Like Mali, Like Guinea: United in Colours and Chaos

In August 2020, soldiers revolted against the Malian government and held President Boubakar Keita prisoner to the chagrin of the rest of Africa and the West, but mastermind, Colonel Assimi Goita could care less.

Malians had grown tired of Keita’s government and wanted a change. The next election seemed too far off for the Malian military and a coup d’etat happened in the blink of an eye – the second in 10 years.

Keita resigned at midnight. He said he did so to avoid bloodshed in the country. He’d avoid what the red colour on Mali’s national flag indicates. A new transitional government was announced with Bah Ndaw as President and Moctar Ouane as Prime Minister. Goita stayed as Vice President to monitor proceedings, and when he smelled trouble to his ambition, he struck the jugular again.

In a manner that would have been dubbed old-fashioned in 2021, Mali had its second coup in nine months, with the same man at the centre of both. This time, he took on the rest of the continent and ruled from Bamako. ECOWAS huffed and puffed, it didn’t bow off the roof. France frowned but Col Goita had achieved his aim. 

The next problem, however, became the extent of his knowledge and understanding of governance.

Mali is expected to hold a constitutional election in 2022 but many fear Goita may just seize the contest, dictate the pace and flow of the game and emerge President. This is not new to Africa where political development is almost absent, and the possibilities of erroneous repetitions are high. 

The continent probably thought that would be it for 2021 at least, until Mamady Doumbouya struck in Guinea, 649 miles away from Mali. 

Mali borders Guinea to the North East and shares many similarities with its neighbours, including lifestyle, culture, their colonial history and colours. Both nations have red, green and yellow on their flags and those were the colours Lt. Colonel Doumbouya was draped in as he announced the takeover of Alpha Conde’s government. 

Mali’s National Flag
Guinea’s National flag

Guinea’s first democratically-elected President, Conde claims to have developed the country economically, but the goodies of the growing nation are hardly felt by his countrymen.

In 2020, with the country turning its back on him, Conde clung to straws, and dealt the people a killer punch. By sponsoring a constitutional amendment to have him in power beyond his tenure, Guineans counted days to the end of his tenure.

What kind of people celebrate a coup d’etat in 2021? That’s the question the rest of the world is asking, but in Conakry, the people are happy, joyous and jubilant even as the risks of confusion lie ahead. 

At 83, Conde is considered too old and Doumbouya, after appointing military governors and a committee may lose the initiative to put the country’s best foot forward. While Guineans still bask in the euphoria of seeing the back of a man they didn’t want again, they risk the stagnancy being currently experienced in Mali. The world may turn its back on Guinea, and despite the prices of bauxite hitting a 10-year high after the coup, there are concerns for the future of the country.

Bah Ndaw and Boubacar Keita, both deposed in Mali
Alpha Conde, 83, deposed in Guinea

In what looks like a strategic move, Doumbouya has freed 80 political prisoners held by Conde for contesting the abrupt constitutional change that kept him in power. The former French Legionnaire is the man of the people now, but there are fears he’s not the man for the people. A transitional period in Guinea’s history stands to be threatened by inexperience, and a lack of support from civil society organisations and the international community – two realities Doumbouya can’t shy away from. 

ECOWAS has suspended Guinea, in a fashion typical of the West African bloc, but it has in the past, shown little power in trying to stop the undemocratic tendencies of some of the continent’s biggest leaders, like Ouattara and Conde. Many feel ECOWAS is toothless, and only does what salves its bruises. 

Although the world has turned against him, he may realistically get support from Paris, where Conde has become notorious. The deposed Guinean President has not seen France in two years, because both sides clash on various fronts. 

Paris may not openly support Doumbouya, as the world has become unaccepting of such desperate measures but considering his roles with them at some point, there may be reasons for some backing.

It however doesn’t end there as convincing those who matter to support him, may come at the expense of the country, and he may become what he preached against.

Doumbouya and Goita holds the ace in the development of their countries. Mali and Guinea are now united beyond colours and geography; these chaotic moments and a troubled fate also pitch them together, on a path that looks crooked and cobbled.

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