For the second time in less than a year, Mali’s army returns to power.
Nine months after ousting President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita amid massive anti-government protests, the army on Monday arrested President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane just hours after the announcement of a new cabinet that excluded two key military leaders.
Colonel Assimi Goita, who led the August 2020 coup and was Ndaw’s deputy in the transitional administration formed in late September with the task of orienting the country towards full civil domination , said he was not consulted on the remodeling, which was announced amid rising social tensions. including a general strike called by Mali’s main union.
Taken to a military base, Ndaw, a retired military officer, and Ouane resigned on Wednesday. Later, the UN Security Council condemned as “unacceptable” a “change of leadership transition by force, even through forced resignations.”
But on Friday, Goita had already been appointed interim president by the constitutional court of Mali.
It came when the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) invited military leaders to talks with the current president of the regional bloc, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, according to the Foreign Minister of Nigeria, Geoffrey Onyeama. Talks are scheduled for Sunday.
France, which has thousands of troops in Mali to fight armed groups, also called the army’s acquisition “unacceptable”, with President Emmanuel Macron warning of “specific sanctions” against those behind it. he described it as a “coup within a coup”.
Following last year’s coup, ECOWAS suspended Mali from its institutions and announced a series of sanctions, including closing borders and stopping financial flows.
But some analysts have doubts about the effectiveness of these measures and whether they are the best way to achieve a return to civilian rule.
“The sanctions regime was not very successful,” Emmanuel Kwesi Anning, research director at Kofi Annan’s International Center for Peacekeeping Training, told Al Jazeera.
“People were able to trade; the edges are porous. But the fact that ECOWAS had tried to impose sanctions without taking into account the political, economic and social realities of Mali meant that the sanctions regime would become anathema and allow people to be very critical of ECOWAS, ”he said. .
“At the moment, I believe that any narrative or decision to re-impose these sanctions will be reversed. We need a much more nuanced conversation as to what the Malian people are really looking for, ”Anning added.
On Wednesday, Washington said it was “suspending security assistance” for Mali’s security and defense forces fighting to contain armed groups in the country’s northern and central regions.
“The United States will also consider measures directed against political and military leaders that impede the civilian-led transition in Mali to democratic governance,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Mali has been in disarray since a 2012 uprising caused mutinous soldiers to overthrow the president.
The power vacuum helped ethnic Tuareg separatists, allied with fighters from an al-Qaeda outbreak, launch a rebellion that took control of northern Mali. Fighters from the armed group quickly pushed the Tuareg rebels and seized major northern cities until they were driven out in early 2013 by a France-led counteroffensive.
But fighters remain active and al-Qaeda and ISIL-affiliated groups have moved from the arid north to the most populous center of Mali since 2015, attacking targets and provoking animosity and violence among ethnic groups in the region.
There is concern, the latest development in Bamako could make the fragile security situation even more precarious.
“Is it like that [the coup] it will lead not only to the resurgence of violence and more armed groups in Mali, but it is also the symbolism of the military’s ability to return and take power, ”Anning said.
Before the last coup, Mali was scheduled to hold presidential and legislative elections in February next year. On Friday, Goita promised that the polls will continue as planned.
He also said he would choose a prime minister in a few days, a figure that will come from the opposition Movement-Rally of Patriotic Forces on June 5 (M5-RFP), a powerful group behind the street demonstrations from last year against Keita.
The M5-RFP movement was on the sidelines of last year’s coups when they established the transition institutions.
Jean-Herve Jezequel of the crisis group said in a publication this week, the next few days will be “decisive,” with the possibility of a political blockade.
“But regardless of the outcome, the new crisis highlights the absence of a strong coalition to support the actions of the transition, in particular its stated ambition to reform the Malian political system,” he added. “This aspect is perhaps the most worrying: after having suffered all these crises, Mali still does not know what political forces are capable of producing the change the country needs.”
For Moussa Kondo, a civil society activist and director of Mali’s Responsibility Laboratory, the elections are “what will take Mali out of this cycle.”
“Malians have been living in a difficult situation between the president and the military junta,” he told Al Jazeera. “We must find a peaceful and transparent solution that is acceptable to all Malians.”