As regional and global leaders condemned the military coup on 18th August, 2020 which ousted Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubakar Keita, thousands of people celebrated across the streets of the country’s capital city of Bamako. The coup follows months of mass protests against the corrupt, French backed government of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
Mali’s recent coup d’état followed months of protests after the re-election of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in March. This happened in the midst of heightened national and regional conflict and the devastating impact of Covid-19. The highly contested election results were approved by the Constitutional Court despite widespread irregularities. Against this backdrop and worsening living conditions, Mali has seen widespread political protests over the past few months.
After the growing strength of the M5 RFP – Le Mouvement du 5 Juin-Rassemblement des Forces Patriotiques, a coalition of forces which includes many of Mali’s organized unions, opposition parties, religious leaders and social movements, the military coup occurred the week of the coalition’s planned mass actions. The soldiers who arrested President Keita presented a list of demands, including the resignation of Mali’s President. The coup and subsequent resignation of Keita was denounced by the African Union, the United Nations, France, the The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to name a few. Mali has since been suspended from the African Union and has received economic sanctions from ECOWAS.
While global media reports continue to echo the sentiments that a military coup is antidemocratic and that Keita should be reinstated, the soldiers who staged the coup remain resolute that their actions were an extension of the mass rallies to end the suffering of Malians at the hands of a corrupt regime propped up by imperialist powers and not the support of the people. After failure to reach an agreement with ECOWAS regarding the transition of power to the people, the army’s spokesperson reiterated that decisions on the outcome of the transition should be decided by the people of Mali, stating that civil society, unions, political parties, signatories to the 2015 peace agreement and Mali’s people would collectively craft the way forward.
We support a solution birthed from the masses of Mali and not one imposed by external actors. Conflict and tensions which have resulted in the current coup are still intricately intertwined with NATO’s role in destabilizing Libya in 2011. Furthermore, the current coup is intricately intertwined with the imperialist US and France’s role in supporting the Keita regime through militarization under the guise of fighting “Jihadist” forces in the Sahel region. The spiral of conflict and destabilization that Mali is stuck in, has been armed by outside interference.
We are under no illusion about the nature of these external forces; they are imperialist in nature and are interested in controlling Mali’s wealth in oil, gold, uranium and other precious minerals and resources. We therefore support a peaceful transition which respects and recognizes the human dignity of Malian people through the beneficiation of the country’s wealth for its people. Neither a corrupt president, nor a military junta can continue to serve as a custodian of imperialist interests at the expense of the people of Mali.
We affirm that regional bodies such as ECOWAS and the African Union must build Pan Africanism through the prioritization of African lives over profit and personal greedy interests. ECOWAS’ proposed solution of reinstating a corrupt leader in favor of economic stability for capital over the material security of Mali’s people has exposed it as a custodian of imperialism. ECOWAS has been adamant about the use the same so called ‘democratic’organs, which have previously been abused by the ruling regime, in its attempt to restore the conditions of exploitation and oppression of Malian people. The abuse of the judiciary to suppress the voices of the people, for example, is prevalent not only in Mali, but throughout the African continent. We encourage peoples’ organizations and movements in Africa and the world to remember that these are not impartial components of the state; these are instruments of dominance for the ruling class.
The legacy of Modibo Keita and the struggle for independence still exists in the popular imagination of the people of Mali and their program for socialism. After almost three decades of the neoliberal agenda being implemented, the collusion of the US and France, the extraction of mineral resources while underdeveloping Mali. Imperialism and neo-colonial interests remain at the heart of Mali’s current political crisis.
The Tricontinental thirty-fifth newsletter on Mali titled “Only the Struggle of the People Will Free the Country” concludes by noting that “In 1970, the South African Marxist Ruth First – who was assassinated on 17 August 1982 by the apartheid regime – published Barrel of a Gun: Political Power in Africa and the Coup d’État. Looking at a variety of coups, including the 1968 coup in Mali, First argued that the military officers in post-colonial Africa had a range of political views, and many of them came to power to redeem the national liberation dreams of their people. ‘The facility of coup logistics and the audacity and arrogance of the coup makers’, First wrote, ‘are equaled by the inanity of their aims, at least as many choose to state them’. There is no indicator that the current coup leaders in Mali have such an orientation; regardless of their own character and their own external backers, they will have to face a population that is once more eager for a break from the colonial past and from the miseries of poverty.”
We are humbled by the commitment of the people of Mali to build solidarity in the midst of ever escalating difficult conditions, including the Covid-19 pandemic. We support the people of Mali in building a democracy which serves the people and improves their quality of life. The people of Mali have shown us what mass mobilization through a coalition of forces across sectors, organizations, religious institutions and various formations can achieve as they stand together united against a common enemy at home and abroad.