Malian soldiers disgruntled with government reforms arrested the President and Prime Minister of the interim government to pressure them to step down. The root of the detention was that the list of new cabinet members did not satisfy some figures in the military. The two leaders were forced to announce their resignation and were released after three days under arrest. The incident has raised concerns in the context of Mali’s interim government being in the process of perfecting its personnel after the August 2020 coup that toppled the country’s then president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, pushed Mali into a deep political crisis. Since then, the interim Malian government has been facing a difficult transitional period. The process of building Mali’s state apparatus is faced with multiple challenges due to the discontent about the governing role of the military and the slow implementation of reform programmes. The West African country is being engulfed in a security threat, while jihadists have not ceased their sabotage activities.
The unrest in Mali threatens to destabilise the region. The African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have decided to suspend Mali’s membership. African and regional leaders have demanded that Mali fulfill its pledge to hold presidential elections in February 2022 following the 18-month transitional period since last year’s coup. ECOWAS once closed the land border with Mali and stopped all financial transactions with the country. Sanctions have caused a 30% plunge in Mali’s export revenue.
ECOWAS and the West fear that the political crisis will create further uncertainty in northern and central Mali, which is seen as a “base” for al-Qaeda’s Mali branch as well as the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). The French military is currently deploying more than 5,000 troops in Mali and other countries in the region to support local forces in fighting extremists. Germany has also deployed several hundred troops in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM). Both France and Germany have emphasised the need to maintain these two missions in the West African country. French President Emmanuel Macron said that the French military alone cannot fight terrorism in the Sahel region, and that stable political institutions in Mali play a certain role in this battle. German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposed the withdrawal of the German armed forces from Mali after the recent coup, affirming that the presence of German soldiers on the ground is very crucial to the fight against terrorism in the region. Security in Sahel is closely tied to Western interests. Uncertainty in countries in the Sahara region will enable terrorist groups to take advantage and rampage, not only causing direct humanitarian consequences for millions of people in Africa, but also threatening Western interests in the region.
After the recent coup, Mali’s Constitutional Court declared Vice President Colonel Assimi Goita as the transitional president of the West African nation. The court’s announcement confirmed that Colonel Goita would lead the country during the transitional period. The United Nations Security Council recently held an online meeting to discuss the complicated developments in Mali, expressing concern that political upheavals would pose risks to the political transition process as well as the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement.
The international community calls on the factions in Mali to resolve their differences through dialogue, as well as to promptly re-establish constitutional order and restore the civilian-led government. A smooth transition in Mali will contribute to international efforts to maintain stability and strengthen the battle against terrorism in the Sahel, which is a security hotspot in Africa.