At a time when the world has taken it for granted that democracy is being rooted in Africa, the military recently truncated democracy in Mali, following a coup that ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The development came as a set back to civilian rule, which gives the people a say, through election, in determing those who govern them. The soldiers, who called themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, and led by Colonel Assimi Goita arrested some officials of the government including President Keita and others. The coup is the country’s second in less than 10 years, following the one of 2012.
Before the coup, Mali had witnessed mass protests since June 5. The protesters had called for the resignation of President Keita because of their displeasure with the management of the insurgency, alleged government corruption and a failing economy. The huge protests in the country might also have been ignited by a poorly managed legislative election. The June 5 protests were equally provoked by some grievances, including teachers’ agitation for a pay raise and frustrations over insecurity among others.
Expectedly, the Malian coup has been condemned by African leaders as well as world leaders. While the United States has cut off military aid to Mali since August 21, France has called for power to be returned to civilians and arrested leaders be freed. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has imposed sanctions on Mali and called on neighbouring states to close their land and air borders. It also called for the release of President Keita. His release last week might be due to the intervention by the ECOWAS members and other countries.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and other ECOWAS leaders have waded into the crisis to ensure that democracy is restored in Mali. They have rejected the Malian military time table to return the country to democratic rule in 36 months, insisting that this must be done in 12 months.
We condemn the military coup in Mali and laud the recent ECOWAS leaders’ resolve that the return to constitutional order in the country should be concluded within 12 months. We believe that the ECOWAS transition period is fair enough to guarantee return to civilian democracy in Mali. Therefore, we urge the military junta in Mali to abide by the resolutions of West African leaders and set up an acceptable timetable for the restoration of constitutional democracy in the country forthwith. The military junta in Mali must be reminded that military coup is no longer in vogue or fashionable the world over. It has become outdated in advanced democracies as well as in developing nations. More so, military leadership in Africa has further under-developed the continent. Since all countries in West Africa are under democratic rule, Mali cannot be an exception.
We think that the three-year transition period proposed by the military leaders in Mali is unacceptable. It is a ploy to buy time and perpetuate dictatorial regime in that country. We urge the African Union and ECOWAS to insist on the 12 months transition period. The West African leaders must be firm with the junta and move quickly to tighten sanctions if the soldiers fail to return Mali to civilian rule. We say this bearing in mind that if the situation is not well handled, it may affect democracy in other countries in the region. Moreover, any political crisis in Mali will also affect other West African states, especially the problem of refugees, should there be a civil conflict.
Therefore, everything must be done to ensure that the soldiers in Mali return to their barracks. On no account should the ambitious colonels use public protests as a mask to realise their political ambitions to rule the country. Any military leader who wants to rule the country must resign and subject himself to democratic system of government through elections.
While we commend the African leaders for their quick response to the Malian crisis, we urge Malian military leaders to return the country to democratic rule within the 12 months transition period as ordered by ECOWAS leaders.