- 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.
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.
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).
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."
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
leader Amadou Sanogho has told
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
This band must be
removed, using force if necessary.
The region just
cannot have and AFRC-type coup whether less
bloody or not.
must be restored in Mali and the longer the
international dithers, the more the hapless
dingoes will dig in.
They have to be
No one gave them the
mandate to decide on behalf of the people.