[in] focus

Malian Coup – a precursor to regional destabilization?

The replacement of the Amadou Toure government and illegal accession to power by the ‘National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State’ (NCRD) signals an escalation in the political destabilization of West Africa. The army’s official reason for the coup according to junta spokesperson Lieutenant Amadou Konare, is that the Toure government did not provide support to the army in its fight against a northern rebellion led by Tuareg rebels and suspected Al-Qaeda networks. But taking place a mere month away from the Malian presidential elections in which deposed President Toure had no plans for breaking the two term limit, the coup seems completely unnecessary. While the coup has been described as ‘pushing Mali back by twenty years’, its implications for the sub-region and the continent are even more worrisome. This think piece considers these ramifications and how they might be mitigated.

The junior officers who instigated the mutiny and ‘guardian coup’ is explained by the need to improve public order and efficiency. While the NCRD is acting as an ‘arbitrator army’, the coup could also be classified as an anticipatory veto coup as the military were losing substantial ground to the Tuareg rebellion and therefore it could have been launched to pre-empt power passing to the rebels. Mali's poorly equipped army of just 7,000 has proved no match for the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA), the main front of the Tuareg rebellion. The rebels have recently taken and continue to hold several key towns in the north, including Tessalit, Aguel Hoc and Menaka. The NMLA has also been boosted by the return of an estimated 800 to 4,000 Tuareg fighters from Libya.

 

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BRICS in search of identity

As the 4th BRICS Leaders’ Meeting gets underway in New Delhi at the end of this month, a tone-setting forum of academics from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa issued a declaration that, among other things recommended: “BRICS must evolve a platform for creating contextualized multilateral policies, and by mutual consultation develop viable and credible mechanisms to respond to local, regional and international political and social turbulence such as the events being witnessed in West Asia and North Africa…”

Recognising that: “The increasing involvement of non-state actors and the dilution of non-interference are dual challenges that need to be met. Appropriate policies consistent with international law need to be studied by BRICS academic institutions.”

Whether, at the official level, any of this unsolicited advice is taken on board, the sentiments expressed in these recommendations reflect the extent to which the global economic agenda of BRICS has gravitated in an increasingly political direction. The main motivation behind the launching of BRIC (without South Africa) in 2009 was the increasing assertiveness by China and Russia in pressing for movement away from the US Dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

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Is Africa homophobic?

“All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”

It is certainly apposite to reflect on Thomas Jefferson’s words in light of a bill that is currently being reintroduced to Uganda’s parliament. Parliamentarian David Bahati is attempting to see the passing of a bill that would impose punitive measures for committing “homosexual offences”, as well as punish anyone who fails to report to the authorities a person they know to be homosexual. The maximum sentence for homosexual offences would be life imprisonment. The original draft, proposed in 2011, included the option of capital punishment for ‘serial offenders’ (although this term was never properly defined), but has been removed from the current draft.

The bill has received plenty of popular support in Uganda, traditionally a very conservative country. Homosexuality is already criminalised under its penal code, and is largely stigmatised, especially by religious groups.

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What message should SA take from the actions of the Congolese?

In the past few weeks, a group of Congolese citizens in South Africa, calling themselves 'Combatants', have unleashed a wave of violent attacks on individuals and property associated with the regime of President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Among other violent actions and threats, the group is reported to have assaulted members of the official Congolese delegation attending a mining conference in Cape Town in early February 2012. They also allegedly ransacked the DRC embassy in Pretoria, destroyed office equipment and caused diplomats to go into hiding. The embassy has since reported the death of one of its staff as an indirect consequence of the incident.

They also encamped outside the headquarters of the governing ANC in Johannesburg. As condemnable as these actions may be, they are meant to send a strong message for South Africa in regard to its perceived complicity or lack of interest in the post-election stalemate in the DRC.

The militancy of this group could best be interpreted as an escalation of protests that have accompanied the re-election of Joseph Kabila in an electoral contest that is widely regarded as flawed. It should be recalled that following the announcement of the November 2011 presidential elections by the DRC's electoral commission, the Congolese in the diaspora have staged demonstrations in major cities across the world, including London, Brussels and Johannesburg, calling international attention to what they regard as an illegitimate attempt by Kabila to continue occupying the country's presidency.

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The Syria Debacle in the UN Security Council and Africa

The double veto against the Arab League-initiated and West-driven resolution on Syria blows open the power struggle between the west and new powers led by China and Russia in the Security Council. It suggests that there is more than meets the eye in terms of the extent of division at the centre of global power. This presents both opportunities and risks for emerging regions like Africa.

On Saturday morning, the UN Security Council chambers saw intense shuttle diplomacy. The draft resolution initiated by Morocco last week on behalf of the Arab League, which displaced the draft that Russia had initiated a week earlier, was due for a vote. On that morning, Russia convened a closed meeting of country representatives to consider its proposed amendments. After just an hour the meeting dissolved and diplomats headed for the chambers for voting on the draft resolution without amendments that Russia requested.

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