Thursday, March 22, 2012

If I was the semi-deposed President of Mali, I would…

Thinking in Toure’s shoes, after a military coup ran by a Captain arrested several of my military leaders, closed the borders, imposed a curfew, and looted my palace.
Provided I am well and located with my elite forces, which remain loyal to me, I would take the following steps:
1.  Contact regional commanders to determine who is still with me, what assets are available, and how long it would take to get to me.  It appears that communications with the outside world are still open so it should be possible to contact regional commanders and other leaders by cell phone, radio, or email. 
2.  Contact allies (French, US, neighbors) to see what support they could lend and what would it cost me.  Algeria could be involved since they want deals for access to resources in the North to continue to be valid (but could be swayed by coup leaders with the possibilities of sweeter deals).
3.  Determine the loyalties and capabilities of the Gendarmes/Police to see if they could be leveraged to break out of the compound and assist against the coup.  Granted the Gendarmes/Police have limited capabilities but their leadership could be influenced to act.
4.  Be patient.  If I can get loyal troops to rally to my side and with (and perhaps without f I could get my limited air assets airborne) outside intervention I could wrest power back from the coup leaders.  Since the coup leaders are younger and potentially not well organized a power struggle may ensue within the coup and
5.  Determine location of Captain Amadou Sanogo & the rest of the revolutionary council and decide to either to kill them directly or negotiate and then kill them later.
6.  Declare martial law once I have subjugated the military again and delay elections due to security issues.  This coup attempt gives the President reason to extend his mandate and postpone elections until the situation is more stable (in other words- indefinitely).

Not a recommendation, of course, but these steps seem logical to me.  If the coup leaders are smart they would have reasoned along the same lines and initiated actions against each of these steps.  By capturing some of the military leaders they are isolating the President.  Since this seems like more of an impulsive action (military uprising began after the Minister of Defense visited the barracks and was shouted down by Soldiers who then took arms to go see the President in Bamako yesterday) i dont think that any outsiders would have a direct line to the coup leaders.  However, if i was trying to get influence with a new government in Mali I would be trying to establish contact.

It will be interesting to see how things play out.  I hope the people are able to stay safe and things don't turn out badly for Mali.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: The Wizard of the Nile by Matthew Green

In The Wizard of the Nile, journalist Matthew Green, on leave from Reuters, documents his quest to interview Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in the jungles of central Africa.  Green’s trips to Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Sudan in search of Kony and his elusive band took place from January to July 2006 and in the end Green succeeds in meeting Kony.  Throughout the book the author also intertwines conversations and stories of escaped child-Soldiers, their views, and hope for the future.
The important part of the book to me was the transformation of the authors beliefs (and mine) that Kony and the LRA were the reason for instability, suffering, and death in the region to a more inclusive view of the cratered landscape and acknowledgement that both the government and the LRA were guilty of atrocities.  The author pointed out that the LRA is supported in part by the local population because the government has marginalized the Acholi people and even if Kony was captured or killed it would not resolve the grievances of the Acholi (p. 313).  90% of the population outside Gulu, who are mostly Acholi, had been forced into tent camps by the government for their security (p. 310).  Musuveni was also accused of using the same tactics of recruiting child Soldiers (p. 203).
Outside powers such as Sudan and the United States are also implicated for their involvement in the conflict.  Sudan provided funding, aid, weapons, and intelligence to the LRA in their fight against the Musuveni led government of Uganda.  Sudan in the 1990s became a center for Islamic terrorism after the establishment of an Islamic state in 1989 and Sudan sought to create Islamic states throughout Africa (p. 201).  In response the US backed a coalition of Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Rwanda in 1996 to contain or stop the influence of Sudan (p. 207).  Although the coalition fell apart after fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the US continued to support Uganda in its fight against terrorism.  In 1999 Uganda and Sudan agreed to stop supporting their enemy’s rebels, however, the LRA continues to receive some support from Sudan (p. 170). 
In the final chapter of the book the author ties all his discoveries and experiences together to try to make sense of his search for the much-hyped “wizard of the Nile” and muses that perhaps Kony is just what he says he is: just “a man, a human being” set up by the Ugandan government to divert attention from the real issues in Uganda (p. 303).  The author determines that while Kony denies participating in any atrocities and blames the government for its crimes, that Kony is still guilty.  However, the author also concludes that Musuveni has used the LRA as a scapegoat and the US and international community has overlooked government atrocities and use of child-Soldiers in order to form an alliance against terror.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Review: A Human Being Died That Night

        In A Human Being Died That Night Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela provides interesting insight into apartheid, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and the how people dealt with the aftermath of apartheid.  Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is a black South African psychologist who interviews one of the most notorious state perpetrators of violence during apartheid, Eugene de Kock, who ran death squads in South Africa, Namibia, and in crossborder raids into Botswana to “eliminate” state targets.  The interviews took place in a maximum-security prison in Pretoria where de Kock was serving a 212-year sentence for his crimes during apartheid.
       As Gobodo-Madikizela conducts the interviews she reflects on her experience under apartheid and how it differs from that of de Kock.  She discovers that there are two sides to de Kock- “Prime Evil” who forgets how many people he has killed and also the loving fathers that is fiercely protective of his family.  She also explores the culpability of the state in sending him on missions to get rid of enemies of the state but officially deny any responsibility.  De Kock was awarded many medals for his successes, including the highest South African award, the Silver Star, but later condemned by former President de Klerk for being excessive and a rouge operator.  It was interesting as Gobodo-Madikizela broke down the system of apartheid with its support from the official Afrikaaner church, social organizations (Broederbond), security police, judicial system, and state that condemned the African National Congress (ANC) as terrorists and sanctioned de Kocks war on terror.  The apartheid state convinced its Soldiers that they had to make a stand and defend the country or else it would go the way of the Congo in the 1960s and they had to “Fight, resist, sacrifice, or you will be wiped out by the black man” (p. 73).  Gobodo-Madikizela frequently compares the apartheid government to the Nazis that try to exterminate the Jews but ultimately decides apartheid isn’t as evil.
       Near the end of the book Gobodo-Madikizela reflects more on the process of forgiveness and reconciliation with her experiences with de Kock and the TRC.  During the TRC hearings she also conducted outreach programs that gave her the opportunity to interact with others that suffered during apartheid.  Some complained that the process was “opening old scars” and digging up past trauma where the victims had “put grass over the past” (p. 88).  However, Gobodo-Madikizela concludes that the process was largely therapeutic, allowed people to move on, fostered forgiveness, and helped society begin the healing process.
Gobodo-Madikizela, Pumla. 2003. A Human Being Died That Night. Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin: Boston.