poorly-reckoned officer appeal to Tuareg rebels and the civil society which is reported to have distanced itself from the coup plotters.

The June 5 movement needs to maintain a healthy and peaceful identity, and this is the reason the leaders of the group are dining with colonel Goita with a long spoon. The movement itself may not be the embodiment of the total wishes of the majority of Malians. The movement’s members may be more interested in their own personal political gains to the detriment of the masses. If the coup plotters and movement truly love the people, they would have listened to the voice of reason and appeals from mediators such as Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who went to Mali with his democratic credentials intact, having recently handed over power to a political adversary in a peaceful transition program. Dr. Jonathan was convinced he would make the president follow his own path of honor and statesmanship. But colonel, Goita and his disillusioned lieutenants ambushed democracy on the violent streets of Bamako and left Dr. Goodluck Jonathan with no luck from Mali.

World leaders and their emissaries must be circumspect in the way they relate with the leaders of the coup. No believer in a coup truly loves democracy. The military boys in Mali are assassins of democracy and free speech. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, who seized power in a military coup in Nigeria in 1985; was a suave officer who dribbled the whole country and mediators for so long about democracy that the Lagos press had no choice but to gift him the name: Maradona; in a blatant reference to the wonders of the Argentine maestro, Diego Armando Maradona against England at the Mexico 1986 FIFA world cup. Col. Goita has killed democracy in Mali and he can’t claim to be in possession of the resurrecting powers of Jesus Christ, so that he may give back life to that form of government.

The problems in Mali can be solved at a table not at a battlefield. This then demands that the June 5 movement which appears to enjoy some sympathy from observers and a portion of the population, must reject in totality, the coup plotters and seek the immediate reinstatement of President Kieta. If the deposed president appears permanently out of the political equation, for whatever reasons; then Mali must return to democracy at the earliest possible time. France must break its hymen of inaction and military silence and the sub-regional body, ECOWAS, must as a matter of urgency ; scramble a peacekeeping force for Mali. This to some of us, appears workable solutions to the assassination of democracy in Mali. The murderers of democracy cannot claim to be its dutiful guardians.

P.S: Steve Ogah is a creative writer whose writings have appeared across print and online platforms.

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