Mali's Coup: Here's the Full Story

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced on Tuesday that he would be resigning from his post as President. This move comes just 24-hours after a military coup in Mali to overthrow the Keita government happened on Monday.

The military has promised that a free and fair election would be conducted but has received condemnation from the African Union and the United Nations. The military coup was a culmination of months of protest against Keita’s win in a presidential election that has been accused of being riddled with irregularities.


The coup was condemned by Mali's regional and international partners, who fear Keita's fall could further destabilise the country and West Africa's entire Sahel region [John Kalapo/Getty Images]

3 days before the first round of Parliamentary elections scheduled for 26 March, veteran opposition leader Soumaila Cisse and six members of his team were abducted. Just hours before the polling began, Mali recorded its first death due to the coronavirus, however, the election went ahead despite the public health and security risks. The vote was expected to see new MPs elected to the 147-seat National Assembly for the first time since 2013 when President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's Rally for Mali party won a substantial majority after defeating Soumaïla Cissé. The election was supposed to happen in 2018 but had been postponed multiple times due to security reasons. The nationwide turnout in the first round averaged 35.6%, but only 12.9 per cent attended from the capital Bamako.

The country has been in a civil war between violent terrorist groups (including Al Qaeda) and the government since January 2012. The war has caused over 10,000 deaths, and prompted the International Criminal Court to intervene and open a case investigating war crimes in Mali on 16 January 2013. This case is the quickest any ICC investigation has begun after foreign military intervention. In July 2013, peacekeeping forces were also deployed under the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali mission or MINUSMA, which has been ranked as the most dangerous peacekeeping mission in the world, with 209 peacekeepers killed out of a force of about 15,200.

Nine people were killed when their vehicle hit a landmine on 29 March. Three soldiers were killed and three injured in another landmine on 30 March. An Al-Qaeda-aligned group took responsibility for the incidents, as well as an attack on soldiers and the killing of a group of Dozo hunters on 27 March.

The second round of the elections was scheduled for April 19, amid rising fears from both politicians and the people, who were intimidated by the incidents preceding it. By then, the country had officially recorded up to 13 deaths out of more than 200 cases and was advised to maintain social distancing by an election-monitoring NGO to which assured the public that every health and security precaution would be rigorously applied. However, there were incidents of al-Qaeda affiliates reportedly asking people not to vote, and of voting being cancelled in central and northern Mali because of threats against voters.

On April 30, Mali's Constitutional Court confirmed that President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's party has won the most seats in parliament, but not an outright majority, in the election that experienced a record low turnout of 23%. Mali's Constitutional Court overturned the results for 31 seats and handed Keita's party 10 more parliamentary seats, making it the largest bloc. The court's decision sparks protests in several cities.

In May, the opposition parties allied with civil society groups to form "Movement of June 5 - Rally of Patriotic Forces", which began calling for demonstrations to protest Keita’s Presidency. The people of Mali were angry that Keita, in his time as president for the past 7 years, had done little to stop the civil war.

On June 5, largely led by influential Muslim leader Mahmoud Dicko, thousands of people take to the streets of Mali's capital, Bamako, demanding that President Keita resign. The month following this, Keita tried to political float reform policies to pacify the opposing parties but to no avail. The opposition leaders continued to protest and called for civil disobedience from the public. On July 10th, violence broke out. France 24 reported that unidentified gunmen opened fire on civilians in multiple villages of Mali and killed at least 31 civilians and 9 soldiers who returned fire, all within a week. The Economic Community of West African States tried to intervene and mediate and called for the formation of a Unity government. They also warned sanctions on those who stood in the way, but the opposition leaders maintained that the only solution would be for Keita to step down from the presidency.

On August 10th, the President swore in a 9-member constitutional court, on the advice of the ECOWAS bloc, to help ease the political unrest in the country. However, when the news broke out that the members of the council were recommended by an ally of Keita, protests resumed vigorously after a brief interval. Two days later, on August 12th, Malian security forces fired tear gas at the protesters, who camped out at a square in the capital. The protests culminated in a huge rally on Monday, August 17th, as a massive rally in Bamako.

On Tuesday, elements of the Malian Armed Forces began a mutiny. Soldiers on pick-up trucks stormed the Sundiata military base in the town of Kati, where gunfire was exchanged before weapons were distributed from the armoury and senior officers arrested. Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse were detained by the military. Opposition protesters gathered at a square in Bamako to express their support for the military.

However, the overthrow of the government has been met with criticism and disapproval internationally. The African Union earlier suspended Mali, saying military coups were "something of the past which we cannot accept any more". The UN's Security Council and other regional bodies have called for the immediate release of all government officials and the restoration of constitutional order. U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo extended support to ECOWAS and AU, and publicly denounced the military takeover. French President Emmanuel Macron has also urged a return to civilian rule, saying "the fight against terrorist groups and the defence of democracy and the rule of law are inseparable".

However, the UN has clarified that the peacekeeping mission in Mali will continue, and the French armed forces fighting against Islamist groups in Mali have similarly held that their operations would continue.

Col Goita said to be the head of Mali's special forces, met senior civil servants earlier on Wednesday and told them: "We have no political ambitions, we are soldiers, our objective is to rapidly transfer power. The state will continue, we assure you of our support in order to work in tranquillity, we want to reassure you," the Malian newspaper Journal du Mali reports. Allegations of civilian deaths during the mutiny have been denied by the military leader.

The military has promised a redo of the elections, but how they may be conducted, and how the insurgent groups in the state respond to this situation remains to be seen. One thing is for certain - as long as Mali remains in this perpetual state of crisis and unrest, the insurgent groups will keep winning.

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