After several months of lying low, Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo returned to the limelight this week — in a big way. On Monday evening, December 11, some 20 soldiers acting under Sanogo’s orders went to the home of Prime Minister Cheikh Modibo Diarra in Bamako. They forced open the door, arrested Diarra, and transported him to their barracks in Kati, where he had an entretien with Sanogo. Shortly thereafter, Diarra recorded a brief statement announcing his resignation; this statement was broadcast on ORTM state TV early Tuesday morning.
Tuesday evening, Sanogo himself appeared on the ORTM evening news; a caption identified him by his official title, chairman of the Military Committee for Reform of the Armed Forces.
[You can also view a version in Bambara]
In his remarks (see the write-up from Thursday’s issue of Le Républicain), he accuses Mali’s former head of government of many things: failing to respect the Malian people; failing to heed the head of state’s authority; traveling too much; blocking government progress; micromanaging hiring decisions; pursuing his own selfish agenda; paying peaceful citizens to take part in protests; failing to support the armed forces; and endangering Mali’s security.
Responding to a journalist’s question, Sanogo says he did not force Diarra to resign, but merely “facilitated” his decision to do so. He denies that there was anything untoward in the PM’s departure; after all, he says, prime ministers resign all the time, and in any case Diarra was never elected to office, but selected by the junta. Sanogo adds that, contrary to some reports, he and his “team” are by no means opposed to international military intervention to help the Malian government regain rebel-held territory.
For more than eight months now, civilian leaders have officially been back in charge. But if anyone doubted that ultimate political authority still lies with the soldiers in Kati, those doubts have now been effectively put to rest. Nothing happens in Mali — at least, outside of rebel-held zones — without Sanogo’s approval.
The captain is still talking tough against potential enemies, especially unnamed politicians who only look out for themselves. “Even beyond the prime minister’s case,” he remarks, “if someone should venture, for excessive personal ambition, to burden the system or stop it, I will not hesitate one single second to help the president of the republic to see to it that this person will not become a bottleneck for Mali.”
Back in May, Sanogo seemed to be a candidate for president. Now he claims to be working closely with Mali’s current interim president, Dioncounda Traoré, whom he has blamed for bringing the country to its knees. Don’t be fooled: as I argued in an article published last month, Sanogo sees himself in heroic terms and has an over-sized sense of his own destiny — this is, after all, the same guy who has repeatedly compared himself to Charles de Gaulle. He wants to be the sole arbiter of political change in Mali. (Talk about excessive ambition….)
So it’s no surprise that Sanogo continues to leave the door open to perhaps playing a different role, and to point out that he’ll be available should “the people” call upon him. In the Tuesday evening broadcast he says, “If tomorrow the Malian people, I say the Malian people, for whom we made all these concessions, the Malian people for whom we let go of so many things, decide that I should play a role other than as chairman of the Military Committee, I will assume my responsibilities.”
Yes, the captain is back. But then, he never really went away.
Postscript, Dec. 30: The AFP reports that ex-PM Modibo Diarra is unable to leave Mali to seek medical treatment for a possible tumor, citing a relative who says that Captain Sanogo has barred Diarra from leaving the country. Sanogo’s spokesman denied the report.