Senior officers of the Malian army left the military base of Kati, situated 15km from Bamako, Mali’s capital. They went to Bamako, where they arrested the President, the Prime Minister and the ministers still in office. During the previous few weeks, the Government consisted of a few key ministers who were loyal to the President: Foreign Affairs, Security, Defence, Territorial Administration, Justice and Finance. At a first glance it seemed more like a mutiny than a well-planned coup d’état.
It is worth noting that the Malian Army, the FAMas as they are called, had plenty of grounds for complaining about the government. As far back as 2012 there was a coup d’état launched by lower ranked officers complaining about the lack of equipment to deal with the terrorists in the North of the country. Since then, the Army is better trained, but they, and everyone else knows, that significant amounts, which were supposed to provide improved equipment, have been « diverted ». At the same time the security situation has worsened, become more complicated and now affects a bigger area of the country. Just before this « coup » the President had fired the head of the presidential guard – although he has not appeared alongside of the putschists.
Late Tuesday night the President resigned leading to the resignation of its government and the dissolution of the National Assembly. The legislative elections in March-April had been a major source of public discontent when they reignited the complaints around the presidential elections of 2018 (when Keita (IBK) was elected to a second term).
Public demonstrations welcomed the military’s action. The M5 opposition movement of political parties and civil society, which had been making demands for governance changes and requiring Keita’s departure, has declared that it was willing to work with the Army to put in place a civil transition government. Imam Dicko, the moral force behind the demonstrations, has said that he feels he can now return to pray at the mosque. On the other hand, ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States), which had been unable to find a way of reconciling the positions of President Keita and M5, has rapidly repeated its traditional position against government change by coup. It has called for the release of prisoners, imposed sanctions and blocked borders not just for people and goods, but also for financial transfers. The international community, including the African Union, the United Nations, France (naturally) and Canada have condemned the coup. However, the Security Council of the United Nations failed to publish a public statement as China and Russia vetoed it.
We should ask ourselves questions about the role of the international community. This coup could have been avoided if the ECOWAS had succeeded with its mediation and had not insisted to keep President Keita in power, while in 2014 Blaise Compaoré in Burkina Faso was pushed to resign. Why does ECOWAS remain silent about the efforts of Presidents Alassane Outtara of Côté d’Ivoire and Alpha Condé in Guinea to win third terms as President which their countries constitutions do not allow. The international community seems more concerned about possible fraud in Belarus. But in Africa presidents that are not elected through fair and transparent elections are always supported.
What say the putschists? On a press conference fairly early in August 19, they asked civil society and political parties to join them to help with the rapid creation of a transitional government, which would seek to end corruption to give Mali a chance of better governance. Colonel Assimi, who is the President of the National Committee of
Salvation of the People, met with the Secretaries General of the different ministries, asking them to put the welfare of Mali above all other objectives and to ensure the continuity of public services.
The next few days will be critical and the situation will evolve rapidly. A military coup is the worst way to change a government. It is not be acceptable. The now former President and his ministers should be freed and face legal prosecution where appropriate. Militaries should establish criteria to select a president who would ensure a civil transition with a clear and ambitious roadmap to restore rule of law, security and delivery of public services, and very importantly to eliminate corruption. Free and fair lections should be organized as a last step of this transition and should not be rushed in.
August 19 2020