Military attempts another coup in Mali, arrests president and prime minister

The detention followed a minor reshuffle in the transitional government in which two military representatives were removed. The military had staged a coup in August 2020, forcing then president Boubacar Keita to resign

May 25, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Mali coup
President Ban Ndaw during his oath taking ceremony on September 25, 2020. (Photo: Habib Kouyate/Xinhua)President Ban Ndaw during his oath taking ceremony on September 25, 2020. (Photo: Habib Kouyate/Xinhua)

On Monday, May 24, Mali’s military arrested the heads of the transitional government in its Kati camp in the capital Bamako. The coup comes just nine months after the military forced then president Boubacar Keita to resign in August 2020. Monday’s arrests reportedly followed a minor reshuffle earlier in the day in which two military representatives were dropped from the military-dominated government.    

According to news reports, the head of the transitional executive, president Bah Ndaw and prime minister Moctar Ouane were taken to Kati along with defense minister Souleymane Doucore in an apparent coup attempt. They have been held there.  

The African Union, Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) and the United Nations have released a joint statement asking for the immediate release of the leaders. It states that “the international community rejects in advance any act of coercion, including forced resignations.” UN secretary general Antonio Guterres also called for the unconditional release of the members of the transitional administration.

Last August, president Keita was taken to Kati and forced to resign following months-long protests against the presence of the French military in the country. In September, a new transitional government was formed after the threat of sanctions was issued by the African Union and other international groups. The new transitional government had representatives from both civilian political groups and the military and was to last for 18 months before fresh elections were called.   

There are around 5,000 French troops in Mali, purportedly to fight against Islamic extremism. A large number of civilians have been killed by these forces, leading to growing discontent against their presence in the country. A UN investigation found that at least 22 civilians were killed in a French air strike on a wedding in January. The French government had earlier tried to label the dead as “terrorists”.  

As per reports, Mali’s vice-president, Colonel Assimi Goita, who was the leader of the August coup last year, has a major role in the current crisis. The two military representatives who were removed from the transitional government, Colonel Sadio Camara and Colonel Modibo Kone, were also a part of the coup last year. They were handling the defense and security portfolios, respectively, in the transitional government.  

The reasons for the current coup are not very clear as the military still dominates the transitional government. President Ban Ndaw himself is a retired military officer. The replacements for Sadio and Kone, Souleymane Doucoure and Mamadou Lamine Ballo, also have a military background. Two new ministers were inducted in the transitional government from the June 5 Movement which was against French military presence in the country. The movement was instrumental in the coup against Kaita in last year.

Mali’s capital Bamako and other major cities and towns remained calm after news of the arrest of the president and the prime minister broke.