West Africa: Opinion - Mali Risk Remains After Clumsy West African Intervention

ECOWAS Head of Staes in Mali (file photo).

Mali's opposition and civil society have rejected West Africa's poorly-prepared crisis exit strategy. On Tuesday, they plan to demonstrate, to force President Keita out. The region is at risk, says Mouhamadou Awal.

A handful of leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) traveled to Bamako to resolve the socio-political crisis that is shaking Mali since June.

The diplomatic intervention and the involvement of influential presidents like Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast has however had no effect. Mali's opposition and civil society organizations are still calling on President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign.

The reason for the Mali impasse is clear: the power of President Keita was consolidated by the ECOWAS recommendations, while Mahmoud Dicko -- the populist imam and member of the opposition umbrella M5-RFP movement -- felt betrayed and almost ridiculed.

Incoherent and clumsy

The West African presidents made no mention of the people's dissatisfaction with the deteriorating security or the bad governance. They focused their talks on the electoral dispute, giving the impression that the whole move was skillfully orchestrated to save President Keita from a difficult situation.

The basis of the already fragile social cohesion and democratic process in Mali is breaking up due to the incoherence and clumsiness of West African leaders. How can we understand the discharge given to President Keita to relinquish key portfolios even before negotiations to set up a unity government?

At the same time, these presidents compromise the constitution of Mali by calling for the resignation of the 36 parliamentarians whose seats are disputed. One question that begs an answers is whether the measures the ECOWAS leaders proposed were deliberately chosen to avoid possible unrest in other parts of West Africa?

The Malian crisis is toxic enough to have a lasting effect on their own countries. Niger, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Ghana are among those that have presidential elections schedule for this year, and already the third-term bids by the presidents of two of those countries are being contested by the opposition and might cause trouble.

West Africa leaders are out of step with the very young population, one without jobs or prospects for the future. And, as long as the region's leaders fail to heed civil society and members of the diaspora, fight endemic corruption, or improve their mode of governance, people will protest.

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