Mali is facing a new political challenge: the military seized power in the country by arresting the president and dissolving the Parliament and the Government. But to understand the causes of the military revolt, you have to know the political and historical context. Revyuh recounts the details of the current riot.
The history of popular discontent with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who came to power in 2013, dates back to June 2020 when the Malian opposition staged massive demonstrations demanding the resignation of the nation’s leader. The protesters accused the president of not being able to take adequate measures against corruption at the highest level of the country’s political administration.
Another cause of the discontent of the population was their inability to guarantee security within the nation. As a result of the protests that led to violent clashes, at least 14 people died. The population and a sector of the military held out for several months, but finally lost patience: on August 18, the military began a revolt against Malian political management.
The mutineers, allegedly headed by the colonel and former director of a military school Sadio Camara, in the first hours of their revolt managed to establish control of the General Staff of the Malian Armed Forces and also arrested the military management. This was followed by arrests of public officials.
The military transferred President Keita and the country’s prime minister, Boubou Cisse, to the Kati military base that had become the center of their operations. After a while, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita addressed the nation in a televised speech during which he announced his resignation, explaining that he would prefer to avoid bloodshed.
On August 19, the mutineers announced the creation of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People in order to hold elections “within a reasonable time” and restore stability. The military called to take the road to political transformation. Meanwhile, they introduced a curfew in the country and closed the borders.
A long history of riots
Mali has a long history of coups and military revolts: the situation in this African nation has never been completely stable. After gaining independence in 1960, the first Malian president, Modibo Keita, was elected. The president proclaimed that his country would develop closer ties with the Soviet Union, but also maintained relations with the United States and the country that had colonized them, France.
Many were unhappy with the return of the French to Mali because the wounds from the colonial era were still open. Some supporters of the president stopped supporting him, and as a result, the political crisis culminated in a 1968 coup led by Moussa Traore. Modibo Keita was arrested and died in prison.
Moussa Traore became the President of the Republic of Mali in November 1968 and held this position for 23 years, until March 1991. It was then that Traore was overthrown after a coup orchestrated by Colonel Amadou Toumani Toure, who passed to govern the country and held the position of president between 1991 and 1992 and then between 2002 and 2012.
In the presidential elections of April 1992, the politician Alpha Oumar Konare was victorious. Former President Moussa Traore was sentenced to the death penalty, but there was soon a change in the sentence and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Traore and several of his supporters were pardoned in 2002 as part of the national reconciliation policy.
The new authorities proclaimed the first president, Modibo Keita, a national hero. Amadou Toumani Toure, who ruled the country for the second time between 2002 and 2012, was also overthrown by the military: he announced his resignation and headed to Senegal. There were also other military revolts.
Just at that time, the country faced the terrorist threat in the north. Mali had to turn to the help of the French military in 2012 to end the rebellion of the Tuaregs and eradicate the jihadist groups, but they did not do so completely: certain groups continue to operate effectively in northern Mali.
After the 2012 coup, the transition period began in the Republic of Mali. In the presidential elections held in July 2013, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita won with 77%. During his presidential campaign, he preferred not to emphasize the 2012 coup and did not speak about the responsibility of the coup plotters. And this tactic turned out to be successful.
However, after his triumph, Keita began to cleanse the political management of the country of the participants of the 2012 coup d’état: in particular, the leader of the riot, Captain-General Amadou Sanogo – who held the position of the head of State of Mali between March and April 2012 — he was jailed.
During Keita’s first term, the population was more or less happy with the president’s policy. But his approval rating began to gradually decline. In the presidential elections of July 2018, Keita was victorious with 67% of the votes. However, during the second term, his popularity plummeted: protests began.
The president failed to bring economic or political stability to the country that is being ravaged by ethnic and religious conflicts that have caused hundreds of victims, including civilians. In the north of the country, the threat from Tuareg pro-independence and Islamists affiliated with Al Qaeda and ISIS persists.
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has been losing his political positions over the last few months and has effectively failed to present a viable political agenda for the country that would please the majority of the population. Then, discontent reached certain units of the Armed Forces and it became clear that a new coup would not be avoided, the fifth in the half-century of Malian history.
Although the international community did not support the actions of the mutinous military and even demanded that they return power to a civilian Administration, it seems that the military will go their own way and will impose what they please. In short, Malian history seems to be a broken record: it is possible that in this new stage of history, this focus of chronic instability will repeat the mistakes of the past.