BY OWEI LAKEMFA
MALI is in turmoil. It has been so since the June uprising began. The masses in Mali are no longer ready to be governed the old way or be raped by their leaders in the name of democracy. They no longer want to see their children starve, their young ones killed, their votes discounted, elections rigged and victors imposed. Most importantly, the Malians are tired of a life of misery and want, and an economic system that stores their earnings in foreign banks, and their huge wealth looted by transnational corporations.
Mali, the third largest producer of gold in Africa with huge deposits of uranium, bauxite, phosphates, manganese, iron ore, limestone, oil and gas, is a rich country with very poor, desperate people. Its last ten years of gold boom has translated to more poverty, infrastructural decay, homelessness and huge out- of-school children. These have been driven by a greedy political leadership, vulture-multinational corporations, rampaging terrorist groups and opportunistic foreign troops.
The country with a small population of 14 million, has over one million of its men, women and children slaving it out in gold mines for a minimum 12-hour daily labour and a wage reward barely enough to guarantee their continued survival. When the people poured into the streets from June, their demands included the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the dissolution of the National Assembly as well as the Constitutional Court, which had fraudulently upturned the 2020 legislative election results; fresh elections and the opposition appointing a prime minister answerable to the people.
On the other hand, President Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse tried to ride the storm by first organising counter-rallies; then on July 10, letting the security forces loose on the protesters, killing at least 11 persons and wounding 85. When their strategies failed, Keita and Cisse promised to meet some of the demands from the streets, provided they remained in power. But, the government could no longer call the shots or even negotiate; it could no longer govern.
It was at this point some African leaders under the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, decided to intervene, not by addressing the fundamental issues but merely asking for a patch work of a nebulous government of national unity. It was with that stalemate that soldiers opportunistically, on the morning of August 18, drove from their barracks in Kati to the private residence of Keita plucking him and Cisse, as if they were rotten mangoes.
The ECOWAS leaders shouting that there had been a military coup, shut the borders with Mali and demanded the restoration of the old order. How can this be a coup d’état when in essence, a street movement had swept Keita into the dustbin of history? Mali is down, so what effect would the closure of its borders be? What would sanctions do but worsen the situation? When an elected government subverts the will of the people, rigs elections, is fraudulent, becomes a liability, rejects the sovereignty of the people and is manifestly incapable of governing the spaces of the country, it ceases to be a government.
Democracy even in its most grotesque form, is not supposed to be a criminal enterprise in which all that counts is not the essence, but the motions of elections, the pretence of a parliament, the presence of a judiciary that does not dispense justice and an executive that appropriates the will of the people and maintains power by state terror. Africa runs a Western-style democracy imposed on it by Europeans. But even in Europe, as the case of Nazi Germany shows, the fact that a government comes to power through the ballot box, does not mean it cannot be ousted, if necessary, by arms.
The African situation is worsened by the fact that its military is primarily colonial in origin and thought, alienating and neo-colonial in action, so its interventions are mainly opportunistic. It has a history of hijacking peoples uprisings as happened in Egypt and Sudan in the past six years. Interestingly, African leaders who shout that coups are unacceptable, accepted the 2017 military coup against President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
African leaders should address the totality of issues raised, especially the economic wellbeing of Malians caused primarily by the bared-faced theft of their collective wealth by foreigners. The gold market is so good that it alone can change the fortune of Malians. Take the African Gold Company, AGG, in Mali which made a $12 million investment in the 2.2 million ounce Kobada mine valued at billions of dollars. This mine has a gold belt of over four kilometres and a larger one- kilometre strike length. This mine produces at least 50,000 ounces of gold yearly. At the rate of $1,400 per ounce, the company makes at least $70 million annually. This is beside the fact the company has a capacity of producing 100,000 ounces annually at the mines which can fetch it $140 million annually. All these for a mere $12 million investment with a licence that expires in 2045!
In 2008, the Kobada mines hit a 2.7- kilogramme nugget worth $122,500 and the following year, a nugget weighing a kilogramme worth $45,400. The AGG CEO is Stan Bharti who founded Desert Sun Mining in 2002 with $0.40 per share and in four years sold each share at $7.5. He founded Consolidated Thompson in 2004 at $0.25 per share and seven years later, sold each share at $17.50. Similarly, he founded Sulliden in 2009 at $0.40 per share and five years later, sold it at $1.42 per share. In Mali, Bharti acquired Avion for $20 million in 2008 and sold the same company four years later for $500 million. These ‘profits’ are actually the exploitation and theft of the gold resources of Africans, especially Malians facilitated by international finance and former colonial powers using African governments like the Keita administration to legalise the theft. If a private company makes an almost $500 million profit from mining in a country, there is no reason why that company should not pay at least half of it as taxes.
Yet, the AGG is not amongst the big boys in the grand Mali gold theft. In that premier league are Anglogold, Iamgold, Randgold, GOM, Resolute Mining and the International Finance Corporation, IFC, with a combined proven gold reserve of 308.2 tonnes. Anglogold, alone, owns about 40 percent of these gold reserves. In the smaller Syama gold mine, Resolute, GOM and IFC produce an annual 300,000 ounces of gold annually with a value of $520 million.
African leaders who want a solution to the crises in Mali should not be interested only in the peripheral matters, but in the very survival of the people.