Arrested Monday, dismissed Wednesday. Three days were enough for Mali to lose, with President Bah N’Daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, the transitional civilian government that was to bring the country to institutional stability in eighteen months, after the putsch of August 2020 which overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, nicknamed “IBK”.
In their place, Colonel and Vice-President Assimi Goïta is de facto acting as head of state. Our explanations.
Another episode of post-IBK confusion
Emmanuel Macron described the Malian crisis as “Coup d’etat within the coup d’etat”. It brings the country back nine months to the previous putsch of August 2020. At the time, the disputed results of the legislative elections had triggered the anger of the Malians, who took to the streets to demand the departure of IBK. The Mouvement du 5 Juin-Rassemblement des forces patriotiques (M5-RFP), a conglomerate of civil society organizations and political parties, was the main instigator of the major protests that led to the downfall of the one who had presided over the country since 2013.
The soldiers had then come, in their words, “To complete the struggle of the people” through the coup of August 18. Under international pressure, they then let the transitional authorities set up, while retaining control over the levers of power. Exasperated by years of violence, poverty and corruption, Malians welcomed this reversal.
A transition under strong military influence
After the coup d’etat, a transitional charter, drawn up largely by the colonels, institutes the process by which power must be returned to civilians. Fearing that the junta would take over the state, the international community and the West African states obtain that presidential and legislative elections be organized within eighteen months – instead of the two to three year period desired by the military – and that a president and a prime minister from civil society be appointed.
In fact, the ex-junta nevertheless retains the upper hand over certain appointments, places his own within the ministries and replaces many civilians with soldiers in the posts of governors. The vice-presidency in charge of defense and security issues is tailor-made for Assimi Goïta, who quickly becomes a necessary interlocutor for foreign partners.
The transition period was supposed to lead to a new Constitution submitted to referendum and to a modification of the electoral law by October, to the re-reading of the Algiers peace agreement signed in 2015 with the ex-rebel groups of the northern Mali, to massive recruitments in the army to accelerate the fight against terrorism… A program quickly deemed impossible to keep by many Malian actors.
A perilous government reshuffle
As in 2020, the difficulties of the executive, weakened by weeks of political and social protest, gave the military an opportunity to push their pawns. At the beginning of May, the M5-RFP had demanded the “Dissolution” of the transitional government and the “Proofreading” of the peace agreement with certain armed groups. On May 17, a strike at the call of the main trade union organization, the National Union of Workers of Mali, paralyzed the banks and public services in Bamako, after the failure of negotiations with the government on wages, bonuses and allowances.
To respond to the crisis, Prime Minister Moctar Ouane had tendered the resignation of his government three days earlier. He was immediately returned by the president with the task of forming an opening team. Central issue: the place of the military. In the new executive, they retain four ministries, including those, crucial, defense and security. But the two members of the former junta who were at their head, Colonels Sadio Camara and Modibo Koné, are replaced by Generals Souleymane Doucouré and Mamadou Lamine Ballo. The latter are rather far from the positions of the putschists: they were also arrested during the 2020 coup.
It is not to the taste of Assimi Goïta. The vice president for security accuses the president and the prime minister of forming a government without consulting him, despite his essential prerogatives for the country, caught in the turmoil of the jihadist spread and violence. “Such an approach testifies to a clear desire (…) to go towards a violation of the transition charter ”, he believes. Both the president and the prime minister were arrested on Monday May 24 and declared to have resigned by the military. They regain their freedom during the night from Wednesday to Thursday.