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Interim President of Mali returns to Mali with new plan

As the world was finally starting to sit up and pay attention to Mali’s strife in the North, its interim President, Dioncounda Traore, who had been wounded by pro-coup attackers on May 21st returned to the South after a two month stay in Paris during which he received treatment for head injuries. During his absence the Prime Minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra, has attempted to resolve the crisis in the North.

The Northern situation has become worse with Islamic rebels asserting outright Sharia law and almost imprisoning Malians in the North into their way of life. Their crackdown has caused even more Malians to flee the North increasing the refugee count. Just earlier this weekend, a man and woman accused of committing adultery were stoned to death in the northern town of Aguelhok. I wonder, what is the price to pay for murder?

Yeah has been working tirelessly to raise the world’s attention on Mali’s strife and the humanitarian crisis. He has been meeting with leaders at the UN and also those in US that are over Africa’s foreign policy. To shed fresh media coverage on Mali, Yeah assisted CNN’s Erin Burnett and her team with visas, contacts, and travel plans so that they could bring a larger attention on the refugee situation and the human tragedy happening in Mali. You can view Erin’s coverage at: http://outfront.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/24/why-mali-matters-al-qaeda-on-the-rise/. Yeah has remained a supporter of PM Diarra’s government and is adamant that now is not the time to put in a new government and delay any solution for Mali’s unity. As President of PACP, he has cautioned fellow politicians that no further delays should happen to hamper Mali’s return to democracy. It is time for the politicians in Mali to get over self interests and support the government.

The world is finally starting to sit up and notice the struggles in Mali. Most recently the US had staunchly opposed interfering. However on July 26th, Michael Sheehan, the Defense Department’s assistant secretary for special operations, said that they cannot allow Al-Qaeda to exist unchecked.  Even France that had maintained its distance has showed concern over the unchecked Al-Qaeda movements in Northern Mali. It’s amazing it had to come to this for the world to notice Mali. And even then, it’s not even about the lives being destroyed. I understand that each government concerns itself with what will be beneficial to its national interests. However, we might not even be in this position however if the first foreign interference mistakes were not made with Libya.  There is talk about a 3000-strong army made up of mainly Malians and military forces from Niger, with logistical support from the US and France. But if we continue talk, the North as we knew it may not exist. Already monuments have been destroyed, people have fled. What next before something actually gets done?

The attack on Dioncounda worked more in his favor than anything. He was not looked upon favorably as he was believed to be part of the old guard that had allowed ATT to rule unchecked. However the attack on him became to Malians an attack on Malian culture and traditions.  Attacking a 70-year old man, no matter what he has done, is simply not acceptable culturally. In an address to the nation, Dioncounda spoke vehemently of his forgiveness to his attackers. He focused his speech on how Mali must move forward to regain its territory and people.  He urged the Malian people to focus on how Mali can regain its territorial integrity. Dioncounda, spoke with urgency, that partners like the US and France cannot become enemies. This is interesting as many Malians regard former colonizer France with a degree of suspicion and even believe that they may have been responsible for supporting the rebel Tuaregs in the first place. Dioncounda called on all Malians to pay back their debt to Mali and become part of the solution.  And that Mali must move on stronger and unified. He then moved on to propose a transition plan.

The proposed plan outlines the following amendments to the agreement made between the coup leaders and ECOWAS.  In his speech Dioncounda outlined them as follows:

“In order to complete the institutional architecture to better suit the socio-political realities, the tasks of the transition, in the spirit of Article 6 of the Accord-cadre agreement, I propose:

1. High State Council (HCE) composed of the President of the Republic and two Vice-Presidents assist the President in carrying out the tasks of the transition.

— One of the Vice-Presidents represent the forces of defense and security and as such he will chair the Military Committee followed the Reform of the Defense Forces and the Security and take care of all military matters relating to Northern Mali;
–The other Vice-President shall represent the other components of the kinetic energies of the nation.

2. Government of National Unity: where are represented all parts of the Forces Vives.

Consultations leading to its formation will be led by the President of the Republic.

3. National Transition Council (CNT) with an advisory and comprising representatives of political parties present or not in the National Assembly and representatives of civil society.

It will be led by Vice-President representing the military services.

4. National Commission for Negotiations (CNN): meets the wishes of Heads of State of ECOWAS formulated in paragraph 18 of the final communication of the second meeting of the contact group on Mali.

This commission will engage with the armed movements in northern Mali peace talks in connection with the ECOWAS mediator to search through dialogue, negotiated political solutions to the crisis.

5. Motion in the direction of ECOWAS (the African Union and United Nations) based on the findings of the mission which visited recently in Bamako.

The Vice Presidents shall be appointed and the National Council of Transition (CNT) will be established as soon as possible and in any case within two weeks following the implementation of the Government of National Unity.

