After the Arab Spring: The winter of Africa's discontent
> 08 May 2012
10:37 - Jean-Jacques Cornish: ANALYSIS
While the last 18 months have been marked by popular risings across Africa,
Jean-Jacques Cornish reminds us that this isn't all that new.
Between 1963 — when the first elected president of Togo, Sylvanus Olympio,
was overthrown — and the year 2000, there were 27 successful military
takeovers in West Africa. One could have been forgiven for thinking that
coups were an infectious disease endemic in West Africa.
Mutiny in Mali
With less than a month to go before stepping down at the end of his
constitutional limit of two-terms in power, Malian President Amadou Toumani
Touré was forced to flee from a military mutiny on March 22 this year.
The soldiers were ostensibly disenchanted with government’s inability or
unwillingness adequately to equip forces fighting Tuareg rebels in the
northern part of the kidney shaped country.
The 15-million Malians have had democracy since 1991.The mutineers led by
Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo were unable to garner the civilian support
generally needed to allow a junta to make the noises, however hollow, about
restoring democracy and returning to barracks.
The coup drew muscular opposition from Mali’s neighbours. When a delegation
from the Economic Community of West African State (Ecowas) was prevented
from landing in the capital Bamako on March 29, the 15-nation regional
grouping imposed tough sanctions on Mali.
These punitive measures froze international banks transactions and cut off
the fuel supply to the landlocked country. The junta caved. Within a week,
it withdrew the new Constitution it had tried to impose and returned to the
1992 basic law. In a deal negotiated by Ecowas, the junta stood down in
favour of parliamentary speaker Dianconda Traore.
Fulfilling his part of the bargain Touré resigned “without pressure, in good
faith and out of love for the country”.
The military continued to flex their muscle, arresting at least 10 of
Touré‘s close allies as the deposed president took refuge in the Senegalese
embassy in Bamako before actually relocating to that neighbouring country
with his family and bodyguards.
The long-term damage caused by the coup has been manifest by the new
strength of separatists and Islamists in the northern half of the
kidney-shaped country who returned to the country after the fall of Libyan
dictator Muammar Gaddafi who armed and paid them as mercenaries.
They have taken the main towns of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu and imposed Sharia
law. The flow of refugees into neighbouring Mauritania became a flood as it
became increasingly unclear which wing of the rebels — the Tuareg
separatists or Islamist jihadists with links to al-Qaeda in the Arab Maghreb
(AQIM) — was in control.
Traore has made threatening noises against the separatists who have declared
independence in northern Mali, knowing full well this will not be
internationally recognised. The new leader has the impossible task of
organising elections in Mali by June.
Ecowas and the rest of the African Union took an equally hard line against
the April 12 coup in Guinea Bissau.
No president in the former Portuguese colony has ever served a full term
since its independence in 1974. In 1984 a woman president, Carmen Pereira,
served for only three days. Deposed president Carlos Gomes was facing a
runoff election on April 29.
Victory was assured because his opponent Kumba Yala had withdrawn from the
contest. In the past three years there have been six assassinations of
senior politicians, including a president — Joao Bernardo Viera in 2009,
apparently in retaliation for the killing army chief Tagme na Waie.
Guinea Bissau is the world’s sixth largest producer of cashew nuts, and has
one of the highest birth rates in the world with 5.6 children per woman. A
major source of revenue comes from its being a key transit point for Latin
American cocaine headed for Europe and some army officials are known to have
become involved in the trade.
In Senegal, which has had democracy since before it became independent from
France in 1960, president Abdoulaye Wade was booed by a crowd when he went
to cast his ballot. The 85-year-old brought in a term limit for the
president but believed he was above this because the regulation came into
force after his first election win in 2002.
He easily regained the mandate in 2007. By 2012, however, there were fears
he was trying to build a dynasty. At least 13 people died in violence during
campaigning. To his credit, Wade quickly conceded defeat when it became
clear he had lost the run-off in March to his former prime minister Macky
Popular musician and entrepreneur Youssou N’Dour, who was among those
disqualified from competing in the election, was made culture minister in
Malawi’s Bing wa Mutharika, whose enigmatic handling of the affairs of one
of the world’s poorest countries lost him development aid from major donors,
suffered a heart attack in April.
Constitutionally, his vice president Joyce Banda was next in line.
Mutharika’s body was flown to Johannesburg by insider determined to prevent
Banda from taking the reins. She had been expelled from the ruling party and
had not spoken to the president in a year. The insiders wanted to promote
foreign minister Peter Mutharika — the late president’s brother, who had
unconstitutionally deputised for him — causing the rift with Banda.
In the event, constitutional and international pressure prevailed and she
was sworn in. She declared there was no room for revenge in Malawian
politics. Nevertheless she signalled her intention of pursuing officials
guilty of excesses under Mutharika.
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Received on Tue May 08 2012 - 12:29:26 EDT