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Interview with new Malian strongman

By Femi Akomolafe

3/31/2012 11:15:48 AM -

Hello sir, or should I call you Your Excellency

Call me Captain Sanogo. My name is Amadou Sanogo.

But, sir, you are the new president…

Me no President, me Captain Sanogo. I am head of the Committee for the Re-establishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State. I am no president.

But are you not going to declare yourself president when things calm down, are you not?

But I'm no president.

Are you waiting for things to calm down?

Things calm down in Mali already, everything fine, no problem.

But there are still reports of looting in your capital, Bamako. And the Tuareg rebels have gained more territory. But to the question of your presidency, when do we hear an announcement to that effect?

I tell you things calm in Mali. Everyone goes about his business. Me no president; me leader of the Committee for the Re-establishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State.

Sir, but don't you see the contradiction in those wordings? You have just overthrown a democratically-elected government and the rebels are advancing and gaining territory, how can you claim to be protecting the state and restoring democracy?

The Army protects the state, the country. You see, many things happening in the war. The politicians don't care. The Army will restore the dignity of the state.

But how does the Army want to protect democracy by overthrowing an elected government?

The government does not care about the people; that's why the army intervened.

But the elections are just one month away. Why was the army impatient to let the elections hold and let the people decide who should govern them?

We waited for twenty years, but it was the same system, the same strategies the politicians use. The poor people of Mali suffer and the army suffers. Only the politicians enjoy? They ride in big cars. They sell the resources of the nation to their foreign friends and collect big bribes. They build big, big mansions in Bamako and other places. While they and their friends enjoy, the people are suffering. There is famine in the country; millions are dying. We are a very proud people with a history that goes back long time. We should be able to feed ourselves. Today, we are reduced to begging for food from foreign donors. Our politicians do not see any shame in that? We have lost our dignity. The army will restore our people's pride in themselves.

Looking at your record, captain Sanogo, you attended one Marine Corps class, the staff noncommissioned officer academy career course in Quantico, Virginia in 2003, You also graduated from four other classes with the US Army: a basic non-commissioned officer course at Fort Benning in Georgia in 1998, a language instruction course in 2004, an intelligence basic officer's course at Fort Huachuca, Arizona in 2007 and an infantry basic officer's course at Fort Benning in 201. Many people belief that you have betrayed your Marine Corps training by overthrowing an elected government. What do you say to that?

Me no understand your question.
You were trained by the highly-regarded American Marine Corps. In the US, the military does not go about overthrowing government. Why did you betray this tradition?

You don't know American Military tradition. American military don't overthrow their government, that is true, but it is only a crazy American soldier that would want to overthrow a government that take good care of him. When America sends its soldiers to battle, it makes sure that they are well equipped and well taken care of. They take good care of their military. In Mali, in Africa, the politicians stay in the capital, steal all the money and send poor soldiers to go and do their dirty jobs for them. They do not give us good equipments. They don't pay our salaries in time. We rely on foreign donors for our weapons. You don't fight wars on charity, do you?

You promised to restore power to a democratically elected government at an unspecified date. The question is why didn't you wait for the next election which is slated for mid April, that is just six weeks away. Why the hurry to organize a coup?

Ah, you don't organize coup in a hurry otherwise you fail and you will face court martial and the penalty is firing squad. No, we didn't organise the coup in a hurry. We bided our time and we planned. We were fed up with the situation in the army, in the country. There was apathy and hopelessness in the country. We pleaded with our officers to talk on our behalf to the politicians. But sadly, our officer corps are in cahoots with the politicians. They get good pay and contracts from the politicians, and tell them that everything is fine. No, things were not fine. The duty of the army is to protect national sovereignty and integrity. We watched as rebels humiliate our army and destroy the country. The politicians did not care. Do you know how many of our young boys were massacred at the military base at Aguelhok on January 24 when the terrorist rebels overran the base? They were killed in cold blood and the politicians did nothing except enjoy life in Bamako.

One of the accusations you leveled against President Amadou Toumani Toure is “inefficiency in fighting the terrorists…”

Hey, Amadou Toure is no president. He is former president.

Ok, former president. You accused him of “inefficiency in fighting the terrorists,” but you don't appear to be doing any better as the rebels have overran several army garrisons in the north and have threatened to attack Timbultu and Gao?

We shall face and conquer them when we stabilize the situation.

But you claimed that everything is calm in Mali.
There are still many issues to deal with before we face the terrorist rebels.

How do you expect to do that without outside support?

We shall manage to tackle the problem once we stabilize the situation.

Looks like hope is your greatest strategy. The regional body, ECOWAS, has slapped sanctions on you and have frozen your account. You don't manufacture weapons and you have no access to your money. Mali is landlocked and now you cannot import anything. What do you do now; it appears that you have been boxed in?

No, we are not boxed in. we are soldiers and we shall defend the integrity of the republic.

I meant that you have the entire world against you. The ECOWAS body has slapped a sanction on you…

No, no, no. no one come to slap us.
I meant that ECOWAS has imposed very stiff and unprecedented sanctions on you and the EU and the US have also announced some measures against your regime …

Please, you see, we are anti imperialist's revolutionary vanguards. We shall defend the integrity of the republic.

Are you accusing ECOWAS of being in league with the imperialists?

No, ECOWAS leaders are hypocrites. They don't tell the truth. Where were they when the terrorist rebels attacked our country? What did they do when millions of Malians starve? ECOWAS is one useless club of effete leaders who do not care about the plight of their people. Can you tell me for good thing ECOWAS has done for the people of West Africa since they started their useless meetings in 1975? All that they do is to meet in big hotels; drive around in big cars and talk nonsense. The ordinary people do not benefit from all their useless meetings.

All that could be true but the message appears to be that there will be zero tolerance for military intervention in West African politics.

That would be nice if the politicians will wake up and start thinking of the people. Let me tell you, the army doesn't want to interfere in politics. It is not our job to run government. But what happen when terrorist rebels overrun large part of our country and the politicians refused to show that they care. The only way to stop military intervention is for the politicians to start to do the right and correct thing. That is the only way to stop military interventions.

But elections are just six weeks; why didn't you have the patience to let the people decide?

You talk as though there is a difference between the politicians. They are all the same. They are birds of the same feather out to manipulate the system to their parochial advantage. There have been no coup in Mali in twenty years, but the situation of the ordinary people has only worsened. The politicians are only in power to take care of themselves; they don't care about anyone else. They only think of the next election. That the army has not intervene in twenty years should show you the degree of patience and self-restraint the officers and men of the Malian armed forces. You can come to Mali and ask the ordinary Malians what they think. They have come out to show solidarity with us.

The leaders of ECOWAS would do well to get their acts together. They should stop taken their people for granted. The only cure for coup is good governance. Government should provide quality service to the people. Our politicians should stop wasting the scarce resources of our nation on themselves and the people will rise to protect them against any army.

ECOWAS leaders can take any measure they like against us, but they will do well to stop deluding themselves. They will do well to remember the recent admonition of former Ghanaian President JJ Rawlings who said, among other things: “Africa's major challenge has been in the area of leadership across the board – we can over the past decade lay claim to expanding democracy across the continent with multi-partyism flourishing. Electoral victory for some, however, means a leadership of impunity. This culture of impunity is widespread, affecting economic, political, judicial and almost every sector of our society in some parts of our continent.

The fallout of this impunity is the emasculation of opposition groups, effectively ensuring that the opposition is rendered inefficient and of late leading to uprisings of wide-ranging nature from internal terrorism to popular uprising.”

Disclaimer: "The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article." © Femi Akomolafe.