Africa Destiny: Mal Democracy and Military Coup in Mali

A woman and her children

A woman and her children by United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0


Reports compiled by Said El Mansour Cherkaoui

Military officers have arrested the heads of Mali’s transitional state and government, installed following the August 2020 coup, so what will be the possible fallout of this second putsch in a country already weakened by conflict with jihadists. The earlier military takeover in 2012 opened the door for ISIS and al-Qaeda jihadists to enter and control vast areas of the country. That prompted France to come to the aid of its former colony, pumping troops into the country to put down the jihadists. 

The latest coup threatens the fight against terrorism, Jihadism and violent extremism in the Sahel, especially considering the fractured and weak political leadership in the region

The United States has suspended all cooperation with Mali’s military following the overthrow of the Malian president by army officers, the U.S. envoy to West Africa’s Sahel region said on Friday. This comes despite thousands of Malians celebrating the overthrow in the streets of the capital of Bamako.

U.S. envoy J. Peter Pham told the press that the U.S. condemns the overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Yet he specified that a decision on whether to formally designate the actions as a coup had to go through a legal review.

“Let me say categorically there is no further training or support of Malian armed forces full-stop. We have halted everything until such time as we can clarify the situation,” Pham said to the media.

Pham’s comments are important since if Washington were to officially designate Keita’s overthrow as a coup, that could result in a total cut-off of direct support to the Malian government. A Pentagon spokesperson referred on Friday to the removal of Keita as an “act of mutiny.”

On 24th May 2021, news broke of yet another coup d’état in Mali, the third in the last decade following the 2012 and 2020 military takeovers. The ‘palace’ coup sees Col Assimi Goïta, yet again, seizing power in Mali and detaining transitional President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, after accusing them of failing in their duties and trying to sabotage Mali’s transition to democracy. Malian army officers angry with a government reshuffle have detained President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, who were appointed in September under international pressure with the task of steering the country back to full civilian rule in the wake of an August 2020 coup.

Colonel Assimi Goita, the leader of last year’s power grab and vice president of the interim government, accused the pair of violating the transitional charter and said elections will take place next year as planned.

In the early hours of August 18, after months of anti-government protests, mutinous soldiers take up arms at a key base in Kati, a garrison town some 15km (nine miles) from the capital, Bamako, while armoured tanks and military vehicles are seen on the streets.

A few hours later, Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse are detained by military officers, in a dramatic escalation of the country’s months-long crisis.

At around midnight, Keita, whose term was set to expire in 2023, announces that he is resigning from his post, saying he does not wish blood to be shed.

Nine months after the overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, here is a timeline of all the major political developments in the country:

In the early hours of August 19, the military officers who overthrew Keita pledged to restore stability and oversee a transitional period until elections are held within a “reasonable” timeframe. The coup makers, who call themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), also say that “a transitional president” will be appointed either from civilian or military ranks.

The coup, however, is widely condemned by the international community, with the main regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), suspending Mali from its institutions, shutting borders and halting financial flows with the country.

Colonel Assimi Goita was instated as the new president of the transition.

Goita has vowed to uphold the deadline of February 27, 2022 for holding democratic elections for a return to civilian rule.

Malians and foreign partners have been watching to see if the military-led interim authorities will stick to this promise.

Why is Mali so unstable?

It is difficult to enact reforms quickly – and the vast landlocked country is poor, with large areas underdeveloped.

A previous coup in 2012 led to militant Islamists exploiting the chaos and seizing the north of the country.

French troops helped regain territory, but attacks continue as the insurgents have capitalised on the persistent political instability in the region.

This has all led to public confidence waning over the army leaders’ ability to tackle the Islamist insurgency that has spilled into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

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