“The relative ease with which the coup leaders — many of them trained as soldiers by US, Russian, and other international militaries — dismantled the government has experts wondering if the operation was long planned, and if the lack of fighting between military units suggested widespread coordination among Mali’s forces.
“This appears to have been organized and thought through,” said Andrew Lebovich, an expert on West African security issues at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
So far, it seems the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, as the military junta calls itself, has no desire to actually run the country. Instead, the committee, which is made up of a mix of colonels and generals, says it will provide transitional leadership until new elections can be held — though it’s unclear when they might take place.”
“Despite the surprise nature of the military takeover, though, few experts were surprised a coup proved Keïta’s downfall. Not only does the country have a long history of them, but it has suffered from terrorist, militia, and criminal violence throughout Keïta’s presidency.
Add to that years of unabashed government corruption plus a spring parliamentary election many believe was skewed to favor Keïta’s political party, and it gave the military an opening to remove the president amid clear popular dissatisfaction.
Wagué, the junta spokesperson, hit on those dire themes in his statement: “Our country is sinking into chaos, anarchy, and insecurity mostly due to the fault of the people who are in charge of its destiny.”
It’s that widespread sentiment, ultimately, that has many in Mali pleased to see the former leader removed from power. “This isn’t just a coup against Keïta, but a coup against a system that wasn’t working,” Judd Devermont, the US’s national intelligence officer for Africa from 2015 to 2018, told me.”
“IBK dragged his feet on reforming the economy and instituting anti-corruption reforms, and the people had enough of it. “We are tired and oppressed. Our children are also tired, no school nor enough food to feed our families,” Fotoumata Bathily, a Malian protester, told Voice of America last month. “What we need is Ibrahim Boubacar to leave so the country could prosper.””
“That wasn’t all. In 2012, just a year before Keïta became president, armed fighters and jihadists took control of northern Mali. Their influence and the violence that takeover instigated has since metastasized to the central part of the country. This is despite years of military campaigns by Malian forces and French forces (France is Mali’s former colonizer), as well as security assistance from the US and a UN-led peacekeeping mission.
These armed groups have wrought immense havoc in the country. “There was an almost generalized breakdown of authority” in some areas, said ECFR’s Lebovich. Thousands of Malian troops and civilians have died, and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced due to years of fighting. The violence has even spread into neighboring countries like Burkina Faso and Niger.”
“many in Mali will hope that much-needed change has come to the country. “The Malian public are hoping for better governance and the true dividends of democracy,” said CSIS’s Devermont. “For now, they’re welcoming the military’s removal of the government with those hopes.””