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Another military coup in Africa?

On the 21st of March the world was confronted with an all too familiar image:  African leaders dressed in military uniforms rather than the tie-wearing garb of civil servants.  The Western world came to the same conclusion yet again, namely that here was yet another African nation denouncing the Western values of democracy and freedom.  However, while many may write-off the military coup in Mali as just another example of unstable African democracy, such an interpretation lacks a comprehensive understanding of this significant incident and its surrounding events.  Current events in the developing continent of Africa are frequently misrepresented in the media, which fails to convey the accurate context and interconnectivity of various African political, social, and economic episodes. Mali’s military coup serves as a prime example of this.

Since the crisis in Libya, the international community, along with the African Union, has failed to consider the ways in which Gadhafi’s fall may have impacted Mali and Niger, two countries vulnerable to civil war and political instability.  Both nations have had problems stabilizing their northern regions since they became the targets of the North African al-Qaeda operations.  Furthermore, in Mali, Amadou Sanogo stormed the presidential palace with a group of soldiers after accusing President Toure of not giving the army enough support to fight the NMLA rebels in the north.  However, Mali has felt the most severe impact of the Libyan revolution with regards to the nation’s Tuareg community.  When Gadhafi tried to hold up the joint NATO and rebel forces in Libya, he employed many Tuareg mercenaries from Mali and Niger, equipping them with heavy arms to counter NATO attacks.  As defeat became more and more inevitable, the Tuareg returned to Mali and formed an alliance with the North African al-Qaeda, joining forces to fight for the independence of northern Mali and the ultimate dream of a single, Tuareg nation.

The fall of Gadhafi did not only mark the end of an authoritarian leader’s rule (and life), but also the creation of a power vacuum in the Sahel region.  Abdul Aziz Kebe, a specialist in Arab-African relations at the University of Dakar, told the BBC, “Western powers have underestimated that getting rid of Gadhafi would have severe repercussions in the Sahel region.”  Although Gadhafi is more known for his recent mistakes in his own nation, his  position as a key figure within the African Union, which allowed him to voice his strong belief in the potential stability of Pan-Africanism, was  important to North African stability. Since the late 1980s, he ensured that the Tuareg population would not threaten to overthrow the governments of either Niger or Mali through several negotiations between the two parties.

The international community, the African Union, and mainly ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) failed to fill that diplomatic power vacuum left by Gadhafi.  The reincorporation of the Tuaregs into Libya’s society should have been essential to NATO’s plan to rehabilitate the nation.  Instead many of them were driven out of the country, an action that was counter-productive to the peaceful rebuilding of the nation, as many of the Tuaregs  wanted to be a part of Libya’s new democratic movement.

The role played by the African Union and ECOWAS was just as disappointing.  Last year, the African Union  failed to deliver much needed aid to the Ivory Coast during their post-election drama (a failure attributable to the international community, as well) Such ambivalence left the country alone to struggle and resulted in many casualties.  In Mali, the African Union has failed to send out troops yet again.  What Mali needs right now is intervention more along the lines of the effort of the African Union against the al-Shahab in Somalia, for, although it is too little, such an effort  at least promotes some sense of stability.

In the aftermath of its recent military coup, Mali faces a challenging dilemma.  The public is torn between supporting Sanogo’s movement and its focus on defeating the northern rebels, and President Toure’s elected government that failed to do so.  As the country is in even less of a unified position to fight rebels, the Tuareg are gaining ground in the north and are on the brink of forcing independence.  In addition, the Malian budget is made up largely of foreign aid and revenues from gold production.  This precarious economy has recently felt further strains by the U.S.’s and France’s – Mali’s former colonial power –  threats to cut all aid in protest of the coup. Such threats only compound the drastic setbacks of gold production that are the result of the country’s instability.  Mali is now left lacking the means to finance a war in the north, such as funds for the  military equipment needed to fight the joint forces of the Tuaregs and al-Qaeda.

Mali is a perfect example of the consequences of Western powers interfering in regions without understanding the pre-existing ethnic conflicts.  The results are ineffective aid and a lack of follow up.  Mali also portrays the remaining impact of colonialism in Africa and the ways in which the systematic neglect of ethnic groups can lead to failure when rebuilding nations.  Malians take pride in their democracy, which has lasted for 20 years and has served for years as an example of democratic success in the region.  To say that Mali has regressed to the political and economic situation of 20 years past would be a misconception. It would be unfair to judge the Malian people without considering the depth and complexity of the  issues their country faces. One has to hope that the international community, or at least the African Union with its limited means, will help Mali in its struggle for peace and cease to condemn the country’s political development.


–  George Bauer


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  1. Very good article; well done. However, if I may say just 2-3 points to rectify / add :

    “…the Tuareg returned to Mali and formed an alliance with the North African al-Qaeda, joining forces to fight for the independence of northern Mali and the ultimate dream of a single, Tuareg nation.

    – Most of those Tuaregs are not mercenaries but rather former incorporated military members of the Libyan’s army for 20 years now. It was one of Gadhafi’s special Guards created while ago. With the fall of the Lybian leaders, these Malians had no more jobs, no more salary.

    – “the ultimate dream of a single Tuareg nation” is a smoke screen for the real reason: natural resources (for example, the possession / control of the Uranium site in Niger just nearby). Resources are the key issue. The 2 major Uranium sites in Africa are in DRC (Chinese has put their hands on it now), and Niger where a civilian company from France extracts the mineral in for both France & USA. Finally, the trafficking of weapons and drugs in the Sahel, bringing $$ to individuals. The Tuaregs well understood the importance of the geographical line in that region (Mauritania, Mali, Niger, and Chad). EVERYTHING for both white and black people is based on personal gain ($$) linked to natural resources – nothing else. Whatever the color, humans are ready to pledge ANY social reason or religious ideology (smoke screen) for their own gains. L’argent est le nerf de la guerre !! – citation qui existe depuis des lunes.

