Note this recent update on trouble in sub-Saharan Africa:
Commentary and Analysis by Ambassador John Price
The Republic of Mali: Under Siege
In the 1950′s, the independence movement became endemic in sub-Saharan Africa, beginning with Ghana in 1957. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, a socialist, became Ghana’s first president. Nkrumah founded the Pan-African movement with the goal of liberating and unifying Africa. The movement spread from West Africa to other parts of the continent. He was instrumental in forming the Organization of African Unity (OAU), composed of the liberated African states. Nkrumah who had lost touch with the people of Ghana was deposed in 1966 by a military coup.
The roots of power and corruption in sub-Saharan Africa took hold in a generation of young, politically motivated rebels, reformers, and nationalists in the 1950s. Nkrumah was at the forefront of this new breed of educated idealists whose socialist and Marxist beliefs defied neocolonialism. Most experimented with a communal society, which ultimately failed. In the tribal society collective farming did not take hold. “Change” was what these ideologues were looking for, no matter how extreme or painful it was for the people. Both China and the Soviet Union gained many friends in Africa, supporting and underpinning these early leftist leaning leaders.
In the 1960s, many succumbed to the euphoria of power rather than struggle with democracy in a multiethnic society. Sitting on the throne offered these fledgling dictators a way to satisfy their thirst for personal wealth. While free elections and power-sharing opportunities sounded good on paper, they were difficult to achieve. Not only did each leader want to put members of his ethnic tribe in control of the country, but the presidency was often enmeshed with the personal enrichment of family, friends, and confidants. Greed soon became intoxicating, and social and economic reforms for the people were long forgotten. This vicious cycle has continued with coups and countercoups; in some cases, power being handed down from father to son.
In the post-colonial era the United States and other donor countries have supported more than fifty corrupt dictators with billions of dollars of financial aid and loans, creating dozens of billionaires and countless millionaires. They and many others reportedly have plundered and killed to reach the top and stay there as long as they could. Independence from colonialism has been rewarding for these dictators but has not changed for the better the lives of most people in sub-Saharan Africa. For many dictators, personal greed also has become more important than the concerns of international security, and the global war on terror remains a cliché to many.
Today we find a new generation of leaders interspersed with the clique in the African Union (the successor to the OAU) that has controlled their countries for decades, creating weak, failing, and failed states; with dictators hanging on until death. Over time some sub-Saharan African leaders have developed altruistic goals of sustaining social change and building democratic institutions, but they are in the minority.
In several of the high Muslim populated African countries there continues to be competition between the altruistic, more democratic factions and Islamic fundamentalists bent on creating a caliphate. It was in the 12th century when Islam dominated much of Northern Africa and the Middle East under Sharia the most brutal law, which is their goal.
The Republic of Mali a predominantly Muslim state had become democratic going through two elections after years of instability. President Amadou Toumani Toure who served two terms was not seeking a third. Toure was the leader of a military coup twenty years earlier when he was a general. Civilian rule followed, with Toure coming back to power through the democratic election process in 2002. On March 21, as the 2012 presidential campaign was under way, Amadou Sanogo an army captain supported by young military officers took control of the government.
In the New York Times article on May 1, 2012, “Mali Uprising Proves No Threat to Junta Leader’s Vision of Authority” Adam Nossiter wrote, “Before he was deposed, Mr. Touré was set to give up power — a rarity in West Africa — after elections that would have been held this past Sunday”– April 29, 2012.
“President Amadou Toumani Toure hasn’t been active in tackling drug trafficking and al-Qaeda fighters, and the emergence of new rebel movements only added to the soldier’s frustration. The Libyan crisis didn’t cause this coup but certainly revealed the malaise felt within the army,” as noted by Malian newspaper columnist Adam Thiam.
Sanogo claimed the coup was about a lack of arms and government support to fight the Tuareg rebels who controlled parts of the northern region including Timbuktu, and two other towns. The rebels were well armed and challenging the Malian military. The government had not been able to control a number of rebellions over the years due to lack of leadership and military support, Sanogo had claimed.
Malian government officials in defense had blamed NATO for the crisis in the north after it helped Libyan insurgents topple Muammar Gaddafi. An arsenal of weapons left over from the Libyan war were not protected and fell into the hands of Libyan rebel groups, al-Qaeda, and Tuareg fighters going back to Mali. Reports indicate the Tuareg rebels have united with al-Qaeda insurgents, to take control of large sections of northern Mali. To add to the danger in the Maghreb and Sahel regions, Libyan arms have been uncovered in Niger, Mauritania, and Chad; and Somalia in East Africa.