Furthermore it is understood that neither the President nor the Prime Minister nor the Ministers will participate in the next presidential election.” Will these restrictions also apply to the Vice Presidents, given they will play an important role in the transitional process?

The interesting thing about his address to the nation is the current Prime Minister was not mentioned in it. Why is this interesting? During the entire time from when Dioncounda was attacked to the time he was flown to Paris for treatment, PM Diarra has stood by Dioncounda, calling on people to let the political process play out. In fact, it could probably be attributed to him that Mali did not erupt into a civil war when the attack on Dioncounda happened. So it is interesting that he is not mentioned or acknowledged for the work that he has been doing. There is dissent among some of older political class in Mali that Diarra has been slow in getting the country back on track. Much of the dissent is coming from Dioncounda’s own party, ADEMA, which feels that they should be involved as much as possible in the running of the country. Many believe Diarra to be the coup’s puppet given that he has been appointed by the coup and also 3 major positions are held by the coup leaders.

However, now is not the time to play political games. Every day that these dissenters choose to make it harder for Diarra to operate, what they are doing is not just harming him, but more importantly, they are delaying a resolution to bring Malians much needed relief.  At this time national unity needs to become evident rather than just a song being sung. Even with Dioncounda, it is hard to say what will happen next. Given this address, it is hard to see where the PM will fit in and how all the political forces will indeed coordinate to create a stable, unified front. Without a strong base in the South, it will be hard for the army to follow a steadfast course. What Mali needs now more than ever is a government that sticks together and shows that Mali’s needs surpasses their own partisan interests. Additionally, Mali’s neighbors have given Mali a deadline of July 31st to create a unity government or risk facing sanctions again.  This seems unlikely at this point, but Dioncounda’s plan is a step in the right direction to make that happen. If what Dioncounda says is true, now that he is back, he could be the binding force that is needed as he shows that he is willing to coordinate with the coup leaders choices of leadership.  ECOWAS has been prompt at adding ten more days to the deadline to allow Dioncounda Traoré enough room for negotiations.

Elections have been set for May. Items to be resolved remain: checking out the rebels, restoring order in the North, bring home the refugees and holding elections. At the end of the day, a speech is all well and good, but actions speak louder than words and the question remains, can Dioncounda and Diarra pull it off for the greater good of Mali.  It remains clear, given Dioncounda’s return, that Malians will expect remarkable progress in the near future from these leaders.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Guiding Mali forward

If you had told me a few months ago what would happen in Mali, I would not have believed it. The events that have unfolded since the March 21st coup were an awakening. An awakening that Mali was not as stable a democracy that everyone in Africa seemed to think it was and that Mali had fallen the hardest when it seemed the most stable. Since then Mali’s way of life and the uncertainty in government has moved Mali back 20 years. It is unbelievable that one man could change so much. There seems to be little political drama these days and calm seems to be on the surface. The African Union has since disregarded the agreement that was signed with Sanogo giving him ex-Presidential privileges. However it remains to be seen how much power they have to even enforce it.  It is easier to give something than to take it away once given. The ripples of dissent are there. People are unhappy with the way things are playing in the North. The latest attack on Mali’s national treasures has caused such anger that it makes me question humanity a little. Mali has gotten more attention from the West with the destruction of Tombouctou’s mausoleums to its Sufi Saints, a UN World Heritage site. If sites/things can get this much attention, how come 250000 displaced refugees cannot get a similar reaction. Have we come to a time in our history where human life is cheap and dispensable but historical artifacts are not?

The refugee situation is becoming worse and the situation will continue to degrade unless the security is restored in the North. People flee when conditions are not safe. The Malian government has been unable to re-secure Northern territory. In addition the destruction on World Heritage sites and the increased punishment under Sharia law has made people desperate. People are so frightened that they are willing to leave homes, land and family behind. Just last week, a woman carrying her baby on her back who was getting water was flogged by Islamists. Her crime? Her head scarf had fallen as she tried to fill water. Today, she and her child lie in a hospital. In other incidents, young men have been flogged for stealing or associating with women. The young men of Tombouctou and Gao are so angered by the situation that they have taken to the streets with clubs and machetes. However while they are bigger in number, they are no match for Ansar Dine’s men that are equipped with guns.  Something has to happen soon from the Government of Mali. We cannot lose the future of Mali. Ansar Dine has proven its original mission of its own state to ensure the Tuareg’s well-being is polluted with an agenda of terrorism.

