Mali: ECOWAS, Junta Leaders Sing Different Tunes

Mali: ECOWAS, Junta Leaders Sing Different Tunes

…As Terrorist Ridden West African Country Meanders On the Brink Nigeria’s President, Mr Muhammadu Buhari has given his backing to the declaration by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), demanding a 12-month transition process to civilian rule in Mali, a country of 14 million people largely taken over by terrorist groups. The coup

…As Terrorist Ridden West African Country Meanders On the Brink

Nigeria’s President, Mr Muhammadu Buhari has given his backing to the declaration by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), demanding a 12-month transition process to civilian rule in Mali, a country of 14 million people largely taken over by terrorist groups. The coup leaders had asked for 3-years which the regional leaders turned down, stating that a year was enough

Mr Buhari who attended the ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments virtual meeting on Friday, charged the military junta to set an acceptable timetable for a return to democratic government.

According to his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, the President maintained that Mali is in a fragile state which poses an imminent danger to the citizens and the ECOWAS sub-region.

According to him, “For the people of Mali, specifically the leadership, embracing Democracy and Good Governance is crucial to the country’s political stability. Mali cannot, therefore, afford to stand alone, hence the need to come to terms with the realities of an acceptable and workable transition compact that inspires the confidence of all Malians.

“With regards to other areas being negotiated, Nigeria believes that the people of Mali and the military leaders need to appreciate the fragility of their country and the imminent danger which it poses to the citizens of Mali as well as the ECOWAS sub-region,” the President said.

He urged the military leadership to focus on securing the biggest country in West Africa, roughly twice the size of Texas, the second largest American state, faced with severe security threats from its northern part, instead of an incursion into governance.

President Buhari welcomed the news that former President of Mali, Mr Ibrahim Keita, has been released from detention and is in good condition and called for the release of the remaining senior officials still in detention.

“I urge the military leadership to consider: the immediate release of all the remaining senior Government officials in detention, without pre-conditions; a transition process, to be completed in not more than 12 months, and which shall include the representatives of Malian stakeholders.

“This is a critical consideration for the new government to enjoy the cooperation and collaboration of regional and international community, and to allow the easing of sanctions imposed on Mali.”

The Nigerian President added that it is critical for the new government to enjoy the necessary cooperation.

“In this connection, Nigeria will, alongside ECOWAS, provide necessary logistics support to facilitate the conduct of elections to re-establish democratic governance in Mali.”

President Buhari thanked former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan for mediating in the crisis, and commended the Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic for convening the Extraordinary Summit.

The government of President Keita was recently toppled in a bloodless coup earning the country sanctions from ECOWAS.

Talks between West African mediators and Mali’s military coup leaders ended on Monday after three days of discussions without any decision on the make-up of a transitional government, a junta spokesman said.

West Africa’s regional bloc dispatched negotiators to Mali at the weekend in a bid to reverse President Ibrahim Keita’s removal from power last week.

But talks had focused on who would lead Mali and for how long, rather than the possibility of reinstating the President.

The coup has raised the prospects of further political turmoil in Mali which, like other countries in the region, is facing an expanding threat from militants.

Col. Ismael Wague said mediators would report to regional heads of state ahead of a summit on Mali this week but, highlighting the backing the soldiers enjoy, the final decision on the interim administration would be decided locally.

“Nothing has been decided. Everyone has given their point of view. The final decision of the structure of the transition will be made by us Malians here,’’ Wague.

Former Nigerian President, Dr Jonathan, who led the regional mediation team, said they requested and were granted access to Keita.

“President Keita told us that he has resigned. That he was not forced to do so. That he does not want to return to politics and that he wants a quick transition to allow the country to return to civilian rule,” Jonathan told reporters.

Talks were taking place with the threat of regional sanctions hanging over the junta, known as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP).

“Mediators will discuss this with the heads of state so they can lift or at least ease the sanctions. Sanctions are not good for us or the population,” Wague said.

The regional branch of West Africa’s BCEAO central bank reopened on Monday.

