On October 5th, Mali announced that a new government has been formed—composed mainly of military officials—after a coup in August 2020 deposed former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, according to Reuters. Retired colonel Bah Ndaw has been announced as interim president and colonel Assimi Goita, who led August’s coup, will serve as interim vice president. Reuters also reports that veteran diplomat Moctar Ouane has been named interim prime minister.
Mali now begins an 18-month transition back to civilian rule with the ministries of defense, territorial administration, security and national reconciliation currently being headed by military personnel. According to the presidency, civilians will hold 21 other government posts in the transitional government. Military personnel holding government office is not uncommon in Mali, and it occurred under Keita’s former regime as well, but the issue has become sensitive since the coup occurred when the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) pushed for a purely civilian-run government in the country.
Following August’s coup, many of Mali’s neighboring states imposed sanctions that have crippled Mali’s agricultural economy that heavily relies on imports. Malian officials now hold hopes that resumption of a functioning government will motivate Mali’s neighbors to lift their sanctions; however, it is not yet clear if any members of ECOWAS intend to do so in the near future. Leaders of many states in Mali’s greater region worry that the coup could undermine their own power, as well as possibly jeopardize a joint campaign against an insurgency of Al-Qaeda linked Islamist militants in northern and central Mali, Reuters reports.
Mass protests beginning in June initially called for the resignation of Keita as anger reached a boiling point over many issues including the Islamist insurgency, years of instability, and the government’s failure to resolve conflict, respect democratic norms, and provide basic services. Months of public demonstrations by civilians called for the resignation of Keita and the dissolution of the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court, according to the United States Institute of Peace. These protests culminated in the August 18 coup led by Malian military officials that ousted Keita and his government.
Before lifting sanctions on Mali, members of ECOWAS should ensure that the new intermittent government is decidedly more stable and less corrupt than the previous one. Coups in Mali, like the recent one in 2020 and the previous one in 2012, have typically contributed to instability within the entire Sahel region of Africa, says the United States Institute of Peace. Therefore, before making any changes, members of ECOWAS should monitor the behavior of the new government. With that being said, it is important that ECOWAS does eventually lift their sanctions on Mali so that the Malian economy does not collapse and citizens do not suffer due to economic decline, especially given Mali’s economy is highly dependent on agriculture, imports, and trade. The U.N. should also monitor the newly formed intermittent Malian government to confirm that it does not begin to abuse its power and potentially harm its citizens in the way that Mali’s former government did.
The formation of a new government in Mali is a step in the right direction towards more stability in the nation. It remains to be seen whether the intermittent government run mainly by military personnel is going to be able to provide its citizens with better services, safety, and stability than its predecessor. It is also unclear at the moment whether after 18 months the transitionary government will truly step down in order for a civilian ruled government to take shape. However, this is undoubtedly an important step towards greater peace in Mali and the greater Sahel region.
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