SAN FRANCISCO, August 24, (THEWILL) – Developments in the small West African nation of Mali is getting interesting by the day. Fourteen ECOWAS leaders stormed Bamako, the capital, Saturday, August 22, to meet with the military rulers who, recently, staged a mutiny and sacked President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
Their mission was clear from the onset: to demand the reinstatement of the 72-year-old president and a return to constitutional democracy.
The sack of President Keita aka IBK on Wednesday, August 19, by a group of soldiers was the climax of a series of events and political unrest that started in the country about three months ago.
What started on June 5 with civil disobedience against Keita’s misrule eventually got to a head when a group of soldiers held IBK hostage, forcing him to resign and dissolved the government – a demand the opposition coalition, M5-RFP, had consistently demanded as condition for peace.
The soldiers, led by three officers, namely, Col. Sadio Camara, Col. Malick Diaw and Gen. Check Fanta Mady, had stormed the country’s capital, Bamako, where they held Keita hostage along with the Prime Minister, Boubou Cisse, forcing him to resign and dissolve the government.
Left with no choice, and under the butt of the gun, an anti-democratic move THEWILL totally condemns, the president, who had all the time in the world to hearken to the demands of his people leave office honourably but refused, was disgraced out of the presidency.
Interestingly, President Keita was booted out of office just a day after Nigeria’s former president, Goodluck Jonathan, who is the ECOWAS special envoy to Mali, left Bamako.
Jonathan had arrived Bamako on July 5 to mediate in the political crisis which followed the March-April parliamentary elections in the country.
He was later joined by four other West African leaders, namely Presidents Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic, Allasane Quatara of Cote d’Ivoire and Macky Sali Senegal, at meetings with the opposition group. President Muhammadu Buhari also attended one of the peace talks on Thursday, July 23 in Bamako.
It is, however, unfortunate that the ECOWAS leaders were rather interested in protecting the interest of their colleague, IBK, rather than address, critically, the demand of the opposition.
The so-called roadmap for peace championed by the ECOWAS leaders did not even consider the unwavering demand of the opposition that Keita steps down.
It was not on the agenda throughout the over two-month window the ECOWAS delegation had. It was obvious that they were determined in keeping an unpopular leader in power against the wish of majority of the people.
The opposition, however, was resolute in their demand and they did not change their position throughout the failed talks.
“The country has been taken hostage by an oligarchy, which has taken away all the power. All the institutions are paralysed,” Choguel Maiga, one of the spokespersons of the opposition M5-RTP, had said during one of the meetings with ECOWAS leaders. “We’ll continue civil disobedience until the resignation of Mr. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, that’s our position today.”
It was therefore obvious that they were not going to give in to the roadmap of the ECOWAS leaders and they really meant it.
However, the ECOWAS leaders failed woefully to allow the message sink in as they continued in the illusion of trying to fashion out a warped reform deal that was already dead on arrival.
It was clear from the start that the opposition coalition was championing the cause of the ordinary Malian as the country, in the last two years, had been totally messed-up, with real attacks and harassment of dissenting voices by a democratically-elected president, who, unfortunately, turned himself into a strong man, clamping down, ruthlessly, on the opposition.
It was therefore no surprise that the opposition and the entire country went into wild jubilation at the sacking of Keita by the military. They saw the military action as the much-needed liberation they had been yearning for to free the country from the oppression being handed down on the people by the ousted president.
Of course, and as expected, wide condemnations immediately followed the sack of President Keita in a ‘coup’. The ECOWAS leaders fired the first salvo threatening fire and brimstone on the coup leaders if Keita was not released from detention and restored to power as president. The United Nations also condemned the ‘coup’ just as the United Kingdom and France expressed displeasure.
While THEWILL joins in condemning the ‘coup’ as the use of force is no longer acceptable as a means of changing governments, we find the new threat of sanctions and even the use of force by ECOWAS to achieve its goals as hypocritical and not in the best interest of the people of Mali.
It is very sad that ECOWAS leaders would be more interested in protecting a failed leader than protecting the people of Mali. They had almost three – month window to act and prevent the kind of ugly situation now at hand but bungled the opportunity with their myopic and selfish agenda.
We therefore join well-meaning voices across the regional bloc in calling for a review of the ECOWAS protocol regarding integration.
The integration that West Africa needs is not that of governments but of the people such that the interest of the people would be at the forefront of decisions and actions instead of helping to foster unpopular governments on the people.
THEWILL also calls for great caution in handling the Mali crisis as the threat by ECOWAS to use sanctions and military force in reinstating President Keita to power might backfire and become counter-productive.
These might not only bring untold hardships to the people of Mali but help in spiking the activities of insurgents, especially the Islamic jihadists, who have been a thorn in the flesh, not only in Mali but across the West African sub region.