The Mutiny

On August 18, 2020, elements of the Malian Armed Forces began a mutiny. Soldiers on pick-up trucks stormed the Soundiata military base in the town of Kati, where gunfire was exchanged before weapons were distributed from the armory and senior officers arrested. Tanks and armoured vehicles were seen on the town’s streets, as well as military trucks heading for the capital, Bamako. The soldiers detained several government officials including the President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta who resigned and dissolved the government. This is the country’s second coup in less than 10 years, following the 2012 coup d’état.

Protests in Mali had been ongoing since 5 June, with protesters calling for the resignation of President Keïta. Protesters were displeased with the management of the ongoing insurgency, alleged government corruption and a floundering economy. 11 deaths and 124 injuries were reported during the protests.

Coup d’état

On the morning of 18 August 2020, soldiers began firing bullets into the air at a military base in Kati, a town 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) away from Bamako, the capital of Mali. After moving into the capital, the mutineers arrested Minister of Finance, Mr Abdoulaye Daffe, the Chief of Staff of the National Guard, Mr Mahamane Touré and Mr Moussa Timbiné, speaker of the National Assembly. The Prime Minister, Mr 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”.

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.


President Keïta resigned around midnight, while also dissolving the government and parliament. “I want no blood to be spilled to keep me in power,” he added. Five colonels appeared in the TV broadcast to the nation, led by Colonel Assimi Goita. They called themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People.

The bodies of four people killed by gunfire and about 15 wounded, all likely hit by stray bullets, were brought into one of the city’s main hospitals, said Elhadj Djimé Kanté, a spokesman for the hospital union. The coup leaders denied that anyone had been killed, but soldiers were constantly firing in the air, cheered on by crowds of young people.

Haven for Terrorist Groups

Mali is infamous as a haven for terrorist groups. Securing the country from the stranglehold of this groups will be a primary concern. According to a 2019 country report by the Bureau of Counterterrorism of the US State Department, “Terrorist activities increased in quantity and lethality in 2019, and continued to target civilians, Mali’s Armed Forces (FAMa), international peacekeepers, and international military forces. 

“Terrorist groups active in Mali include ISIS in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS) and JNIM – the umbrella group formed by the Sahara Branch of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb, al‑Murabitoun, Ansar al-Dine, and the Macina Liberation Front.  Possibly most concerning in the region is the increasing geographic expansion of terrorist activities, in many cases involving tactical-level cooperation between ISIS-GS and JNIM.

The report also says, “Implementation of the 2015 Algiers peace accord between the GOM and two coalitions of armed groups continued to be limited, largely hindering the return of public services and security to northern Mali.  Terrorism, insecurity, scarce resources, and a lack of accountability or effective governance resulted in a significant increase in intercommunal violence, particularly in central Mali.” 

“The conflict zone has continued to press farther south.  Efforts to secure the center of the country in 2019 were hampered by the limited availability of trained FAMa members and increasingly sophisticated and coordinated terrorist attacks against military installations,” it added.

Landlocked Country

Mali, a landlocked country of west Africa, is tucked mostly in the Saharan and Sahelian regions. It is largely flat and arid. The Niger River flows through its interior, functioning as the main trading and transport artery in the country. Sections of the river flood periodically, providing much-needed fertile agricultural soil along its banks as well as creating pasture for livestock.

Subsistence and commercial agriculture are the bases of the Malian economy. Some four-fifths of the working population is engaged in subsistence agriculture, but the government supports the development of commercial products.

Market gardens produce a variety of vegetables and fruits, including cabbages, turnips, carrots, beans, tomatoes, bananas, mangoes, and oranges. Irrigation projects have been developed on the Niger near the towns of Ségou and Mopti. Livestock is commercially important; the major areas for livestock raising (cattle, sheep, and goats) are the Sahel and the region around Macina.

Fishing is also of economic significance, although this sector has declined since the 1980s. Still, Mali is one of the largest producers of fish in west Africa. The inland delta is a particularly important fishing ground, though periods of drought have hindered development of these fisheries. Large-scale dam construction and environmental pollution have also hindered this sector.

