IF the Malian political class, particularly the government of the deposed president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, had accepted the push for an interim government of national unity proposed by the former President Goodluck Jonathan-led ECOWAS mediation effort, perhaps the recent military coup might have been averted.
Despite spirited efforts which forced President Muhammadu Buhari to leave Aso Villa for the first time in five months since the pandemic lockdown and join other West African leaders in Bamako on July 23, 2020, the military still chucked out Keita’s government and detained him and former Prime Minister, Boubou Cisse. The August 18, 2020 coup followed a disputed election which sparked riots.
Mali is currently the most unstable country in West Africa. The age-long Tuareg rebellion (which attracted jihadist terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State) as well as corruption and poor leadership, left Mali vulnerable.
The military could no longer effectively defend the country and the masses got tired of failed governance. It was only a matter of time before something gave way.
The situation in Mali does not call for a knee-jerk handling, especially by ECOWAS. It calls for wisdom. At least for now, the military coup is popularly received. The military wants to rule for three years and organise new elections.
Even though coups have become unacceptable in the international community and should be discouraged, the path of wisdom in Mali does not lie in isolating the military regime as ECOWAS is already doing. If the country is blockaded and the regime isolated, Mali will be further weakened. Armed groups, especially Islamist terror networks, will be empowered and the entire region will be endangered.
Let the lessons of Libya guide the handling of the Mali crisis. Africa reacted to Muammar Ghaddafi’s crisis by kowtowing to Western interests and thus made the Sahara and Sahel new homes for the dislodged Middle East Islamist terror networks.
They now ravage Northern Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Northern Cameroon. The military junta in Mali requires constructive engagement to enable it to conduct a quick, successful transition programme.
What happened in Mali should be a lesson to others, especially us in Nigeria. The conditions that led to the fall of the Keita regime are also here with us: separatist demands due to lack of equity, massive corruption in government, multi-frontal conflicts and poorly-governed spaces, especially in the far North.
The protests are also growing, and there is a limit to hammer handling of citizen discontent.
We must improve the quality of governance, restore equity and get the citizenry behind government in the efforts to rescue the nation from its enemies. Good governance unites the people with the leadership. This is what we need to defeat our common enemies and develop our country.