Mali’s M5 Opposition Gets Another Chance In The Spotlight

After a flurry of action in May — a cabinet reshuffle, the second coup d’etat in nine months, and the suspension of Mali from the AU and ECOWAS, it now seems that things may be settling down. With Mali collecting itself, it now looks that the main opposition group (M5) is favoured to lead the interim government.

After a military coup overthrew President Keita’s government last year, an interim government composed of President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane took the reins, promising elections and reform by February 2022. But, in a tale as old as time, the interim government did not address any of the criticisms which sunk their predecessors. A last-minute bid in late May had the interim government oversee a cabinet reshuffle to answer growing criticism. Notably, this reshuffle removed two military members from key positions, with the justification that a more “broad-based” government would be implemented.

These actions instantly drew criticism from the military, with Colonel Assimi Goita claiming that it was nothing but a ruse to maintain power after the election deadline. And, for the second time in nine months, Colonel Assimi Goita oversaw another coup.

This was instantly met with both domestic and international disapproval. Mali was suspended from the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and criticism came from the U.S. and France. The latter suspended all joint military operations with Malian forces—the strongest reaction yet by the former colonial power. On May 30th, Colonel Goita was compelled to go to Ghana for ECOWAS crisis talks. Now, with two coups under his belt within nine months, Colonel Goita has understandably found himself in hot water. Nevertheless, while the phrase “military coup” lacks positive connotations, there are signs of movement in the right direction.

Most importantly, the military is now bringing in a government that may potentially be more “broad-based” than ever. After all, broad-based was the term used by the now ex-interim government to describe the cabinet reshuffle. Cynics may see this as the army tightening its grip on the nation. Seeing as the cabinet reshuffle consisted of removing two people closely linked with the military. However, Colonel Goita’s actions leave a positive impression, even as the headline: “second coup in nine months” does not do well for one’s image on the global stage. Voices from France, the U.S., AU, and ECOWAS have all made that clear. Putting in place an interim president from the official opposition group is clearly a step in the right direction.

There are issues with the man who M5 has put forward as a candidate, (such as his criticism of the Algiers agreement). Nevertheless, these actions could suggest that positive shifts are happening.

This development is especially important when considering the former interim government’s failure to bring M5 into the fold. For all their importance in the coup last year, M5 has since been delegated to the political sidelines. Even the deposed interim government’s calls for a new, “broad-based” government did not include the opposition group.

Criticism of Mali’s coup-happy military is justified. But so far, the commitment to early-2022 elections has been maintained—at least on paper. If the opposition truly gets its time in the president’s seat (as interim as it may be), and the opportunity isn’t squandered, then this will not only be a major win for Mali’s political landscape, but also for its civil society.