African Outlook Online

George Ayittey

Coconuts Strike Again in Mali

Coconuts Strike Again in Mali


By Prof. George Ayittey, Accra


Huge setback for democracy in Mali as military coconuts take over. They can’t battle rebels; they FLED. Yet, they want to rule.  We are FED UP with these military vagabonds, who have ruined country after country in West Africa. They did a number on Nigeria.

Captian Amadou Haya Sanogo, who is emerging as the leader of the CNRDR, appeared on Malian TV Thursday. Sanogo is believed to have received extensive US military training.

Mali is land-locked and all ECOWAS countries should close their borders to Mali. ECOWAS should send ECOMOG troops to dislodge them coconuts from power and restore President Toure.


Head of the civil servants association should call for an immediate CIVIL SERVICE STRIKE and demand the restoration of Prez Toure.

Shut down the civil service and any military junta will collapse. Not enough soldiers to run the civil service.

Civil service strike in 1978 brought down the military regime of Col Acheampong in Ghana; another in 1979 brought down that of Lt.Gen Akuffo.

A civil service strike in 1989 in Benin paralyzed the government, collapsed the banking system, forced Marxist military dictator, Matthieu Kerekou, to renounce Marxism and call for a national conference, which forced Kérékou to release political prisoners and arrange and lose 1991 elections.

The first rule in combat is to know the enemy. The military is an institution; quite often the most well-organized. Therefore it takes another institution or professional body – not an individual person or party -- to fight a military junta successfully. This is important because a military junta can “eliminate” an individual who poses a political threat and ban a political party but cannot do so with an institution or professional body, such as medical doctors, lawyers, etc. The four most potent institutions against a junta are the civil service, the judiciary, the banking system and the media.

The media is the most powerful. Was effective against Rawlings in Ghana and Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan. But a junta can close media down.

Next is the civil service. Shut it down and any military junta will collapse. Happened in Ghana (1978 and 1979) and Benin (1989).

The banking system can yank access to government funds and deprive the junta ability to pay its soldiers. Mali, Ivory Coast and other six Francophone West African countries use the West African CFA. The acronym CFA stands for Communauté financière d'Afrique ("Financial Community of Africa"). The currency is issued by the BCEAO (Banque Centrale des États de l'Afrique de l'Ouest, "Central Bank of the West African States"), located in Dakar, Senegal, for the members of the UEMOA (Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine, "West African Economic and Monetary Union").
In Dec 2010, when Laurent Gbagbo, who lost the Nov 28, 2010 elections refused to step down, ministers from the Central Bank of the West African Economic and Monetary Union issued a declaration blocking Gbagbo’s access to government funds. Capt. Ahmadou Sanogo should be given the same treatment.
Next is the judiciary. In a confrontation between Pakistan’s military dictator, Gen Pervez Musharaff, he was KO-ed in 2008.

In his attempt at mad grab of power in 2007, which the Supreme Court opposed, he sacked the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry but the Supreme Court refused to comply and reinstated Justice Chaudhry. Musharraf then declared a state of emergency, dissolved the Supreme Court and the four high courts, put Chaudhry and his entire family under house arrest, sealed the Supreme Court premises under army guard, and proceeded to arrest and detain all judges who refused to swear allegiance. The result was the detention of most of the senior judiciary, as well as bar association presidents across the country and all leading lawyers and human rights activists seeking to defend judicial independence.

Lawyers in black coats and black ties (hence the term black revolution) rallied in support of the judges, demanding their release and re-instatement. Many Pakistanis took to the streets to support the lawyers and rally around Chaudhry in massive demonstrations. The media in Pakistan gave full play to these demonstrations. Musharraf agreed to step down as the nation's top military leader. He stood for elections in Feb 2008, lost and resigned on Aug 18, 2008.

Sadly, Venezuela missed an opportunity repeat the Pakistani success. In Dec 2009, Judge María Lourdes Afiuni issued a ruling that irked dictator Hugo Chavez. He was furious and said on national television that she would have been put before a firing squad in earlier times. Then he sent his secret intelligence police to arrest and jail her. Unfortunately, her fellow judges and lawyers did not rise to demand her release.


The Modus Operandi of Dictators

ALL dictators operate by the same modus operandi. They seize control of 7 key institutions: Parliament, security forces, civil service, the media, the judiciary, electoral commission and the banking system and debauched them to serve their whims.


No peaceful revolution succeeds unless one wrestles control of at least one of those key institutions out of their grip.  Note the operative adjective “PEACEFUL.”  A dictator can be ousted through civil war but it is destructive and costly.


In Georgia, street protesters won over the SECURITY FORCES by charming them with roses; hence the Rose Revolution (Nov 2003).

In Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf in 2008 was toast the moment the JUDICIARY sided with the street protesters; hence the name, Black Revolution

In Ukraine, protesters won the SUPREME COURT to their side: The Orange Revolution, Nov 2004.

In Tunisia and Egypt, the moment the SECURITY FORCES refused to fire on the street protesters, it was all over for Ben Ali & Mubarak in 2011

Revolutions in China (Tiananmen Square, 1989), Iran (Green Revolution, 2009), Libya and Syria did not succeed because protesters did not win over any of the 7 key state institutions to their side. In Libya, it took foreign intervention by NATO forces.


A junta also has strengths and weaknesses. One does not fight a junta on the turf on which it is strongest; one exploits its weaknesses.  The military has an offensive superiority in weapons but it is numerically inferior. Soldiers are less than 0.1% of pop in each country.  One exploits their numerical inferiority by s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g them geographically. Dispersion, rather than concentration, should be the key


One does not present a military junta with a concentrated blob of people at one particular spot. Today, thanks to modern weaponry, the military can mow down such mass of people in an instant. Such was the tragic mistake made by the opposition in Guinea in 2009.


In the West African country of Guinea, there have been several episodes in the recent past when Guinea’s security forces had used lethal force against unarmed demonstrators without apparent justification. In June 2006, security forces shot dead at least 13 protesters in the streets of Conakry. In January and February 2007, security forces, notably the Presidential Guard, fired directly into crowds of unarmed protestors participating in a nationwide strike against bad governance, killing many of them, at least 137 deaths, and wounding more than 1,700 people.


>No one was held accountable in any of those incidents. Then on September 28, 2009, Guinean opposition leaders made a grievous mistake by packing more than 50,000 people into a national stadium to protest a decision by the country’s military dictator, Capt. Mossa Dadis Camara, to run in the presidential elections in January 2010. He had earlier pledged not to run. But why present a barbarous military regime with such an inviting target: Over 50,000 in a national stadium with a limited number of escape routes? Needless to say, the soldiers simply sealed off the six entrances to the stadium and opened fire on the trapped civilians. Human rights groups said they received reports of soldiers bayoneting people and women being stripped and raped. At least 157 people were killed.


Much better to hold a simultaneous demonstrations in several cities across the country.