Coup in Mali: A Necessary Evil?

Posted on April 9, 2012 in GlobeScope

By Neelima Ravindran:

In the history of the modern world, democracy has always been a sacred institution, resting on the pillars of freedom of thinking, belief, action and speech. As the enforcement of public franchise forms the core of the foreign policies of various nations, it is with extreme mistrust and trepidation that the democratic watchdogs view the political developments in Mali.

The fall of Gadaffi regime in Libya led to the Tuareg fighters of the Northern side of the African nation acquire a huge source of sophisticated arsenal. Tuaregs are the natives of the Northern part of the desert nation, who have been fighting for an independent state since 1958, first with France and then with Mali. They are backed by groups like Ansar Al Din who are known to harbor radical Islamic sentiments and are associated with north-African faction of Al-Qaeda. The Malian Army, disgruntled with President Toure’s handling of the crisis, ousted the democratically-elected government a month before the scheduled elections in a coup and powered the army with Captain Amadou Sanogo as the head. The coup d’etat is regarded by many as the spontaneous combustion of pent-up feelings among the officers.

Immediately there was a wave condemnation and disapproval across the world as it was seen as a setback to the efforts of putting the African continent on a democratic path. The African Union along with Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS) imposed sanctions leading to a virtual stifling of the land-locked nation. The country is running out of essential supplies and is in a state of anarchy and disarray. The innocent victims of the embargo are the civilians of Mali; their very existence is in peril, food and clothing in acute short supply, and transportation in a state of standstill.

So, was the bloodless coup that ensued inevitable, as many in Mali believe? The soldiers bleeding out of weapons, food and life against Tuaregs with a superior armory say they were left with little choice but to end President Toure’s flimsy approach to the war and rebels. The army in power have, since then, appealed to the international community to support their fight against the separatists. As chaos reigned in the capital, the Tuaregs made advances seizing the northern region leading to horde of fleeing refugees. Gao, Kidal and the fabled town of Timbuktu that the rebels captured have reported gross human rights violations and in regions under the control of Ansar Al Din, the enforcement of Sharia law.

So will the international community be sensitive in examining the circumstances and equations that led to the toppling of democracy in Mali? Will the lesser of the two evils be given support in fighting the rebels who not only threaten to upset the sovereignty of the nation but also have strong links to terror groups? Or will the army step down to appease the allies especially in the wake of Tuareg rebels declaring independence of their Azawad nation? Or will both the parties attain a mutual solution as people of Mali stare uncertainly at their future? Days to come will reveal. But any power that would ultimately take over Bamako will have a long and laborious road ahead, and the support of its African neighbors as well as the international community is an essential requisite to put Mali back on track.

As I write this, coup leaders have agreed to hand over the power to the speaker who will act as an interim PM till elections and in return the economic and trade embargo lifted. ECOWAS is also planning to deploy soldiers to stop the rebels. Maybe both the world and junta have woken up to reality. Maybe there is a flicker of light still burning in Mali…