In the wake of a Coup d’état:
Yesterday at about 5pm when I came back from my dusty ride on Petit Bandit
, there was a little gathering talking excitedly at the back of the kitchen.
‘There is something big going on in Bamako’, Maman informed me. ‘The TV and radio have both been cut’. Papa’s phone rang. Someone in Bamako informed him that the airport had been seized.
Levy, our journalist friend was having dinner here at the hotel. He arrived with Keita around 7.30 pm. He informed us that the international news channels reported that there were disturbances in Bamako in the vicinity of the presidential palace. As we were having dinner the mobile telephones continued ringing with news: two soldiers shot dead by the Presidential Guard. A military friend of Keita’s in Gao reported that all senior Malian officers had been taken captive by the army. It was therefore an uprising at national level it seemed.
After dinner some more of Keita’s friends arrived and more telephone conversations ensued with various well-placed people in Bamako and in Segou. The uprising had taken control of the two Bamako bridges. Keita knows many people within the military. We found out that a young captain had begun it from Kati, the garrison town a few kilometers from Bamako. This was an uprising within the lower to mid echelons of the army, whose indignation with the President’s handling of the recent crisis in the north had been steadily mounting over the last weeks.
About ten pm there was a sudden excited announcement from Maman that the TV had come back to life and that a message was displayed across the screen: Dans quelques instants un announcement par les Militaries.
We all settled in front of the TV screen and waited.
The message was still there displayed across the screen at 4 am this morning while Malian music videos were still playing endlessly on a loop. (Malian music videos are quite entertaining, in small doses only. They invariably involve the stars performing in parking lots or by swimming pools, ultimate symbols of success here) I finally dropped off to sleep, but was shaken awake by Keita about 4.30 when a band of soldiers in combat gear appeared on the screen, one of them reading a message from a paper. The problem was that there was no sound! But the written message displayed on the screen was clear enough to tell us that the government had fallen: Comité Nationale pour la Redressement de la Démocratie et le Réhabilitation de l’Etat.
Half an hour later the message was replayed, this time finally with sound. The gist of the message , delivered by a ‘spokes person’by the name of Lt. Amadou Konaré, was that the Army had felt it was their responsibility to deliver the country from the ‘incompetent leadership of ATT.’ They were to restore the country’s integrity and uproot the rebellion in the North. They pledged solemnly to restore the country to democratic rule once their mission had been accomplished. A little later a Capitain
Amadou Sanogo spoke, and was introduced as the President of the Comité.
He urged calm and assured the Malian people that the situation was under control and that all actions of violence or looting would be dealt with severely.
This morning I spoke to Ann, my Bamako friend close to the first bridge, the Pont des Martyrs.
(Ironically this name celebrates those that died in the coup organized by ATT to overthrow Moussa Traore in 1991. The anniversary of that coup is only 4 days away, on the 26 March).
Ann said shooting was heard from the bridge by passing vehicles. The cross road by the German Embassy next to her house was occupied by military vehicles. There seemed to be celebration taking place and soldiers were shooting into the air.
There are rumours of the President ATT having fled to Guinea.Others say he has been given refuge at the American Embassy. Noone knows.
What made all this happen?
It is my firm belief that ATT had become seriously out of touch with the people of Mali. The high ranking officers were equally out of touch, and happy to line their pockets and tow the line with the administration. ATT was also keener on listening to the advice of foreign diplomats than keeping an ear open to the the vast majority Malian people and the groundswell of the Army. He was keen to leave his presidential mandate at the end of this month, with the planned election of the 29th of April. He did not want to leave with blood stained hands, and tried to put off action in the North for his successor to deal with. However, it had become too late.
A meeting of the African Nations a few days ago in Bamako had advised negotiation and diplomacy as the way forward to deal with the Northern rebels. ATT announced that he was intending to continue negotiations. This decision proved to be his downfall, and events quickly turned against him.
The refusal of ATT to retaliate with a strong force in the wake of the massacre at Aguloc, a northern town between Timbuktu and Kidal , a few weeks ago made him appear as a traitor to the majority of the nation. There were nearly a 100 Malian soldiers massacred by the Toureg rebels. These Malian soldiers had been unarmed and had their throats slit to a man by the rebels who were awash with state of the art Libyan arms. Why were the Malian soldiers not armed? Why was there no retaliation? Why did ATT let his army be slaughtered like lambs without defense? The wives of these massacred soldiers marched in Kati after this event, unleashing the unrest in Bamako which led to ugly scenes of retaliation against Touregs as the mob took action by themselves. Since then ATT's reign has been on a downward free fall.
The word ‘negotiation’ had been uttered too many times and the time had come for well planned military action in the opinion of absolutely every Malian I have spoken to. Let us just hope that the new administration will align themselves with the correct foreign powers. Let us hope that an incisive and swift action in the north can up root the terrorist elements and bring peace once more to this peace loving nation Mali.