Guinea-Bissau under boot of military, Mali heads back to democracy


Security guard in Guinea-Bissau on April 18, 2012, in the capital, Bissau.



The looming war and now the easing of tensions between Sudan and South Sudan have taken up much of the Africa news space in the past couple of days, but there have been some interesting developments in Mali and Guinea-Bissau.

Mali is making progress toward the returning to democracy, but Guinea-Bissau's military junta wants to hold power for two years.

Mali's deposed president, Amadou Toumani Toure, went to neighboring Senegal today, following his overthrow by mid-ranking military officers on March 22, reported Associated Press.

Toure, 63, arrived by plane in the Senegalese capital of Dakar just before midnight along with his children, grandchildren and bodyguards, according to Senegal's state media. It is not clear if Toure will stay in Senegal or move to another permanent location.


He had gone into hiding at the Senegalese Embassy in Bamako after angry soldiers attacked the presidential palace. Toure later resigned as part of an plan to return the Mali to civilian rule. 

Toure had a little more than a month left in office at the time of the coup. He already had planned to step down after serving the maximum two terms allowed under Mali’s constitution.

Mali now has an interim civilian government but questions remain about the military's willingness to leave politics and how it will give up power at at the end of the transitional period. 

Interim prime minister Cheick Modibo Diarra is forming a transitional government that will lead Mali to fresh elections, as the military junta, led by Amadou Sanogo, agreed to cede power to civilians, reported the French News Agency, AFP. Diarra, a former NASA astrophysicist and current head of Microsoft Africa, is expected to announce the makeup of his transition government in the coming days.

But the transition back to a democratic government is not Mali's only problem. There is also the problem of the Tuareg rebels who have declared northern Mali to be the independent state of Azawad, after seizing control of the major cities of Timbuktu and Gao.

Although the Mali military wants to fight the Tuaregs, most analysts agree a military victory against the determined Tuareg fighters in the vast Saharan Desert is unlikely. A negotiated settlement allowing for some autonomy for the Tuaregs is urged by many. And after the Tuareg problem, there is the threat from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the group of Muslim extremists who are blamed for several kidnappings in northern Mali.  

Leaders of the 15-nation regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas)  will meet in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Thursday, April 26, to discuss the situation in Mali as well as the crisis in Guinea-Bissau, whose government was also overthrown in a military coup.

In Guinea-Bissau, the military junta which seized power on April 6 says it will not accept the presence of UN peacekeeping troops in the country, rejecting a proposal from the ousted ruling party.

Guinea-Bissau does not need peacekeepers because the country is not at war, said a spokesman for the junta, Daba Na Walna, on Firday, reported Voice of America. He said any foreign troops sent to the country would be considered an invasion force.

The African Union and Ecowas are mediating in Guinea-Bissau, between the military junta and the former ruling party.  

Ecowas has condemned the plans by Guinea Bissau's military to put off elections for two years, charging that the junta reneged on a previous agreement to restore democracy immediately.

Guinea-Bissau's military is widely viewed as corrupt and deeply involved in a massive drug trafficking trade. Guinea-Bissau is a transit point for the shipment of cocaine from Latin America to Europe, according to the UN.