The United Nations has denounced the recent military coup in Mali, which saw the forced resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta after he was detained by soldiers on Tuesday. Wearing a face mask amid the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Keïta resigned in a televised address to the nation. He asked, “If today, certain elements of our armed forces want this to end through their intervention, do I really have a choice?” He said that the government and parliament would be dissolved, adding, “I want no blood to be spilled to keep me in power.”
Mr. Keïta and Prime Minister Boubou Cissé were detained in a military camp near the capital Bamako. Their capture follows months of protests. The coup has been condemned globally, with the UN’s Security Council joining the African Union, the European Union, France and the United States in calling for the immediate release of all government officials and for a return to constitutional order.
The New York Times has reported that since Mr. Keïta’s resignation, the streets of Bamako have been alive with both jubilation and gunfire. According to the soldiers, their actions were to stop the country from falling deeper into turmoil. They have called for a “civil political transition leading to credible general elections.” In 2018, Mr Keïta won a second term. However, there has been anger over the fact that the now former President was not doing enough to tackle corruption and poor economic management. He has also been accused of stealing a parliamentary election and choosing his own candidates. Several protests have taken place in recent months. There has also been frustration within the military regarding pay, as well as mounting conflict with jihadists. When at least 11 protesters were shot and killed earlier this summer, the demands for change only grew louder.
On Wednesday, the African Union (AU) suspended Mali, stating that military takeovers were “something of the past which we cannot accept anymore.” When speaking to the BBC’s Focus on Africa Programme, Smail Chergui, the AU’s Commissioner for Peace and Security, said that “Whenever you have a crisis and the military people have a coup and say ‘we are not responding to the will of the people,’ this way of responding is not acceptable at all.”
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has also taken action by closing its member states’ borders, suspending financial flows between Mali and its other member states, and removing Mali from decision-making bodies. A virtual summit is being held in which leaders will decide further action. The video conference is being chaired by the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou. In his opening statement, he has warned of “a serious situation… whose security implications for our region and Mali are obvious.” Issoufou has referred back to Mali’s last military takeover in 2012, which allowed “terrorist and criminal organizations” to occupy two-thirds of the country in just weeks.
Although Mali gained its independence from France decades ago, France has remained heavily involved in Mali’s affairs. France has voiced special concern due to its military campaign against the jihadist movement in the Sahel. French President Emmanuel Macron has urged for a return to constitutional rule stating that “the fight against terrorist groups and the defence of democracy and the rule of law are inseparable.” Mali is part of what some have referred to as France’s “forever war” in the Sahel region.
The U.S. is also concerned with maintaining a secure Malian government whose interests align with the West. On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo tweeted his condemnation of the coup. Kyle Murphy, a former senior analyst with the Defence Intelligence Agency has said that “Mali’s internal governance and security challenges are driving instability across the Sahel… This matters to the United States because instability in the region allows violent extremists to prey on populations and advance their objectives and displaces millions of civilians.”
There are concerns that the potentially destabilizing effects of the coup could spill over beyond Mali’s borders. Further instability in Mali could have geopolitical implications for West Africa, the Sahel, parts of the Arab world, the European Union and the U.S.
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