On April 12th when Diacounda Traoré was sworn in as Mali’s interim President, the clock started ticking on his 40-day term. His responsibility was to plan when elections would be held and to help resolve the issues of the Northern region in terms of security and the refugees. Diacounda’s inauguration speech was punctuated with severe rhetoric against the rebels of the North, going so far as to even threaten war against them. 30 days into his term, one can clearly see that talk is cheap and that Diacounda has fulfilled very few of the promises that he stated when he was sworn in. This is another reason for Malians to continue to distrust the old guard that has watched over the politics of Mali for the last 20 years.
To be fair, I should say that his task is no easy task. The task remains difficult to reunite a country in which not only the North remains separated by the South, but where different political parties have been reaching out in different tangents. The situation has not been helped by a counter coup attempt by the ex-President’s loyalist forces. Nor has it been helped by threats from ECOWAS on deployment of an army of 3000 foreign soldiers on Mali’s soil to help gain the territory back but more importantly make sure the junta returns to the barracks. These threats have in effect gone against the April 6th agreement between the junta and ECOWAS and have caused great anger among the junta, who see the constitution of Mali being changed by foreigners and power quickly slipping away. By extending Diacounda’s 40-day mandate, the constitution that was quoted when the coup first happened, will in effect be violated. After the whole rigmarole about violating the constitution initially, it seems like a farce for it to now be violated to serve external preferences.
I have seen Diacounda do little in these 40 days other than meet with individuals that cannot influence the course of Mali’s future. The important task of gaining back Mali’s northern territories seem pushed to the back burner. Even more crucial, the refugee numbers have now swelled to 235,000+ with numbers getting higher each day. The US State Department has in effect stated that they hold the junta directly responsible for the mounting suffering of the Malian people. While the junta has contributed to the issue, to blame them whole heartedly seems unfair. There have been many players who could be blamed for the situation in Mali: the old guard ATT, the politicians that have been on the scene for 20-30 years, the junta, the flip-flopping young politicians that go where the power is and also foreign interests.
Now, the one thing that might explain Diacounda’s relative lack of media presence is that the junta still controls the national TV. Each evening the screen is filled with events that seem to embolden the junta’s presence at community events. It is almost as if the stage is being set for them to take over when Diacounda’s 40 days is over. This is something the international community and especially ECOWAS (the body of African countries) would prefer not to happen. By establishing military rule, the junta would be returning the country to a similar period 20 years ago before democracy was established. The events in Mali have already proven that Mali’s democracy was a superficial one with leaders lining their pockets and fulfilling personal ambitions rather than truly answering the needs of those that put them in power. Captain Sanogo, the military leader, has already shown that he has the ability to gain the support from the Malian people that has lacked for so long. However, the constant quashing of the national TV does not bring any comfort and is an early indicator that dissenters could be silenced.
Just last week, I was headed to the PACP headquarters right by ex-Prime Minister Modibo Sidibe’s house. Modibo Sidibé was the one rumored to have stolen a lot of money and used even more to finance his Presidential campaign. He has already been arrested twice by the junta. As I was there, I saw few motorcycles carrying heavily armed guards. They were hunting for Modibo. The first thought that entered my mind was, “Why are you here. Should you not be in the North protecting your people?” It seems more and more that the junta is using the military to advance their personal protection and needs.
Nevertheless, the people of Mali remain embittered by the past 20 years of ineffective democracy and regardless many people see the junta as the lesser of two evils. Especially, since they provide a non-politically affiliated group that ended an ineffective democracy. Sanogo is viewed by many in Mali as a leader, and this is an impression that will not be dispelled anytime soon. I wouldn’t be surprised on May 22nd if the junta reclaims the Presidency and Sanogo remains in power till elections happen next year.
I cannot decide if this is a good thing or bad thing. While this is not an ideal solution, most other solutions will cause further unrest and delay a resolution to the important issues gripping the North. For now, Mali seems to be biding its time with Diacounda, waiting for a true leader to emerge to take the reins of the country. Hopefully the new transition leader will be one that makes more progress than the country has seen in the last 30 days with the least amount of unrest.
10 more days till the hourglass turns once again in Mali to begin the next phase towards determining Mali’s future.