    2. What Mali needs right now is intervention more along the lines of the effort of the African Union against the al-Shahab in Somalia.

    – Agree. But the problem is the African mindset is totally different between those from the East and those from the West. East is mainly former Brits mindset, straightforward / less concerned about the friendly relations among African nations / ethnicity; West is francophone, former French colonies, ALWAYS having this unconscious / subconscious worry for the impacts on the black brothers & sisters. Thus, Anthology must be taken into account when observing what is being done, or not on the political side (ECOWAS).

  2. Thank you for the feedback!
    First of all I want to say that it was extremely tough to make sure that enough details were in the article to make it really dense and informative but at the same time make it accessible and interesting for a common readers. I totally agree with all of your points. The issue of fighting over resources in Africa is so complex I want to write a separate article on that since I am from the DRC I have a lot to say about that topic. Resources definitely play a key role but I don’t fully agree with the fact that every African is ready “to pledge all their social reasons for personal gains”. I think it is important that Africans in terms of resources come back to the ideologies of Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba and Thomas Sankara and support that ideology with Pan-Africanism.

  3. Bravo George, I find that this is a good analysis on the conflict of the moment in Africa. Hat my grand, it’s really a bouillabaisse!

  4. A rebel, as I use the term, is a spiritual phenomenon. His approach is absolutely individual. His vision is that if we want to change the society, we have to change the individual. Society in itself does not exist; it is only a word, like “crowd” – if you go to find it, you will not find it anywhere. Wherever you encounter someone, you will encounter an individual. “Society” is only a collective name – just a name, not a reality – with no substance.

    The individual has a soul, has a possibility of evolution, of change, of transformation. Hence, the difference is tremendous.

    The rebel is the very essence of religion. He brings into the world a change of consciousness – and if the consciousness changes, then the structure of the society is bound to follow it. But vice versa is not the case, and it has been proved by all the revolutions because they have failed.

    A revolutionary is part of the political world; his approach is through politics. His understanding is that changing the social structure is enough to change the human being.
    No revolution has yet succeeded in changing human beings; but it seems we are not aware of the fact. We still go on thinking in terms of revolution, of changing society, of changing the government, of changing the bureaucracy, of changing laws, political systems. Feudalism, capitalism, communism, socialism, fascism – they were all in their own way revolutionary. They all have failed, and failed utterly, because man has remained the same.

    We have to be rebels, not revolutionaries. The revolutionary belongs to a very mundane sphere; the rebel and his rebelliousness are sacred. The revolutionary cannot stand alone; he needs a crowd, a political party, a government. He needs power – and power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Human consciousness has not grown for centuries. Only once in a while someone blossoms – but in millions of people, the blossoming of one person is not a rule, it is the exception. And because that person is alone, the crowd cannot tolerate him. His existence becomes a kind of humiliation; his very presence feels insulting because he opens your eyes, makes you aware of your potential and your future. And it hurts your ego that you have done nothing to grow, to be more conscious, to be more loving, more ecstatic, more creative, more silent – to create a beautiful world around you.

    Hence a Gautam Buddha or a Chuang Tzu hurts you because they have blossomed and you are just standing there.

    The world has known only very few rebels. But now is the time: if humanity proves incapable of producing a large number of rebels, a rebellious spirit, then our days on the earth are numbered. Then the coming decades may become our graveyard. We are coming very close to that point.

    We have to change our consciousness, create more meditative energy in the world, create more lovingness. We have to destroy the old – its ugliness, its rotten ideologies, its stupid discriminations, idiotic superstitions – and create a new human being with fresh eyes, with new values. A discontintuity with the past – that’s the meaning of rebelliousness.

    These three words will help you to understand: reform, revolution, and rebellion.

    means a modification. The old remains and you give it a new form, a new shape – it is a kind of renovation to an old building. The original structure remains; you whitewash it, you clean it, you create a few windows, a few new doors.

    goes deeper than reform. The old remains, but more changes are introduced, changes even in its basic structure. You are not only changing its color and opening a few new windows and doors, but perhaps building new stories, taking it higher into the sky. But the old is not destroyed, it remains hidden behind the new; in fact, it remains the very foundation of the new. Revolution is a continuity with the old.

    is a discontinuity. It is not reform, it is not revolution; it is simply disconnecting yourself from all that is old. The old religions, the old political ideologies, the old human being – all that is old, you disconnect yourself from it. You start life afresh, from scratch.


    The future needs no more revolutions. The future needs a new experiment, which has not been tried yet. Although for thousands of years there have been rebels, they remained alone – individuals. Perhaps the time was not ripe for them. But now the time is not only ripe….if you don’t hurry, the time has come to an end. In the coming decades, either mankind will disappear or a new human being with a new vision will appear on the earth. That new human being will be a rebel.

    Excerpt from “The Book of Understanding” – Jck

  5. “Resources definitely play a key role but I don’t fully agree with the fact that every African is ready “to pledge all their social reasons for personal gains”. I think it is important that Africans in terms of resources come back to the ideologies of Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba and Thomas Sankara and support that ideology with Pan-Africanism.”

    “The revolutionary tries to change the old; the rebel simply comes out of the old, just as a snake slips out of the old skin and never looks back”
    Stand up Africa!!!

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