''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 9 No 5

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Thursday March 22, 2012 - Coup in Mali as rebel troops seize the seat of government, suspend the constitution and declare that they are now in charge. An all too familiar picture that West Africa and indeed the region and continent could well do without. Echoes of our own past - and why no armed group should be allowed to usurp power.

It all started at first yesterday Wednesday with rumours doing the rounds that there have been disturbances in the capital around the seat of power - the Presidential Palace, rumours that mutinous soldiers were staging a protest against what they see as a lack of support from the government in the battle against Touareg rebels in the north who wanted to have their own state sliced out as a separate entity. Residents of Bamako and its environs watched in anxiety as events unfolded throughout the night wondering if this latest was just one of several scares they had witnessed as the rebels tried to gain control of the capital Bamako. By early this morning, it became clear. Malian soldiers on television announcing the overthrow of President Toumani

Mutinous soldiers appeared on state television to announce that the constitution has been suspended, that they had ended the 10-year rule of President Amadou Toumani Toure and as far as they were concerned his government was no more and is now replaced by the soldiers' creation - The National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State (CNRDR).

Al-Jazeera reports that the military read out a statement on state television in which they stated the dissolution of state institutions as well as the imposition of a curfew until further notice even as heavy weapons fire rang out

One of the mutineers told the AFP news agency that soldiers had seized control of the palace and that Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, Mali's foreign minister, was among those being held. "We now know it is a coup d'etat that they are attempting," a defence ministry official said, asking not to be name. Anger has grown in the army at the handling of a Tuareg-led rebellion that has killed dozens, forced some 200,000 civilians to flee their homes and exposed Bamako's lack of control over the northern half of a country."

A BBC reporter in the capital Bamako says it is not yet clear whether this move by an elite unit close to the ousted President had the support of the rest of the army and it would seem the next forty eight hours would be crucial in this military take-over that is sure to attract quite a lot of condemnation given the fact that such moves are no longer the norm and is frowned upon by the international community.

Matters are complicated further by the presence of mediators from the ECOWAS subregion who had been visiting and who had expressed support for the Toumani government in the fight against the rebels. They are still believed to be trapped in Bamako.

What's going on in Bamako has a familiar ring to what happened in the past in Sierra Leone and which many hope will never again be the plight of Sierra Leoneans who had to put up with first the popular Strasser-led NPRC coup of April 29, 1992 and then the most unpopular and murderous APC-supported  AFRC/RUF junta of May 25, 1997.

On Wednesday April 29, 1992 one Captain Valentine Strasser seized State House before President Joseph Saidu Momoh could get there that morning. They were protesting at the lack of support they were getting from the government in the fight against the Foday Sankoh rebels of the Revolutionary United Front, the RUF. By day's end a breathless Captain Valentine Strasser was on radio, not the national system that was off air, but on one private radio station, the first to be allowed to operate, to announce that the APC government of President Joseph Saidu Momoh had been overthrown - thus ending 24 years of a repressive, suffocating, murderous and thieving cabal reign of terror and intimidation.A Toureg rebel using the Type 80 Heavy Machine Gun - the type imported by the Ernest Bai Koroma government for the police

In the first interview granted to the BBC and indeed the first to any news outlet in those hours after the sounds of anti aircraft guns coming from the direction of State House, one of the spokesmen of the Strasser group, one Lt Solomon Musa, SAJ Musa, told the BBC that they were in town to protest to the government against the lack of support they were getting on the battle front as they tried to contain if not defeat the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front, the RUF of Corporal Foday Sankoh.

At first it appeared there was some hesitation within the ranks of the military, more so from the APC-infiltrated and controlled sections of the military many of whom feared that should the coup fail, many heads will roll given the track record of the APC in dealing with suspected soldiers not reading from the APC book.

One of those APC soldiers who was quite willing to kill one of the coup plotters was one SIM Turay who murdered in cold blood, one Lt Sahr Sandy one of the three men who were at State House and who gave the BBC their reasons for seizing State House.

In the end, these doubters were persuaded and so was born the National Provisional Ruling Council, the NPRC as the coup was largely welcomed by the civilian population who saw the young soldiers as liberators from the yoke of the uncaring, thieving and murderous APC.

The NPRC left power with a lot of persuasion from civilians, (Bintumani 1 and 2) in 1996 after elections that saw one Brigadier General Julius Maada Bio handing over power to the democratically-elected government of one Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

He had barely been in power for a year and trying to cope with a war he had inherited, when elements within the army spurred on by some key APC activists, decided to stage their own coup, ousting the new President, thus effectively putting an end to the country's flirtation with democracy and the rule of law.

If the NPRC of Strasser succeeded in gaining the support of the civilian population, the AFRC/RUF junta of Johnny Paul Koroma was quite the opposite as this band of buccaneers engaged in an orgy of murder, rape, looting, abduction and all the elements that created a nightmare of Sierra Leone.

In the end, they were ousted - and as they say the rest is history.

Update - As we predicted, condemnation of the coup in Mali has been coming from all quarters - quarters interested in seeing democratic principles, the rule of law and constitutionality obeyed in that country.

The regional body ECOWAS started the ball rolling and this was swiftly followed by the African Union with individual countries following on the same thus sending a message to the coup plotters who are now reported to be engaged in looting whatever comes their way  - from the shops to the residences of people thought to be "rich" as guns in the hands of wild and not so disciplined men in uniform are used to intimidate, injure and even kill any who stood in the way of the "new men in power".

The United Nations has also joined the chorus of condemnation with that body's Security Council condemning in no uncertain terms what it calls "the forcible seizure of power" from the democratically-elected Government of Mali".

In a statement read out to the press by Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant of the United Kingdom, which holds the Council’s presidency this month, the 15-member body called on the rebel soldiers to ensure the safety and security of President Amadou Toumani Toure, and return to their barracks.

Meanwhile coup leader Amadou Sanogho has told the BBC that he was in complete control of the situation in Mali. He has promised that he will hand over power once the northern Touareg rebellion is over which in effect would mean that he intends to stay there for the long haul. Any excuse to stay in power.

And this after he had promised to have a government of national unity.

This band must be removed, using force if necessary.

The region just cannot have and AFRC-type coup whether less bloody or not.

Constitutional rule must be restored in Mali and the longer the international dithers, the more the hapless dingoes will dig in.

They have to be removed. Period.

No one gave them the mandate to decide on behalf of the people.




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©Sierra Herald 2002