A Fragile Peace in Mali: A Reason To Rejoice or Threaten Military Action?


As the puff of revolutionary smoke that hovered over Bamako last week settles back into the city’s habitual smog, the battle lines after Mali’s extraordinary coup be can more clearly identified.

At least the south, the area most immediately affected by the coup, seems thankfully united. The coup leaders, the military and many of the people of this musically gifted nation all seem to be singing the same tune. Yes there are many who are worried and who want their democracy back, but even these recognise the reasons for the coup and are negotiating gently with Sanogo.


There was some looting, but order was quickly restored. Pro-democracy demonstrations seem to have had scuffles with some junta supporters, but this is to be expected. When you consider the gravity of the situation this coup has been remarkable for its absense of violence. This is largely down to the character of the southern Malian people (I’ll be explaining this in a later post)

When you consider that not all the military was behind this coup, and when your mind flashes to some of Mali’s neighbours- Algeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire – some of whom are now lining up and trying to meddle –  it is a minor miracle that all out chaos has been averted and very few people have been hurt. The outside world is rejoicing… isn’t it?

No! The outside world, through the US, the EU, ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) and the African Union have cut off aid, threatened the introduction of foreign forces, are cutting off supplies of currency and are threatening to close the borders from the outside. At a time when the nation needs all the support it can get to manage a very difficult situation and to avert the country from civil war, something that is perfectly possible at this stage, it is being isolated, strangled and threatened. Why?

The bullshit answer is that they all want a return to democracy.

The real answer is that too many powerful interests are threatened by this coup and by the people’s acceptance of it. When the powers listed above are saying Mali must return to democracy, they are not saying they want a return to the voice of the people, they are saying they want a return to the status quo. Because in the status quo all the lines of power and influence and corruption are as they should be, or as the international scene has prescribed them to be.

Of what use is democracy when your government is owned by foreigners? This is what aid does to Africa, it helps the international world own Africa. Any western government is responsible to its people because they fund the government through tax. Most African governments are funded by aid and not tax, so their governments are more responsive to their donors than their people. Until we get rid of this source of corruption and of the undermining of the democratic process, no African country is free and no African people have true democracy.

In pulling their aid what the US and EU are saying to Sanogo – and to the rest of Africa – is “we

This coup is, potentially, sub-saharan Africa’s first taste of the Arab spring. It comes straight out of it – a direct consequence of the fall of Gaddafi. It might be the first of many African states who say we have democracy but it is not ours, we want it back. None of the powers above want that. You may say that Mali had a good democracy. Yes it did, but it had become compromised. Its security  and its very existence as a unified state were put into question by this democracy’s corruption. Government ministers and high up military personnel slurping from the trough of the trans-Saharan drugs trade and using Al Qaeda as a handy foil, which plays another role as it appeases the west’s need for the fiction of the war on terror.  What is the use of democracy when it doesn’t serve the country’s interests and if you no longer have a nation state to govern? That was the barrel down which Malians were looking.

We are told that security is a government’s number one responsibility. The Malian government was falling short in this duty – or so its people began to fear.

This over emphasis on the principle of democracy is interesting isn’t it. Zimbabwe is a democracy as is Russia. Why has the African Union done nothing about Zimbabwe and why does it want to do something about Mali? Because one is old school and one is an up-start – no one likes an up-start, they rock the boat.

The message I am getting from people from Bamako, Mopti and Timbuktu is  “we are worried,  we want to return to democracy, we know why this happened, thankfully things are calm… perhaps we need to give this guy a chance as he’s our only hope”.

The message from the outside world is: don’t fuck with the status quo, and don’t anyone else get any such ideas!

The message from the African Union is if you are t working within  democratic structures you can do what you like and no amount of violence or misery will allow us to intervene. But if you are a nobody acting off popular sentiment and manage a peaceful revolution, we will strangle you.


Coming Soon:

The rebellion in the north, the MNLA and the claim for independence of Azawad.

What happened in Aguelhoc on January 24th?

Can and should Mali remain “one country indivisible”?

Mali and the Tuareg: the historical perspective.