In yet another move to progress Mali back to democracy, Prime Minister Diarra advised ECOWAS of a roadmap to ending Mali’s two big issues: terrorism in the North and ability to hold credible elections after the one year transition. There is talk of creating more opportunities for political actors from other parties so that government can indeed be more diverse. Diarra has said that he would welcome the 3000 ECOWAS troops only if they were to rid the North of terrorists.  If all is kept on schedule and the new plan accepted then Mali would be on course to hold elections in May 2013. One of the biggest issues in Mali today is most political parties feel excluded from the government; hence instead of supporting Diarra they are constantly opposing his policies. If a government were created that held no majority, while it would bring in differing agendas, it will also give political parties the chance they seem to be asking for to make a difference. Hopefully, it will not become yet another political circus. Yeah has constantly called for a national unity government to be formed but has also cautioned against furthering personal agendas. He said in a recent debate:” When a nation is faced with its survival it must act in unison. The quarrels of interest will always exist but the existence of our territorial integrity must come before our partisan interests”.

Many people have asked us whether we plan on dropping out of the campaign. Giving up on Mali is not an option for us. Our efforts will be focused on making sure the right things happen for the Malian people in terms of getting refugee aid and contacting governments to advise them of how they can help.

It is essential that national unity be achieved first so that international support will return. Then a better equipped army can be deployed that has confidence in their leaders. After that the North can be regained and the terrorists kicked out. If we don’t do that soon, it may be too late. The time has run out and enough is enough. Once security and safety returns to the region, the refugees will return home.  Mali cannot afford another blunder. We are on the right path, but it is moving slowly

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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Mali’s dilemma

Mali is once again experiencing its moment of uncertainty caused by the issues of the last few days. On April 30th, loyalist forces clashed with the junta of Mali in an attempt to push out of power the junta. The attempt was less than successful and brought about more bloodshed than even the original mutiny. In the initial mutiny, there was a report (unverified) of 3 presidential guards dying but no harm to civilians. However the latest unrest brought about the death of civilians and injury to many more.

In addition to the sad loss of life, the deeper underlining issue is the difficulty it brings for an already struggling Mali. Mali now has an interim President, a Prime Minister and the transitional government of 24 individuals. It was interesting to note how during this past week of unrest, no word was heard from Diacounda, the interim President. In fact all discussions and addresses to the nation were conducted by the Prime Minister Diarra and the Ministers over the sectors affected by the unrest. It’s almost like Diacounda is sending a message that he does not intend on staying past his 40 days despite what most ECOWAS leaders are pushing for. Time only will tell. His term expires around May 20th. Any attempts on his part or the West African bloc ECOWAS to lengthen his term will only add to the unrest as doing so will cause a change to the constitution that calls for a 40 day term for the interim President.

The other issue that concerns me is the continuing growing refugee situation in the North. The first semblance of aid on a large scale is starting to be seen. It is the hope that as more and more organizations donate, the aid will reach its intended destination. The rebels in the North have continued their attack on basic rights and the three territories of Gao, Kidal and Tombouctou remain hostage. There has been little discussion on what will be done to regain these territories. The only talk I have heard of this is from ECOWAS that want to send in military troops and the junta that are adamantly refusing to allow foreign troops on Mali soil. While it is great that the ECOWAS team would like to send reinforcements, the concern remains about foreigners fighting on Mali soil. In addition, these troops are not up to the task of fighting in the desert. Plus what message does this encourage? This in essence encourages the same evil loop as foreign aid. Once you get into it and someone else controls the effort, there is no need for the population/leaders to themselves be held accountable. I am not saying that we don’t need the ECOWAS help. Logistics and weapons are two things that have been denied the Malian army. Our so called army is defenseless and sending them into war currently is as good as signing their death warrant. However, action needs to be taken soon. To let this fester is to allow the rapes and the imposition of Sharia to continue. To sit back and watch is to give permission to rebels to continue the reign of terror. Something must be done to free our people in the North.

There are meetings that are set to happen between the current leadership, the junta and ECOWAS to discuss how the transition will move forward. Discussions need to happen between all players in the crisis but it is important that the end goal of Mali’s sovereignty and peace not be compromised any further.

Yeah continues to work hard to increase the awareness of the basic freedoms that are being denied to our Malian brothers and sisters. He is currently in the US meeting with individuals and American leaders to raise awareness on the situation in Mali. Yeah said in a recent Voice to America interview: ““Mali needs its partners, but we need to make sure that this is a Malian solution. We cannot make this solution outside of Mali [because] that will be an imposition. We don’t want that and it is not going to be a lasting solution..The people of Mali need to come together and define the terms of how the country should be run during the transition.” (http://www.voanews.com/english/news/africa/Path-to-Restoring-Malis-Democracy-Set-Back-Says-Politician-149761235.html)

Mali cannot afford for this to go wrong any further. Mali deserves its break now. Continue to keep Mali and all Malians embroiled in this crisis in your prayers.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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