Will Nigeria Follow Mali with Mass Political Action? Asks Socialist Labour

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One of the street protests in Bamako, Mali that led to the coup. Source: https://www.africanews.com/2020/07/10/mali-protesters-take-over-public-broadcaster-attack-parliament/

Feature picture: One of the street protests in Bamako, Mali that led to the coup. (Source: https://www.africanews.com/2020/07/10/mali-protesters-take-over-public-broadcaster-attack-parliament/)

By Biodun Olamosu

ON Wednesday, August 18, 2020, Mali’s now former President, Ibrahim Boubakar Keita, (known as IBK) was overthrown in a military coup after months of nationwide protests against corruption, rigged local government elections, and insecurity brought about by an Islamist-based insurgency. The former President was detained at gun-point by a group of junior military officers who call themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), and are led by army Colonel Assimi Goita. The coup appears to have received popular support, as news of the IBK’s removal was greeted with wide spread jubilation by protestors.

Mali’s recent political crisis intensified in April after a constitutional court overturned local elections results favoring the opposition, instead returning the seats to Keita’s party. On June 5, thousands of protestors took to the streets in the capital city Bamako, led by Islamist leader Mahmoud Dicko, demanding the resignation of Keita. Protestors also demanded an end to the coronavirus and increased funding for education (demands that could echo in Nigeria). The protestors included working and poor youth. Street demonstration also included teachers who had refused to resume work after the re-opening of schools due to the insufficient provision of resources to guard against Covid-19.  Over the course of three days of protests, clashes between protestors and the security forces resulted in the deaths of three protestors and over 158 injured.

Having just tested the effectiveness of protests to create the conditions for change, workers should be prepared to intensify pressure on the junta through leading general strikes and other forms of mass mobilization. Only on the basis of reducing inequality can a lasting and just transition to democracy be secured. Mali shows that mass protest is the order of the day across West Africa. We have to begin the process of bringing such protests back to Nigeria with the day of action proposed by the TUC and supported by ASCAB.

Mali has been plagued by a long-running crisis, exemplified by its current occupation by thousands of troops from France, its former colonial master. The troops arrived in January 2013, ostensibly to fight an Islamist insurgency whose presence in Mali has been linked to the fall of Libya after NATO’s 2011 military invasion of the North African nation. However it is clear that France’s interests also lie in stemming the flow of migrants into Europe from a region that has been increasingly made volatile by global warming, inequality and corruption. Despite the coup, French military operations in central and northern Mali will continue, and French troop are likely to remain in Mali even beyond the CNSP’s tenure in power.

Shortly after the coup, an ECOWAS delegation led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan initiated negotiations to convince the junta to schedule elections and return power to a civilian government within a year. For its part, the CNSP has said that it plans to stay in power to oversee a three-year transition period. Despite the closing of its borders to Mali and the imposition of economic sanctions, ECOWAS negotiators have failed to convince the junta to adopt its time-frame for a transition.

Though the protests and subsequent coup received thunderous support from Mali’s teeming youth population, the lessons of previous experiences of coups elsewhere in Africa show that the military is unlikely to govern in favor of poor and working Malians hopeful for better social and economic conditions. The Malian opposition leaders, who are likely to join in any provisional government, also represent at best a reshuffling of anti-poor elite, many of whom were previously loyal to IBK. The leadership role played during the protest by Islamist leader Mahmoud Dicko, known for his reactionary views on the role of women, also leaves little hope that the outcome of the coup will lead to the sort of radical transformation that Malians took to the streets to demand.

Rather than placing any hope in the military junta, we call on workers, ordinary people and their mass organizations to make immediate demands that will secure the economic and political interests of the majority.  These should be based on the demands of the working people in Mali.  Examples of the sorts of demands to raise are those now being demanded by ASCAB in Nigeria:

  • Implement N30,000 minimum wage in all states!
  • No job or wage cuts by governments or the private sector!
  • Guarantee the security of life!
  • Protect the livelihoods of the poor and informal sector!
  • No hike in electricity tariffs, VAT or fuel prices!
  • Provision of PPE & payment of hazard allowances for medical workers!
  • Safe and conducive environment in schools and universities!
  • Upgrade facilities in public hospitals and prohibit medical tourism by top public officials!
  • Frontal fight against corruption!
  • Implement all previous agreements with trade unions!

Having just tested the effectiveness of protests to create the conditions for change, workers should be prepared to intensify pressure on the junta through leading general strikes and other forms of mass mobilization. Only on the basis of reducing inequality can a lasting and just transition to democracy be secured. Mali shows that mass protest is the order of the day across West Africa. We have to begin the process of bringing such protests back to Nigeria with the day of action proposed by the TUC and supported by ASCAB.

Comrade Olamosu is of the Socialist Labour and writes from Lagos.

 

 

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Views expressed in published opinion articles are entirely the authors’ and do not represent the opinion or position of National Record.

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