The nascent democratic development in the West African sub-region once again received a jolt with the ouster of Mali’s interim administration headed by President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, in a coup led by Colonel Assimi Goita.
Colonel Goita was the leader of the coup that removed the country’s substantive president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, last year following weeks of anti-government protests over rising insecurity, alleged corruption and a failing economy.
After days of uncertainty and following mediation by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), it was agreed that an interim government be constituted to oversee an 18-month transition to civilian rule.
Colonel Goita had sought to head the interim government but ECOWAS preferred a civilian, which did not go down well with the Colonel from all indications.
The latest intervention led by Colonel Goita came after a government reshuffle, which saw two senior military officers replaced. Colonel Goita, who remained the real power in the country, objected to the move by the interim president and acted to remove the government, accusing it of failing in its duties and of seeking to sabotage the country’s transition to civil rule.
Although Colonel Goita has promised that the transition will still go ahead and that elections will still go ahead as planned next year, many observers both within and outside Mali are sceptical.
Colonel Goita’s action is seen in many respects as an opportunistic move, taking advantage of Mali’s multi-faceted challenges to seize power once again.
But with the condemnation that followed the coup by the African and international community, including ECOWAS, African Union, The United Nations, European Union, it remains to be seen how the military in Mali will manoeuvre successfully through all the recriminations that have been ranged against it.
From the reactions so far, Colonel Goita and his colleagues face the possibility of being isolated, further exacerbating the situation in Mali. What this means is that the modest gains made in the transition to democracy will be further jeopardised, putting the country in more uncertainty.
Nigeria, which led the move by ECOWAS to negotiate the exit of the military when they struck last year with former President Goodluck Jonathan appointed to spearhead the talks, has moved swiftly to get the regional body to act on the Mali situation.
At an extraordinary summit of ECOWAS leaders on Mali which met on Sunday in Ghana, Mali was suspended for nine months with the possibility of the imposition of further sanctions. France, the former colonial power which threatened to withdraw its troops as a result of the coup and the United States of America, have also threatened further sanctions on the military regime in Mali.
We commend ECOWAS for taking such a firm stand and it must be sustained in order to bring home to the Malian junta that their action will not be allowed to stand.
All this should convince Colonel Goita and his colleagues that their action is unacceptable and that they will bring further problems to themselves and their country should they not retrace their steps.
We note that President Buhari is presently involved in a similar action in Chad, following the death of its former ruler Idriss Deby, and the continuation of military rule in that country. We are encouraged that the president has impressed it upon the Chadian military to stick to their pledge to end their rule and return the country to civil democratic rule without further delay.
We believe the same posture must be maintained in the case of Mali. The reasons adduced for the military coup in Mali can be no justification whatsoever for the truncation of the interim administration. The world expected the military in Mali to show more understanding and patience with the interim administration as it grapples with the enormous challenges of the country while it prepares for the transition to civil rule as demanded by Malians.
We believe it is not too late for the military junta now in place to step down and bring back the ousted interim president and allow the interim administration headed by him to see through its work. That is the only reasonable and realistic way to prevent Mali from falling into further uncertainty and chaos. The era of coups is over and Mali must return to democratic rule.