Generals of Eternal Career


Note: this is a machine translation from the original Russian text

The juntas of the countries of West Africa, it seems, are not going to leave

Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso have suffered four coups in less than the last two years. The Community of West African States, ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African Countries), is scared, and for good reason, by the prospect that the example may be contagious. The organization is trying by all means to push the generals who have been sitting in their chairs to transfer power to democratic governments, without excluding coercive measures.

As a rule, the military, coming to power, announced that they were here for a short time. Literally bring order to the country. Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya has been in charge of Guinea since September 2021. This amazing character was appointed by former President Conde as the commander of the Special Forces troops. To do this, he was called from abroad and given the rank of lieutenant colonel. And before that, he did not serve in the Guinean army at all, but history knows similar examples. Doumbouya received his education in France, in the Foreign Legion, then appeared in Israel, then in Senegal and Gabon. He is married to a Frenchwoman, the father of three children, for which he is called an "atypical military man." As usual in the region, he also overthrew the president of the country, Alpha Conde, who appointed him.

First of all, he promised to return civil power to Guinea. To begin with, political figures and representatives of the country's civil society were invited to the conversation. A "Transitional Charter" was drawn up, the program of which includes the development of a new Constitution and the holding of "free, democratic and transparent elections." At the same time, none of the participants in the transition process – neither military nor civilian – has the right to stand for future elections at any level. No renegotiation is allowed. And then the previous president introduced an amendment that allowed him to run for a third term, which caused unrest in the country. The text mentions human rights countless times and promises that at least a third of women will be in all government bodies. And no "witch hunt".

But until this reign of democracy has arrived, Colonel Dumbuya heads the National Reconciliation and Development Committee. He is also at the head of the National Council of the Transitional Period, this is the legislative body. He also appoints a civilian prime minister. 

At the same time, the Charter does not say anything about, in fact, the duration of the transition period. It "will be determined as a result of an agreement between the living forces of the nation and the National Reconciliation and Development Committee," the text says. Then there was a clarification – the figure "three years" sounded semi-officially. But ECOWAS considered that it was probably a long time, but 24 months would be quite enough. And in this case, Guinea will be able to avoid such tough sanctions as were imposed against Mali, for example.

Nothing is yet known about the current leader's further political ambitions. The Guineans themselves do not exactly support him, but rather hope that the promises will come true. The West expresses the same cautious wishes. But where this transition period will lead the country is not very clear. Oswald Panado, a political scientist and expert in the field of international relations, writes on the pages of the Young Africa magazine published in Paris: "The promises of the military, who are not prepared for the leadership of the state, are always broken on the rocks of harsh political realities."

The situation in Burkina Faso is very similar. The local junta overthrew the acting president as a result of popular unrest, that is, at the request of the workers. Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who became the head of state, was specific: the transition period will last three years, the constitutional order will be restored in 2025. As long as I'm in power.

The Transitional Charter, as in the case of Guinea, was worked out with the participation of parties, trade unions, representatives of civil society, youth, women and victims of jihadists. But how to conduct democratic elections? The peculiarity of this power is that even according to official statistics, 40 percent of its territory is not controlled by the state. Since 2015, Al-Qaeda and Islamic State groups have been operating in Burkina Faso*. The result is thousands of dead and almost 2 million refugees. By the way, the January coup itself was a protest against the inaction of the authorities, hence the "requests of the workers."

But ECOWAS did not take into account these seemingly just popular demands. Burkina Faso's participation in the organization was suspended because the military came to power, and they, according to ECOWAS, are not always in a hurry to transfer power. Nevertheless, the organization agreed with the Charter's provision, which states that the Prime Minister will necessarily be a civilian, the transitional Government will consist of 25 ministers and neither the head of the Cabinet nor these ministers will be able to nominate their candidates for future authorities. After signing the Charter, negotiations between ECOWAS and the Burkinis began, and as a result, it was possible to reduce the transition period to two years, so theoretically it remains to wait until 2024.

In Mali, one coup was not enough. No promises of change were believed here. The signed Settlement Agreement of 2021, exhausted by the political struggle and the lack of any guarantees for the security of the people, is at the stage of its last breath. The new government was supposed to weaken the role of the military in the leadership of the country. But it lasted only a few hours. The events unfolded like in a movie. The former prime minister managed to tell Agence France-Presse by phone: "I can confirm that Goita's people came to me to take me to his residence." At this point, the conversation was interrupted by short beeps, the prime minister is still in the camp, and Goita became vice-president for the transition period.

And yet, recently, ECOWAS has managed to achieve some progress in negotiations with Bamako. Presidential elections will be held in 2024, that is, the initially announced five-year transition period is no longer relevant. It remains to convince the Malians that the head of state cannot be a military man. There are still disagreements here. Two characters who are considered "moderate" have been appointed to the new government, and to two key posts – the Ministries of Defense and Security. In other words, "fewer than others who participated in the 2020 coup." All this allowed ECOWAS to ease the financial and economic sanctions imposed against Mali.

However, the military still make up the majority in the leadership at all levels. Mali is turning into a center of jihadism in West Africa, especially since the French have announced the end of their operation "Barkhan" and the withdrawal of their units. Even after the appearance of weak signs of at least some movement, Emmanuel Macron still prefers to keep his distance and refrain from comments.

* Organizations banned in the Russian Federation