MALIAN CRISIS AND PEACE AND SECURITY IN THE WEST AFRICAN SUB-REGION
In recent weeks, tens of thousands of people paraded the streets of Bamako in Mali to demand the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The protesters were believed to have been mobilized by an influential Muslim leader, Mahmoud Dicko under the auspices of the June 5 Movement – Rally of Patriotic Forces. The Rally of Patriotic Forces is a coalition of leaders from disparate civil society, social and political groups in the country. On Friday, 24th July this year, leaders of Ghana, Cote d’ivoire Nigeria, Senegal and Niger from the ECOWAS bloc held talks with the Malian President Ibrahim Keita and key figures of the opposition protest movement to broker peace.
However, the day-long meeting ended without a deal. In a renewed effort to resolve the political turmoil, West African leaders, on Monday, 27th July, this year proposed the formation of a unity government; and presented a road-map towards realization of the foregoing objective. The ECOWAS plan, among others, called for investigations into the deaths of at least 14 people following recent clashes between protesters and security forces in the capital, Bamako; re-run of thirty-one parliamentary elections; and sanctions against feuding parties that would undermine the process. Underlying causes of the recent crisis dates back to 2012, where pockets of revolt were recorded in the northern part of Mali. These revolts degenerated into armed campaigns and spread to central Mali; and later to neighbouring countries including Burkina Faso and Niger. Tremendous efforts by the UN largest peacekeeping forces, and the French and Malian armies to contain the violence yielded minimal results.
Political unrests in Mali began to mount following the re-election of President Keita in 2018. Opposition parties cited massive voting irregularities in the presidential election which recorded low turn-outs. The seven-year reign of President Keita, is believed to have been characterized by high levels of corruption, vacillating public services, prolonged inter-communal violence, rising jihadist attacks, increased poverty, and poor national economic performance. On 25th March this year, the 70-year old main opposition leader and runner-up in the 2018 presidential elections, Soumaila Cisse together with six other members of his campaign team were abducted by unidentified gunmen during a political campaign in the Malian-troubled Region of Timbuktu, few days to the parliamentary elections on 29th March. Mr. Cisse who is Leader of the Union for the Republic and Democracy Party has since not been released by his abductors. Analysts described Mr. Cisse’s kidnap as the first of a high-ranking politician of his standing in the eight-year old conflict in Mali. Security officials linked Mr. Cisse’s abduction to an al-Qaeda-led attack.
Results from parliamentary elections held in March amidst COVID-19 restrictions were challenged at the law court; and on 30th April, this year the Malian Constitutional Court overturned the results for thirty-one seats, ten of which were in favour of candidates of the ruling party. This rendered the ruling party the majority in parliament.
On Tuesday, 18th August, this year growing accusations of economic hardships and deteriorating security situation against President Keita by demonstrators influenced a section of the Malian Army stationed at Kati, a garrison town near Bamako, to stage a revolution. This resulted in the detention of President Keita, Prime Minister Boubou Cisse who was reappointed on 11th June, this year and other government officials at gunpoint. Eventually President Keita announced his resignation and dissolution of the government and parliament in a state broadcast. T
he President abdicated his post citing abhorrence to blood shed as his cardinal reason. On Wednesday, 19th of August, the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Malian Air Force, Colonel Major Ismail Wague, in a state broadcast outlined a number of measures including border closures and imposition of a curfew from 9pm to 5am to allow for the organization of general election within a reasonable time frame.
Persistent calls by the African Union, European Union, ECOWAS, and other international organizations on the coup leaders led to the release of President Keita on Thursday, 27th of August. The recent military mutiny which resulted in the overthrow of President Keita has received widespread condemnation.
Representatives of UN, European Union, US, France, ECOWAS, and the African Union have denounced the action by the Military, describing it as unlawful; and warned against any deliberate attempt to change power through unconstitutional means. Last week, the 57th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS was held in the Nigerien capital of Niamey which addressed challenges in the Sub region including the political turmoil in Mali, successful organization of elections. After the programme, Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo was elected the new ECOWAS Chair. He took over from President Issoufou. ECOWAS leaders at the session unanimously decried the fragile socio-political situation in Mali; and re-affirmed economic sanctions against the Military Junta. ECOWAS leaders ended the session with an ultimatum to the military junta to appoint a civilian President and Prime Minister. The appointed President is expected to lead the transition process which has a 12-month deadline as opposed to the 18-months given earlier. On Wednesday 16th September, 2020, leaders from countries in the West African sub-region held a Consultative Meeting in Accra, on Mali political. ECOWAS Chairman and President of Ghana, Nan Akufo Addo at the forum repeated calls on the military junta to return Mali to civilian rule in the shortest possible time. It is hoped resolutions from the meeting would contribute immensely to collective international efforts aimed at finding lasting solutions to the crisis in Mali.
By Dr Ebenezer Ashley, Chartered Economist and Business Consultant