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THE putschists who hinged their reasons for the coup on the inability of the government to tame the Northern Tuaregs and other rebel groups that have been pillaging the region and by extension, the socio-economic landscape of the country, the escalation of civil strife in the North, leading to the capture of many cities including the strategic city of Timbuktu immediately after the coup, obviously invalidated the spurious alibi for the military take-over.
REELING under the uncomfortable pressure of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) disapproval, which threatened and in fact imposed economic sanctions on the military junta in Mali, the Sanogo government capitulated and restored democratic institutions with the final handing over of the reins of power to Mr Dioncounda Traore – the speaker of Mali’s pre-coup National Assembly.
DESPITE the semblance of return of democratic structure to Mali however, the facts on the ground clearly show that the presence of tranquility in that impoverished country still remains a mirage. For instance, the military institution is not only fragmented, it also ails chronically from regimented discipline which is salient to military rule and order. This command deficit on the part of the country’s army coupled with the disarrayed political class were exploited by the separatists and Islamist rebels to seize the Northern part of the country.
THE growing population of all kinds of rebel groups in the Northern Mali with its attendant danger to the stability of the sub-region informed the formation of a 3,270 – strong force, whose mission, according to reports would be to bolster Mali’s fragmented army and stabilise political institutions and then tackle the rebel –held North, in the event of collapse in dialogue.
It is however discomforting to note that only three countries — Nigeria, Niger and Senegal provided the standing force, showing the passive commitment of other members.
OBVIOUSLY, the decision of ECOWAS to dispatch troops to Northern Mali is salutary. The situation in that region, if allowed to degenerate will become a haven for drug barons and ruthless terrorists. In fact, available evidences already show that the North is now populated by heavily armed groups which include al Qaeda’s North African Wing (AQIM) and some fighters from Nigerian militant group – the Boko Haram. This fearful scenario poses enormous threat to the sub-region, thus presenting itself as an acorn which should not be allowed to develop to an oak tree.
WHILE putting the stand-by force on the alert, it is crucial to engage in diplomatic moral suasion to ensure that all the countries in the sub-region contribute troops to this task force. Aside boosting the military might of the command, it will also send unequivocal message to Malian renegades that Africa will no longer tolerate military tyrants and agents of terror and balkanisation.
THE Malian army’s exasperation and self imposed phobia need to be allayed. Having reluctantly succumbed to the dictates of ECOWAS by relinquishing power to the civilians, it is to be expected that the army may see the ECOWAS stand-by force as “army of occupation” irrespective of its candid intentions. The ECOWAS force, to be successful, must work in sync with the Malian troops who are conversant with the country’s terrain. Doing otherwise may not only be suicidal but may also lead to an avoidable pyrrhic victory.
THE ECOWAS and the African Union (AU) must cooperate to convince the United Nations (UN) to back the military intervention in Mali, if talks fail. Of course, it is in the best interest of the UN to endorse the ECOWAS plan as the incubation of “African Afghanistan” due to the presence of al Queda in Northern Mali combined with the area becoming a potential training ground for terrorists make the intervention of United Nations a valid necessity.
IT will be strategically myopic to leave Mali to its own fate. As a Yoruba proverb says: He who fails to admonish his room mate against the consumption of cockroaches should not expect good sleep from the midnight howl of the consumer. This explains that security, political and economic quagmire that the current debacle in Mali poses to Africa and the world at large requires uncommon diplomacy and generous circumspection.Share