Sunday, June 6, 2021 2:00 pm
By Rasheed Akinkuolie
A dissident group in the Malian army led by Colonel Assimi Goita, on 18th August, 2020 overthrew the elected government of President Ibrahim Boubakar Keita in a bloodless military coup. Mali is currently fighting ISWAP Jihadists with the support of an international task force. But, for this foreign intervention, Mali would have long been overrun by the insurgents.
A military coup at this time is not in the best interest of Mali. It is actually an unpatriotic and irresponsible act.
The coup was condemned by West African Economic Community ( ECOWAS) countries, The African Union, EU countries and USA. The threat of sanctions forced the Junta to release the detained President and accept a transition program , which will lead to an election in early, 2022.
As a compromise, Mr Bah N’Daw, a retired military officer was appointed to head the transition government, as the interim President, and Colonel Assimi Goita, the coup leader, as his Vice President.
However, to the consternation of ECOWAS countries and the international community, the Junta on the 24th May, 2021 arrested President Bah N’Daw and the Prime Minister, Moctar Ouane.
Colonel Goita proceeded to assume full powers, as the President and head of the transition government, thereby reversing all the decisions earlier taken by international mediators, which included President Good Luck Jonathan.
By taking this action, Colonel Goita has presented himself, as an unreliable opportunist and a dishonorable soldier, who overthrew the government, not for any logical reason, but for the power, vain glory and the money.
Colonel Goita has now drawn the battle line between the Junta, ECOWAS and the international community, for either a peaceful resolution of this crisis or through conflict.
ECOWAS led by Nigeria must, therefore, commence to negotiate the peaceful removal of Colonel Goita from office, and alternatively prepare to take military action against him.
In this regard, the following line of actions are suggested for immediate implementation:
1. Appeal to the Junta to release President N’Daw and allow the transition program to proceed as planned, without the participation of Colonel Goita
2. Direct the governors of UEMOA(The CFA monetary zone) to activate mechanisms, which will prevent the Junta from having access to the Malian treasury.
3. Activate ECOWAS protocol, which permits member states to take military action against unconstitutional governments in member states.
4. Prepare ECOMOG Intervention Force, in collaboration with the French and American contingents in Mali, to forcibly oust the regime, if a compromise cannot be reached, as proposed in article 1 above.
5. Make it clear that, Colonel Assimi Goita and his colleagues will not be allowed to take part in the transition program, because they pose a permanent threat to peace in Mali. And the leaders of the transition government will henceforth be protected by ECOMOG forces
6. Colonel Goita and others who actively took part in the two military coups, may be pardoned and honorably discharged from the Malian army, provided they fully cooperate with ECOWAS countries and support the transition process.
7. In the eventuality of a military confrontation, the Colonel and his officers will face a Military Tribunal/ ECOWAS Court on charges of insurrection against the Malian State and treason. And the judgement of the court will be carried out, even if it is the death penalty.
It had happened before, and this will not be an exception. Nigeria had in 1998 executed Brigadier Samuel Koroma, the former Chief of Defence Staff of Sierra Leone with 23 others, including Colonel Karim Sesay for illegally overthrowing the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. Yahya Janneh of The Gambia took good counsel and surrendered, when military action against him was imminent.
The retribution against General Guei and his family was worse. I watched from the Chancery of the Nigerian Embassy in Abidjan in December 2002, when three red capped soldiers were moving towards the Cathedral in Plateau district of Abidjan, where General Guei, former President of Côte d’Ivoire sought refuge.
The soldiers arrested and murdered General Guei with his ADC. They proceeded to his house and murdered his wife, children, grandchildren and other family members, totaling, 17 innocent people from the same family. Thereafter, civil war broke out in the once oasis of peace in Africa.
General Guei had ousted President Konan Bedie in 1999 in a military coup. His refusal to take good counsel and hand over power to an elected government in 2000, led to the prolonged instability in the country. The soldiers involved in his murder are now serving life sentences in Cote D’Ivoire.
Mali of ancient times was probably the richest country in Africa. Mali has one of the largest deposits of gold in the world. It’s legendary ruler, King Mansa Musa is today rated, as the richest man that had ever lived.
The greatest asset of Mali is the River Niger with the potentials it offers for farming, fishing and animal husbandry. 40% of River Niger passes through Malian territory.
Despite these assets, Mali remains a pariah state and one of the poorest countries in the world, with thousands of its young people dying at sea, while crossing to Europe to find a better life. The majority of the people classified as ‘Sans papier’ ( un documented illegal immigrants) living in France are Malian youths. Tens of thousands of them rot away in Churches and other places of worship, where they hide to avoid deportation to their homeland.
The checkered history of Mali started with a military coup in 1968 by Lt Moussa Traoré, who overthrew the government of Modibo Keita, the father of Mali’s independence. The long reign of General Moussa Traoré destroyed Mali in every way. His eventual overthrow, by popular uprising and life imprisonment, did not make for the damage done to Mali’s future. Other military coups had followed, and now it is the turn of Colonel Goita. Mali will never go through another round of terror and brigandry again.
Military coup is anathema, which cannot be justified under any circumstance. The military coup in Mali must, therefore, be swiftly suppressed by peaceful means, if possible, and with force, if necessary. The Malian military government must go.
-Ambassador Akinkuolie Rasheed, was Director of Trade and Investments, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja Nigeria