The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

Mali-In Hope of a Democratic Future.

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on August 27, 2020 15:50

2 users

President Keïta of Mali recently resigned after a group of soldiers acted to rescue their country from "sinking into chaos and insecurity." This well-meditated act follows years of mismanagement, voter manipulation and divisive politics. The plotters promised a speedy return to democratic rule but failed to reach agreement with the regional grouping.

Early on 19 August, five military officers announced on Mali television that they had taken power and would initiate a transition. The action followed on months of public protests and confrontation between rulers and religious leaders. Mali has been unstable for decades, and a United Nations Peacekeeping presence has shadowed an African Union mission to end terrorism and inter-ethnic violence.

Peace and tension: fishermen near the capital. Author's photo

The roots of instability in this North African country are deep. The fabled Songhai Empire of the early 1500's, as the Malian Empire of the late 1200's, amassed enormous wealth, but ruled with a heavy hand to unite disparate tribes, nations and religions. As an aside, Malian Emperor Mansa Musa, on his pilgrimage to Mecca, was accompanied by 60,000 brocade-clad men, 12,000 slaves, and so much gold that he influenced financial stability around the Mediterranean.

Mosque in Timbuktu, capital of the ancient Empire. Author's photo

French colonial rule was opposed by many insurgents, and after independence in 1960 a series of military coups, droughts and economic collapse followed. A rebellion by Touareg nomads in the north destabilized Mali further, leaving the way open for jihadist elements. Ethnic conflict between agricultural communities like the Dogon, Bambara and Fulani people over scarce resources complicated the situation while the government, remote and with limited resources, was increasingly unable to control the country. 

Dogon culture. Author's photo

Another important factor is the transnational crime which has funded terrorism also in other countries of the region. Traditional drug transport routes from West Africa to Algeria and on to Europe cross in Mali, and these finance and supply armed groups bent on destabilization.

Storm clouds at Mopti, Venice of Africa. Author's photo

The present crisis follows directly from gross institutional dysfunction, inefficient government and breakdown of the social contracts. Ornella Moderan of the Institute for Security Studies comments that the public trust in the country's institutions were severely tested by reports of tampering by the Constitutional Court in the Parliamentary Elections in April 2020. The democratic system became seen as rigged, corrupt and dishonest. 

The result was less a military takeover in the classical sense, and more a reaction to a popular uprising. The coup was methodically executed: The President was requested to dissolve Parliament, before being invited, with his Prime Minister, to resign. No blood was shed, and the President, after a stay at the military headquarters, was allowed to go home.

Teamwork essential for happiness. Author's photo

Regional powers, anxious to avoid an example, visited Bamako to demand a return to normality, but were unable to reach agreement with the putchists. They insisted on a transition period of up to three years, while allowing French-led military operations against rebels to continue.

Fear was expressed that the coup might aggravate the already tenuous humanitarian situation while the impact of COVID - 19 on Mali is still not clear. 

When people lose trust in democratic systems and protest, eventually violence follows.

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on August 27, 2020 15:50

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Source: Al Jazeera

Mali's new military rulers say Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, detained during the country's coup on August 18, has been freed.

THE LATEST THINKING

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest