Monday, July 30, 2012

Mali's future?

In today's news, interim president Dioncounda Traore finalized his transitional government. Once he solidifies his political base, Traore hopes to open negotiations with rebels and Islamic extremists that have taken over the north part of Mali and declared an independent Republic of Azawad(1). Traore recently sidelined or diminished the powers of the interim Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra, which will likely have political repercussions(2).   Traore also still faces interference from one-time coup leader, Amadou Sanogo, who continues to meddle in government affairs.  Counter-coups still continue to be attempted with the latest this weekend where an army officer and religious leader were arrested over the weekend.  Other counter-coups were attempted on April 30th and May 1st, but were put down by the troops that assumed power in the March 22d coup.  There are also accusations that military is disappearing their opponents(3).

If Traore is able to solidify his political base and get along with Sanogo and the original coup leaders (from the March 22d coup), he will still face many significant challenges.  First, the Forces Armées et de Sécurité du Mali are in shambles. Sanogo led his accidental coup in response to inadequate supplies, armament, and support from the government of Mali and things haven't improved.  Second, in their hurried retreat from the North the military abandoned vehicles, weapons, and fighting positions to rebels and Islamists.  Three, despite frictions between Islamist extremists and Touareg they still represent a formidable force that wont capitulate easily.  Fourth, if Traore asks for ECOWAS troops and they are approved/financed by the UN they will likely have a long hard fight.  ECOWAS troops will be seen as an invading foreign force and could generate more support for the Azawadian troops.  ECOWAS troops don't have the best reputation in West Africa after they took sides and perpetuated violence, atrocities, and profiteering in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

If Traore and the interim government are able to either negotiate a political solution with Azawad or drive them out of northern Mali with the assistance of ECOWAS troops, will Traore give up power peacefully?  Will Mali schedule elections and return to democracy?  Unfortunately, coup leaders and interim leaders have a habit of not relinquishing power or arranging elections in a way to guarantee their election.

1. Mali president finalises unity government
2. Mali's interim president sidelines PM Diarra
3. Mali counter-coup arrests 

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