Growing fears for regional security after military coup in Mali

LorenzoT81/iStockBy IBTISSEM GUENFOUD, CONOR FINNIGAN and AICHA EL HAMMAR CASTANO, ABC News

(PARIS and WASHINGTON) — Ex-President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta has resigned after a day of tensions in Mali that had started with a mutiny in the military camp of Kati, just 9 miles from the capital city of Bamako.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta announced on national broadcaster ORTM7 that he had decided “to leave my functions, all my functions, as of this moment. And with all legal consequences: the dissolution of the National Assembly and that of the government. May Allah help and bless Mali. I don’t feel any hatred,” all while he was being detained by mutinous troops.

The African Union strongly condemned the mutiny a few hours earlier with the Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat calling for the “immediate release” of the “Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the Prime Minister and other members of the Malian Government.”

The West African regional organization ECOWAS also condemned the action and took a series of immediate measures to isolate Mali, including the closing the borders and airways as well as shutting down all economic, commercial and financial transactions with Mali.

The European Union slammed the coup attempt, saying “this can in no way be a response to the deep sociopolitical crisis that has hit Mali for several months.”

The U.S. State Department said it “strongly strongly condemns the August 18 mutiny in Mali as we would condemn any forcible seizure of power” and called for a “restoration of constitutional government,” according to a statement from Secretary of State Mikel Pompeo.

The coup took place after major demonstrations were organized over several weeks by the June 5 Movement coalition — which is made up of religious leaders, politicians and civil society members — who challenged President Keïta and his Prime Minister Boubou Cissé.

The demands of the protesters included the full renewal of the members of the Constitutional Court who had been accused of having tampered with the results of the last legislative elections.

In July, the protests escalated to the occupation of the national broadcaster ORTM7 by demonstrators as well as an intrusion into the National Assembly.

On Tuesday afternoon, Prime Minister Boubou Cissé said in a statement that “the government calls for reason and asks to silence the guns,” a final attempt to calm the situation after the start of events in Bamako and Kati on Tuesday morning.

This, however, did not prevent his forced detention a few hours later along with Keïta and several government Ministers.

Eight years earlier, the military base of Kati was also used as the starting point of the coup which brought down the then president Amadou Toumani Touré. when on March 21, 2012, soldiers revolted in the camp to protest against the government’s inability to manage the rebellious groups in the north of the country.

The coup ended up resulting in a major destabilization of the region with Northern Mali falling into the hands of Touareg separatists and armed jihadist groups who occupied it before being driven out by an international military intervention launched by France with the logistical support of the United States in 2013.

Between the escalation of violence in January 2012 and the end of 2014, between 1,689 and 3,713 people had died in the conflict, according to Ploughshares.

The situation in the region has deteriorated in the last year according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), which reports that fighting in Mali and neighboring countries has killed more people so far in 2020 than in all of 2019.

The overthrow of Boubou Cissé’s government could also further undermine the counter-terrorism efforts in the area and cause greater security risks for Malians and beyond.

The U.S. special envoy for the Sahel Dr. J. Peter Pham tweeted on Tuesday in French: “We are following with concern the development of the situation today in Mali. The US opposes any unconstitutional change of government, whether by those on the streets or by the defense and security forces.”

According to Monde Muyangwa, Director of the Africa Program at The Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., “security interests have overwhelmed the governance needs of the country.”

While many countries have expressed their concerns about the situation in Bamako, the soldiers who took power and pushed Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta to resign held a press conference on Wednesday morning and affirmed their intention to put in place a civilian political transition leading to elections “in a reasonable delay.”

Colonel-Major Ismaël Wagué, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Air Force, announced the creation of a “National Committee for the Salvation of the People” to ensure the continuity of both state and public services and assured the intention to respect international agreements, while calling for all sociopolitical movements to “join together to thwart the forces of evil that are scouring us and wanting to take our dear country hostage.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.