Several West African countries, part of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) helped broker the new interim government. Early on these countries were asked to participate in providing arms and military support to subdue Sanogo and his “mutineers”. A recent counter-coup attempt by Malian loyalist troops failed, which only strengthened Sanogo’s control. Sanogo is looking for permanent power on the presidential throne, without regard to the continued instability taking place in the north.
“Captain Sanogo’s coup…caused the immediate collapse of the Malian Army’s resistance to nomadic rebel and Islamist forces sweeping across the vast northern half of the country. That area, now outside government control, has been the scene of serious human rights abuses, including rapes, public floggings and amputations, according to a Human Rights Watch report” noted by Adam Nossiter in the New York Times article.
Sanogo will continue to stall bringing back democratic civilian rule, which will dramatically prolong the inhumane treatment of people in the north, at the hands of radical Islamists. For his mutiny against Mali, Sanogo should eventually be charged at the International Criminal Court, for abetting the brutal acts that are taking place.
The UN, U.S. and ECOWAS had pressured Sanogo to allow for the interim government to go forward with the presidential elections. However Sanogo has frustrated the process by detaining opposition leaders and candidates. The interim President Dioncounda Traoré and Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra have been unable to govern freely. Negotiations needed to start immediately with the Tuareg rebels who are supported by al-Qaeda, and the separatist movement leaders.
Uncertainty of Mali’s future remains a major concern. Sanogo has not told the truth—he seized power in a “mutinous act” taking control of Mali, and back-doored his de facto presidency. He has no intention to let go willingly, and allow the democratic election process to move forward. He is just another brutal military leader, in a long line of African military dictators bent on personal gratification and endless power.
A strong African Union involvement is needed to remove Sanogo and his mutineers. Mali needs to again become the model in Africa’s democratization process, or the message will continue “that it is acceptable for ruthless power seekers to destabilize the poverty stricken African countries”.
Mali is caught between the road to democracy, ruthless power seekers, and radical Islamists fighting for the same turf. With continued destabilization in Mali it opens the door to al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups, joining forces with the Tuareg rebels who want to control the vast northern desert regions of Mali, and beyond. Such instability in the Sahel can only benefit the jihadist movement that wants to take control of the African countries, in their quest to create a Pan-African caliphate.
U.S. Imposes Visa Restrictions on Malian Mutineers
April 3, 2012
The Department of State today imposed restrictions on travel to the United States on … persons who block Mali’s return to civilian rule and a democratically elected government, including those who actively promote Captain Amadou Sanogo and the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy, who seized power from democratically elected President Amadou Toumani Touré on March 21, 2012.
For the full story:
Mali Uprising Proves No Threat to Junta Leader’s Vision of Authority
By Adam Nossiter, May 1, 2012
Captain Sanogo’s coup…caused the immediate collapse of the Malian Army’s resistance to nomadic rebel and Islamist forces sweeping across the vast northern half of the country. That area, now outside government control, has been the scene of serious human rights abuses, including rapes, public floggings and amputations, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Monday. The swift breakdown of the armed forces has led, in turn, to questions about the effectiveness of a United States-led regional counterterrorism program that had taken the Malian Army under its wing.
Captain Sanogo was dismissive about what the elections might have brought — “it would have been the same elements in power” — and vague about when they might be held. Yet he insisted that “it is not political power that interests me.”
Mali coup and the dangers of post-Gaddafi Libya
By Bob Wekesa, April 20, 2012
The seeping into the rest of Africa of battle-hardened rebels who have seen action in Libya and are fired by ‘Gaddafesque’ revolutionary rhetoric is equally bad. But perhaps even worse for the stability of a continent that was starting to find a semblance of peace is the fact that some of the orgies of violence in places like northern Nigeria are being traced to the post Gaddafi phenomenon. The real danger of more Boko Haram-like extremists using conquered territory in Mali as their launch pads further afield in West and Central Africa cannot be dismissed offhand.
Gaddafi’s influence in Mali’s coup
By Thomas Fessy, BBC News, West Africa correspondent, March 22, 2012
It did not take long for the Libyan conflict to spill over borders in the Sahel region – and now Mali seems to have paid the highest price so far following a coup by disgruntled soldiers.
The trouble began when hundreds of Malian combatants who had fought to defend the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, fled back home with weapons at the end of last year and formed the most powerful Tuareg-led rebel group the region has known – the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA).
For the full story:
Mali crisis needs to be resolved fast: African Development Bank
David Clarke, Reuters, May 11, 2012
West African governments – with help from the international community – need to resolve Mali’s crisis fast to stop the Sahelian belt becoming a haven for terrorists and traffickers, the head of the African Development Bank said.