Mali lost in transition as army expands role after coup

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Bamako (AFP)

Hopes that the soldiers behind Mali’s coup would quickly restore civilian rule and tackle jihadism and ethnic violence are quickly fading as the military expands its role.

Many in the great Sahel country hailed the August 18 putsch as the forerunner of a “new Mali” – a nation that would emerge stronger and more stable, its institutions better placed to face the country’s many ills.

Young army officers overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita after weeks of protests sparked in large part by his failure to reverse a jihadist insurgency and root out perceived corruption.

Threatened by international sanctions, the junta has handed power to an interim institution that is supposed to last up to 18 months until elections are held.

But disenchantment with the slowness of reforms is growing, fueled by anger that figures linked to the military dominate the body.

The political parties, quickly ousted from the decision-making process, have almost unanimously denounced the methods of the military.

“It would appear to be manipulation,” said Boubacar Diawara, an expert in public law and governance.

Mali is “a fragile country built like a house of cards”, he declared. “The junta had the possibility of consolidating the foundations, but it did not do it. ”

Nepotism and inaction remain. Hospitals are overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases, as social discontent mounts and many public service workers are on indefinite strike.

The number of jihadist attacks has decreased but there is no obvious link with political changes in Bamako, the southern capital far from the territories frequented by armed Islamists.

The latest controversy arose with the creation of the National Transitional Council (CNT), intended to take the place of parliament for the transition.

– Scheduled for failure? –

The criteria for appointing the 121 members of the CNT and even the true identity of some of them remain obscure. Others obtained seats without showing any prior interest.

Filmmaker Boubacar Sidibe is a victim.

He was a CNT candidate who was accepted, his name on file with his date of birth and profession. But when he sat in his place at the opening session, a man of the same name introduced himself and said that seat 101 was reserved for the “military quota”. Sidibe has been shown.

“We bring to the table the same procedural irregularities that we have denounced in the past,” said Abdourhamane Ben Mamata Touré, former director of training at the National School of Administration, who trained senior officials.

“We have pre-programmed the failure of the reforms we want to carry out. The most fundamental principle is that of trust, and we have already tripped over it, ”he said.

The army now has virtually control over the transitional institutions.

Among the putschists, Colonel Assimi Goita obtained a tailor-made role as powerful vice-president of the transitional government; Colonel Malick Diaw has been promoted to president of the CNT; and Colonel Sadio Camara and Colonel Major Ismael Wague respectively took charge of the strategic ministries of defense and reconciliation.

Thirteen of Mali’s 20 regional governors are now soldiers following a series of appointments in November.

– ‘Military from the start’ –

Mali’s transitional president Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane are civilians, but when the head of state recently disappeared for several days rumors swirled that he had been sidelined or had even resigned.

“Today, it’s Goita who makes all the choices. Bah Ndaw is there to sign the decrees and that’s it, ”governance expert Diawara said.

Former justice minister Mamadou Ismaila Konate said those protesting against the militarization of the regime “have only to blame themselves”.

“We let Assimi Goita choose the president, the prime minister, three quarters of the government and almost all of the CNT. ”

“Even the Queen of England and the Pope are not able to name so many personalities of the state,” he observed.

A Western diplomat took a more measured point of view, saying: “Those who condemn excessive militarization forget that the transition was military from the start, and that didn’t bother many people at the time. ”

Apart from the United States, which suspended all military assistance during the transition, Mali’s foreign partners have taken diplomatic note of the situation. Many argue for pragmatism.

“There are possibilities for reform, take advantage of them! Suggested a diplomat.

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