By Hallum Cowell | Deputy Editor
Soldiers in the West African country of Mali have seized the President and Prime Minister after increased political tension. The move comes after protests demanding the President resign following his second consecutive election victory in 2018. Protestors accuse President Keita of corruption and mismanagement, and blame him for the rising violence in the country.
It is currently unknown to what extent Mali’s armed forces are involved in the coup or how many support the actions taken by the mutineers.
On August 18, junior officers mutinied against their commanders and gained control of Kati Camp, which sits 15km outside the capital city of Bamako. The soldiers then seized the President, Ibrahim Boudakar Keita, and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse. There are also reports that other members of the government have been arrested by the armed forces including the finance minister Abdoulaye Daffe.
In the early hours of August 19 the President made a televised address. In his short speech he resigned the presidency, saying:
“If today, certain elements of our armed forces want this to end through their intervention, do I really have a choice?… I want no blood to be spilled to keep me in power”.
The soldiers, representing the new National Committee for the Salvation of the People, also gave a televised statement:
“Civil society and political social movements are invited to join us to create, together, the best conditions for a civil political transition, leading to credible general elections for the exercise of democracy through a roadmap that will lay the foundation for a new Mali”.
The International response
The Norwegian embassy reported military vehicles in the streets of the capital and troops detaining more senior officers.
As news of the coup d’état spread, the actions of the mutineers were condemned by The African Union, the United States and Mali’s former colonial leader France, who called for soldiers to return to their barracks.
The Chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat urged the soldiers to return to their barracks stating:
“This mutiny comes at a time when, for several months now, Ecowas [a regional bloc which has been meditating Mali’s political crisis] has been taking initiatives and conducting mediation efforts with all the Malian parties”
Earlier on August 18, Prime Minister Cissie called for “brotherly dialogue”. As news of the Coup d’état spread those opposed to the current government celebrated in the streets of the capital. There have also been unconfirmed reports of people setting fire to buildings belonging to Mali’s Justice Minister.
John Peter Pham, the US special envoy to the Sahel region of Africa, which Mali falls under, said that “The US is opposed to all unconstitutional changes of government whether in the streets or by security forces”
Mali’s political situation
Since 2012, Mali has been fighting a war against groups in the north of the country who demand independence or greater autonomy. The group, Azawad, is fighting to succeed from Mali and create a homeland for the Tuareg people.
In 2012 there was a coup d’état, which appears similar to one developing in the country currently. mutinous soldiers took control of the government and temporarily suspended the constitution. In the days following the coup d’état, Azawad forces captured the three largest cities in the north of the country and proclaimed the state of Azawad. The war continues to this day.
In the 11th century Mali controlled a large part of Western Africa until its decline in the 14th and 15th centuries. Nearly the whole of West Africa was later conquered by France in 1898 during the Scramble for Africa. In 1960, Mali once again became an independent nation under a one-party socialist government. The country today is home to around 18.5 million people.
What next for Mali?
The situation on the ground can only be described as chaotic with a distinct lack of reliable facts coming out of the capital. What is apparent is that there is a deep dissatisfaction with the government in Mali due to the political and economic crisis which has haunted the country for nearly a decade.
Now that the President has resigned and the government seems to have collapsed, those leading the coup d’etat have a number of decisions to make. It is as of yet unclear whether the soldiers will honour their commitment today to hold elections, and how free and fair they will be, or if this marks the end for Malian democracy.
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