President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Wikimedia Commons.
The army has seized government in Mali. It’s a useless coup that will not last long. The sooner it’s reversed, the better it is for Mali and for Africa.
Coups that had good outcomes in Africa have been few, including Jerry Rawlings in Ghana and Thomas Sankara’s in what was Upper Volta and became Burkina Faso. Mostly, coups have resulted merely in ineffective political elites being replaced by even more destructive military elites.
It’s true that Mali president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s government has struggled to deliver for the country. The challenges for Mali—as is the case with all other African countries—were compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.
Some people in Mali may be celebrating the takeover. But no doubt, the military will do an even much worse job. People are celebrating because when a people are desperate they welcome anything different—any change. They hope for the best; but wishful thinking is no solution.
The challenges faced by Mali are not unique. Similar pressure—the collapsing economies and disruption in food delivery networks—now afflict every other African country. What Mali was doing, holding meetings between government and opposition groups to explore formulas to work together—is what must continue. This process must also start in other African countries, otherwise other African countries may go the way of Mali.
Here are the key five reasons why the military in Mali must return to the barracks:
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) needs to continue brokering a solution between the government in Mali and legitimate political opposition groups. This is the best way to resolve the political impasse.
One reason why the military in Mali seized power is because they haven’t been paid on a regular basis. If the government was struggling to pay the military and government employees, how can the military hope to do better? Will the senior army officers simply raid the central bank and plunge the already weak economy into a nosedive?
The military has been engaged in fighting armed radicals that had seized parts of northern Mali in 2012. The army had some gains but has struggled to contain the insurgency. The destabilizing effect of the coup will translate into gains for the radicals. This means the ECOWAS countries and other foreign powers may once again step in to hold Mali together as they did eight years ago.
The military cannot deliver jobs to the people of Mali, especially the young who make up more than 80% of the population of Africa.
The era of military coups are over in Africa. The African Union charter calls for automatic suspension of any country where the military has seized power. Given the AU’s and international community’s denunciation of the coup it’s clear that Mali will be isolated diplomatically and economically. It won’t survive. Then the people will turn against the army and the chaos will worsen.
In truth, tiny, weak countries like Mali cannot survive in Africa. The Malis of Africa prove the correctness of Kwame Nkrumah’s vision from the 1960s. Only a United States of Africa can marshal the human resources, and the military and economic muscle to protect Africa’s sovereignty. Only then can Africa use the continent’s vast mineral resources to create wealth and prosperity for Africans.
So while desperation has led to the coup in Mali, there is no option but for the army to return to the barracks—or they must be forced back. For the good of Mali and for the entire continent. Africa doesn’t need recurrent coups in the 21st century.
There is only one solution. Africa must unite.