Mineral Deposits

Mali’s mineral resources are extensive but remain relatively undeveloped. Exploited deposits include salt (at Taoudenni), marble and kaolin (at Bafoulabé), and limestone (at Diamou). The most important exploited mineral is gold, a significant source of foreign exchange. Gold is mined primarily in the southwestern areas of the country, on the Mandingue Plateau. The ancient Malian empire was based on the exploitation of gold, but those deposits were depleted before the advent of colonial rule in the 19th century.

Mali has many mineral deposits that are not commercially exploited, owing to the country’s limited infrastructure. Iron is the most widespread, with deposits found in the west near the Senegal and Guinea borders. Bauxite deposits are located near Kayes and on the Mandingue Plateau. Manganese is also found, and there are phosphate deposits in the area around Ansongo. Lithium has been discovered near Kayes and Bougouni, and there are uranium deposits in the Iforas. There are also small quantities of tungsten, tin, lead, copper, and zinc.

Periodic Military Incursion

The country’s democratic match since independence in 1960, has always been marred by periodic military incursion. Under the first President, Mr Modibo Keita, the Soudanese Union Party eventually became the only party until the military took over in 1968.

Civilian government returned in 1979, when the country was led again by a one-party system, this time the Malian People’s Democratic Union, headed by Mr Moussa Traoré, who was ultimately deposed in 1991 in favour of another military government, led by Mr Amadou Toumani Touré. Political parties were once again allowed in 1992, and Mr Alpha Konaré, of the Alliance for Democracy in Mali, was elected President that year. Since then, many political parties have been active in Mali.

Advent of Political Parties

Political parties were first formed in 1946, when a territorial assembly was established. The Sudanese Union–African Democratic Party (Union Soudanaise–Rassemblement Démocratique Africain; US–RDA) eventually became the dominant party, under its charismatic Marxist leader, Modibo Keita.

In October 1958 the territory became known as the Sudanese Republic, and on November 24, 1958, it became an autonomous state within the French Community. In January 1959, Senegal and the Sudanese Republic joined to form the Mali Federation under the presidency of Keita.

Hopes that other Francophone states would join the union were never fulfilled, and in August 1960, the federation broke up over major policy differences between the two countries. On September 22, a congress of the US–RDA proclaimed the independent country of the Republic of Mali.

Mali’s First President

Keita, the new country’s first President, rapidly replaced French civil servants with Africans, distanced the country from France, established close diplomatic relations and economic ties with communist-bloc countries, and built a state-run economy. In 1962, Mali issued its own nonconvertible currency, although Keita entered into monetary negotiations with the French in 1967 to prop up a sagging economy.

While claiming to be nonaligned, Keita regularly supported the communist bloc in international affairs. His radical socialist political and economic policies and a cultural revolution launched in 1967 led to widespread popular discontent, which created a favourable environment for a group of army officers to seize power.

On November 19, 1968, they launched a coup that overthrew Keita and his government. Led by Lieut. Moussa Traoré, the officers formed a 14-member Military Committee of National Liberation that ruled Mali from 1969 to 1979, when a civilian government was elected. Disagreements led to the removal of two officers in 1971, and in 1978 four others, who opposed a return to civilian rule, were accused of planning a coup and were arrested; two of them later died in prison.

Traoré’s Rule

In 1974 Malians overwhelmingly approved a new constitution. Under it, the country returned to civilian rule in 1979, with a military-sponsored political party, the Malian People’s Democratic Union (Union Démocratique du Peuple Malien; UDPM), in control of the government and Traoré serving as head of state.

When elections were held in 1979, Traoré was elected President, and he was re-elected in 1985, while the UDPM—the only legal party—occupied all the seats in the National Assembly. During the 1980s, Traoré gave civilians access to the government through regular local and national elections, and he also dealt effectively with protests and with a number of coup attempts.

Photo: Mali’s Junta Leaders

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