Mali: Analysis and decoding of the political situation

The political situation in Mali has boiled and poured over the last few years. At first, it was at the forefront of the daily news, but now it has gone on for a while and the world has mostly moved on to more recent and often more sensational news. However, the issues in Mali haven’t blown over, and the concerns have remained. In this article, we will try to bring you up to speed with where Mali is at the moment and how they got there.

Protests in Mali had been ongoing since 5 June 2020, with protesters calling for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. Protesters were displeased with the government’s management, alleged government corruption, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and a floundering economy. The government responded to the protests with force and it led to injuries and deaths.

On the morning of 18 August 2020, soldiers began firing bullets into the air at a military base in Kati, a town 15 kilometres (9 miles) from Bamako, the capital of  Mali. After moving into the capital, the mutineers arrested Minister of Finance Abdoulaye Daffe, the Chief of Staff of the National Guard Mahamane Touré and Moussa Timbiné, speaker of the National Assembly. The Prime Minister, Boubou Cissé, appealed for dialogue with the mutineers, acknowledging they held “legitimate frustrations”. A mutiny leader later claimed that Keïta and Cissé had been arrested at the former’s residence in Bamako; African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki confirmed that Keïta, Cissé, and other officials had been arrested and called for their release. A spokesman for the M5-RFP opposition coalition welcomed their detention, describing it as a “popular insurrection”. At the time, because of the protests and economic nadir the country was in, the coup was almost seen as a welcome development. This is how the citizens of Mali took the news.

The officials were taken to the military camp in Kati where the uprising began. As news of the mutiny spread, hundreds of protesters gathered at Bamako’s Independence Monument to demand Keïta’s resignation. Protesters also set a building belonging to the Ministry of Justice ablaze. At the time, it was not clear how many soldiers took part in the coup, who initiated it or who would now take charge.

President Keïta resigned around midnight, while also dissolving the government and parliament. In his speech where five colonels appeared in the TV broadcast to the nation, led by Colonel Assimi Goïta, he stated that his reason was that he wanted no more bloodshed for his cause, but it was an inevitable end. The coup plotters called themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People. They began immediately to govern the nation military style but promised democratic elections as they reached out to stakeholders to reach a plausible succession plan. The coup leaders promised new elections within a “reasonable timeline,” but as time went on that promise began to look like a vague promise. Even when on 12 September 2020, the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) agreed to an 18-month political transition to civilian rule, the process still came under serious scrutiny and as posterity will show was an obvious mistake.

On 21 September 2020, Bah Ndaw was named interim president by a group of 17 electors, with Goïta being appointed vice president. The government was set up to preside over an interim period of 18 months after which general elections would be held. The CNSP junta promised that they would be disbanded, but that went just as successfully as one would expect.

Military officers after a coup in Mali. Photo: ISS Africa

The fragile peace was soon broken. The opposition M5 movement, which had spearheaded the 2020 Malian protests against Keïta, publicly called for the interim government to be dissolved and replaced with a “more legitimate” one. On 14 May, the government announced plans for a new, “broad-based” cabinet, but that too didn’t last.

On 24 May 2021, tensions came to a head after a cabinet reshuffle. In the reshuffle, the military’s power over key ministries was not changed, however, two leaders of the coup – Sadio Camara and Modibo Kone – were replaced by N’daw’s administration.

Later that day, increased military activity was reported by several sources, including the US Embassy in Bamako, though the city remained relatively calm. Several journalists reported that three key civilian leaders – N’daw, Ouane and Doucore, were being detained in a military base in Kati, outside Bamako.

In late May 2021, Mali’s military carried out a coup against the central government, arresting and detaining Interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane. Ndaw and Ouane sat at the helm of a transitional civilian government organized in the aftermath of a military coup in August 2020. Colonel Assimi Goita assumed power and said that a new prime minister will be announced soon. In a public television statement, Goïta announced that N’daw and Ouane were stripped of their powers because they tried to “sabotage” the transition, which Goïta said would “proceed as normally”. Goïta, a vice president in the interim administration, said that he should have been consulted on the cabinet shuffle, which he described as a breach of the transitional charter drawn up by the military junta after the coup. Goïta also promised that they would hold new elections in 2022.

However, in February 2022, after pressure had been put on the transitional government by foreign stakeholders (especially France), a proposal by the transitional government was confirmed by 120 members of Mali’s 121-seat interim parliament voted to adopt the bill during a session exclusively dedicated to “the examination of the draft law on the revision of the transition charter.” Their decision passed a 5 year transition period, putting the transition government in charge for 5 more years. It was difficult for everybody to see the evident foul play and it led to a lot of backlash from the international society. 

This decision leaves the country in a volatile state and some watchers predict that the canned pressure might burst again; just like it has in the country before. It is difficult to see the interim government ruling for the whole stipulated 5 years; things can either change for the better or get a whole lot worse. The advised resolution is for the government to backtrack on this decision and conduct a free and fair election that would bring sustainable peace to the nation and the region.

About the author

Olivier Noudjalbaye Dedingar

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