Mali’s army has affected another coup of sorts by forcing the resignation of the prime minister, Cheikh Modibo Diarra, and anointing his replacement. Other than proving the army’s control over the civilian government, the move is unlikely to take the army anywhere close to achieving its goals, the most important of which is to rid the country of insurgency in the north. Successive governments’ failure to provide adequate arms, ammunition and training had been cited as the reason for the army’s decision to take things in its hand during the March coup. In spite of its intervention, the Malian army has failed in this basic objective. In the past few months, more and more areas in the north have slipped out of its control. Its failure has emboldened not merely the Tuareg rebels, fighting for a secular State in the north, but also the Islamist militants such as Ansar Dine and al Qaida affiliates who want a Sharia State in the region.
The army’s latest action seems to have been prompted by its desire to pre-empt a foreign military intervention, which is now a distinct possibility with the United Nations security council admitting to such plans. Yet, had there been greater co-ordination between the military and civilian establishments in Mali, as well as between the African nations in the region, this would have been unnecessary. Although the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States have nudged Mali towards democracy and pushed back the army, a more pro-active regional role has been lacking. In spite of the threat of political chaos and violence if Mali’s insurgency spreads in the region, its neighbours have shown a curious lack of energy in this matter. They are still without a common plan of action, and their contribution to the proposed armed force to help Mali has been a piffling 3,200. But Libya has shown that foreign military intervention could complicate matters instead of resolving it. A more concerted and Africa-led initiative would serve Mali, and the region, better.