The Head of the military junta in Mali, Colonel Assimi Goita has now ‘legitimized’ his government by intimidating the country’s constitutional court to swear him in as the new President of Mali.
Mali is facing an existential threat from (ISWAP) Islamic State West African Province and other insurgent groups that are attacking, killing, maiming and displacing Malians in different parts of the country.
France and (ECOWAS) the Economic Community of West African States had to send military contingents and arms to assist the Malian Army, which lacked the capacity and means to contain these attacks. But for this support, the entire Malian territory would have long been overrun by the terror groups.
It is in the midst of this crisis, that Colonel Goita found it expedient to overthrow an elected government, knowing that his action will strengthen the arms of the enemies of Mali, meet with stiff opposition from ECOWAS, the International Community, and increase the sufferings of the Malian people.
Colonel Goita intended to imitate the military take over in Chad, but naive about the dire consequences. Chad is in Central Africa and Mali is in West Africa, where military takeover of governments by force of arms is forbidden.
The Junta was immediately slammed with stiff sanctions; the first of which was the expulsion of Mali from the West African Economic Community ( ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) with more stringent sanctions to follow.
As a compromise, and to normalize the situation, ECOWAS established a transition government, headed by a civilian President, with Colonel Goita as the Vice President.
Ambassador Akinkuolie Rasheed
But, the Junta scuttled this arrangement some months later, and on 24th May, 2021, Colonel Goita assumed full powers as the President of the country. The Junta, then , invited Russian troops to replace the French contingent and the International Military Task Force. The Junta also replaced provincial governors, prefects and civilian administrators with military officers, while soldiers were reported to be scrambling for positions in the government.
The second putsch, which violated the agreement on the transition program is putting to test, ECOWAS will and ability to enforce its rule on unconstitutional change of government in member states. ECOWAS must, therefore, at this point, dramatically increase the pressure on the Junta to respect the transition program as agreed upon ab initio, with President N’Daw heading the transition.
The Communique issued on 19 June, 2021 after the 59th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State in Accra, accepted the transition program of the Malian Junta, based on the assumption, that the Junta will act in good faith and conduct a credible election in early 2022.
The policy of appeasement will not work here, but will rather increase the intransigence of the Junta, and make the resolution of this crisis, more and more difficult to resolve peacefully. The Junta is now calling the shots, which should be the other way round.
France had also expressed deep concerns, about the weak response of ECOWAS to the Malian crisis. ECOWAS must therefore respond in a more forceful and robust manner, to maintain its integrity, now and in future.
The President Good luck Jonathan mediation team should therefore be upgraded to include serving Heads of State, possibly with President Buhari, President Macky Sall of Senegal and four Generals from the Armies of Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Guinea Conakry to strengthen President Jonathan’s team, as mediators of peace or confrontation.
Meanwhile, the following additional measures should be taken against the Malian Junta:
1. Maintain the suspension of Mali from the AU and ECOWAS, including all regional and continental organizations.
2. Place travel ban on all members of the military Junta, their civilian collaborators and the puppet Prime Minister.
3. Apply stringent economic sanctions on key members of the military Junta, by freezing their personal accounts and placing restrictions on the movement of funds from Mali’s foreign reserves.
4. Offer an olive branch of peace to the Junta, on the condition, that the Junta agrees to restore the first transition government before the second putsch, and in return be pardoned for the mistakes of the past.
5. Advise Russia not to support the Malian Junta in whatever form, and indeed all countries not to entertain nor give audience to the Junta, until they have complied with all the conditions given by ECOWAS.
6. Prepare a military intervention force to oust the regime, if the reconciliatory conditions in paragraph 4 is not accepted within a reasonable time.
7. A military task force, (ECOMOG) should be placed on red alert to intervene, on short notice in Mali. And, If this option becomes inevitable, the military Junta, including their collaborators, will be made to face charges of treason, waging war against the Malian people and violating ECOWAS protocol on change of government by use of force.
8. The transition program organized by the Junta should be rejected, even if Colonel Goita should give an undertaking, not to run in the next election.
9. UEMOA (CFA Monetary Zone) should prevent the Junta from having access to the funds of the Malian people in the community’s Central Bank.
10. France may intervene militarily in Mali, with the consent of ECOWAS/ AU as a last resort to save the Malian people.
In conclusion, the Malian crisis is a test of will for ECOWAS. And the stakes are very high for social stability and the credibility of ECOWAS to rein in recalcitrant members. Mali will for sure be overrun by ISWAP, if the Junta should remain in power. Moreover, the Armed Forces of other countries in Africa, may be tempted to follow the bad example of the Malian Junta. ECOWAS must therefore be resolute and respond in like manner; as it did in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Gambia and Guinea Bissau to maintain peace and stability in West Africa .
Ambassador Akinkuolie Rasheed was Director of Trade and Investment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja Nigeria