Is Africa’s Democracy on Trial Again

By Abdulai Bayraytay

When a group of reportedly drunk putschists of the Malian Army audaciously announced to the world last Thursday that they have toppled the democratically elected government of President Amadou Toumani Toure, and that the constitution had been suspended along the dissolution of the institutions of one of the few established democracies in a troubled corner of West Africa, one is solidly taken aback thousands of miles away from the proud democratic gains the continent had made and continues to make in recent years.

Like the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) coup in Sierra Leone in 1992, the Malian coupists took a leaf from the same mantra when they told the world that the government of embattled President Toumani Toure had neglected their demands in the fight against the unfolding Tuareg insurgency in the North of the country.

What the soldiers, headed by Captain Amadou Haya Sanago, however failed to reckon with was the fact that Africa has frowned on military coups, and that civil society is so empowered that it now has the capacity to hold democratically elected governments to be accountable to the people, the real holders of political sovereignty in a state. If only the Malian coupists would have reminiscence the events in Sierra Leone, they might have thought twice since civil society and people’s power eventually canvassed the international community to restore the democratically elected government of erstwhile President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah following the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) coup of May, 1997.

No wonder that the rest of the international community, including the government of President Ernest Bai Koroma, has in no uncertain terms unequivocally condemned the coup whilst calling on the soldiers to return to their barracks and cede power once more to the civilian administration.

No sooner  I learnt about the coup  I literally wept not so much because of the trauma it rekindled as it happened in Sierra Leone following the AFRC coup of 1997, but for the tendency  of sending into a vague state the invested time and efforts one had made working closely with other committed peace makers like Dr. Robin E. Poulton of Virginia State University and a fellow researcher at the EPES Mandala Consulting, Dr. Anatole Ayissi, Dr. Ivor Richard Fung, Liberian-born Conmany Wesseh, and long time peace researcher, Malian-born Ibrahim Ag Youssef, among scores of several others, one had worked with in late 1990s in the search for peace in the sub-region.

Whilst I still have hopes that my continent will continue to enjoy peace and consolidate on her democratic gains, such hope is exacerbated with the conceded defeat of Abdoulaye Wade to his main political rival, Macky Sall, following the recently concluded presidential elections in the West African state of Senegal.

And, this is where I singularly join multilateral organizations like the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the United Nations (UN) et al in vociferously reproving the coup in Mali and call on the khaki boys to retreat to the barracks. Once this is done, then a holistic approach in addressing the geo-political challenges facing the continent and the dire need of addressing the concerns of the Tuaregs in the North by revisiting the flamme de la paix of Mali must be the blueprint for lasting peace in the sub-region.

*Author, Abdulai Bayraytay, holds a Master’s degree in political science from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada. He served as rapporteur in the ECOWAS Heads of State meeting on a West African moratorium on small arms and light weapons held in Abuja, Nigeria in 1998, and author of “arms control policy under threat: dealing with the plague of corruption”.

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