The dangerous frustration of the Malian army

REPORT – The military coup that swept away President Keïta in August is also explained by the feeling of abandonment of the troops.

Malian soldiers carry, on September 6, the coffins of ten of their fallen comrades.  The sense of abandonment of the fallen soldiers and their relatives sharpened the anger of the troops, as the losses accumulated in increasingly harsh attacks.
Malian soldiers carry, on September 6, the coffins of ten of their fallen comrades. The sense of abandonment of the fallen soldiers and their relatives sharpened the anger of the troops, as the losses accumulated in increasingly harsh attacks. STRINGER/REUTERS

From our special correspondent in Bamako

A long decayed wall, of an uncertain yellow, bars the plain at the exit of Bamako. A slightly twisted barrier and a handful of soldiers guard the gate which pierces this wall. Visitors are filtered through it entering the Soundiata-Keïta barracks in Kati, a garrison town bordering the Malian capital, a complex of old military buildings, dilapidated low-cost housing and concrete block huts as found everywhere in Mali. The place is unlike the beating heart of a force at war for eight years to reclaim its territory. “The army is the most effective organization in Mali and the one in which the populations still have confidence. But it’s also a tense and very frustrated body ”, says Marc-André Boisvert, academic specializing in the Malian army.

The coup d’état which, on August 18, overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, known as IBK, was therefore only half surprised. The moment was unexpected, in the midst of popular protest,

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Mahmoud Dicko, the Salafist imam at the bedside of Mali

STORY – In his country in crisis, the religious of Bamako has the favors of the street and is listened to by politicians, soldiers and diplomats.

Imam Mahmoud Dicko arrives to deliver a speech at a ceremony in memory of Malians killed by security forces during protests against Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta on August 28 in Bamako.
Imam Mahmoud Dicko arrives to deliver a speech at a ceremony in memory of Malians killed by security forces during protests against Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta on August 28 in Bamako. ANNIE RISEMBERG / AFP

Special envoy to Bamako

The white faux leather sofa, pierced with large and equally fake diamonds, is the only vaguely luxurious pageantry in Imam Mahmoud Dicko’s living room. In front of this small dark room stretches out a large courtyard covered with poor concrete, as there are thousands of in Bamako. It is full of women coming and going with a bowl in hand. The men, far from being all bearded, wait in a tin covered courtyard, waiting for the hour of prayer or a hypothetical meeting. This most banal decor in no way detracts from the power of the imam. The religious, gray goatee and clever smile, is undoubtedly one of the most influential men in Mali. And no one ignores the words from his mosque in Badalabougou. “He displays a modesty which brings him closer to average Malians and opposes him to a political class considered rich and corrupt”, underlines a diplomat.

The August 18 coup, where a handful of soldiers overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta

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In Mali, the junta unveils its “charter” for the transition

The result of a compromise with parties and civil society, this document provides for the appointment of a president for eighteen months.

Colonel Assimi Goïta, new leader of Mali, during a meeting with the heads of state of the region during a summit in Accra (Ghana) on September 15.
Colonel Assimi Goïta, new leader of Mali, during a meeting with the heads of state of the region during a summit in Accra (Ghana) on September 15. FRANCIS KOKOROKO / REUTERS

Special envoy to Bamako

Assimi Goïta arrived in Ghana in his colonel’s uniform. The head of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), president of Mali since August 18 and the putsch against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK), did not seem to want to depart from his habits, even to go and meet the leaders of State of the region gathered for a summit in Accra. It was for the military, young officers unknown in the palaces, to accept the charter drawn up last weekend to lead a transition in Mali. The ECOWAS, the regional organization, had not hidden its annoyance against this coup and maintains economic sanctions against Mali. “We speak calmly to ECOWAS. We have no interest in alienating it ”, assures someone close to the junta.

The strategy was only relatively successful, while the exact content of the discussions remained unclear on Tuesday. Heads of State are said to have been annoyed, in particular by the

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After the military coup in Mali: Mission put on hold

The EU stops its military training in Mali, but does not withdraw. The soldiers were inactive for a long time anyway.

For the time being, the Bundeswehr’s training mission in Mali has been stopped Photo: Thomas Wiegold / photothek / imago

COTONOU / BERLIN taz | The EU is temporarily stopping its missions in Mali due to the military coup – but that doesn’t make a difference. “They are still there and they will resume work as soon as possible,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Wednesday in Berlin after a meeting of EU defense ministers. Due to the corona pandemic, the EU training mission for Mali’s armed forces “EUTM Mali” has been suspended since the beginning of April.

Because of the contacts between soldiers, security was not guaranteed, it was said at the time. Then an EU soldier tested positive and most of the staff left the country. According to the Bundeswehr, there are currently 75 soldiers in Mali for EUTM; They do not currently conduct any training, with the exception of an ongoing two-week “basic training in tactical medical care”; neither is the EUCAP Sahel Mali police training mission.

So it had little to do with reality that at the end of May the Bundestag approved the expansion of German participation in EUTM Mali. In future, up to 450 soldiers should be deployed instead of 350. They no longer only want to train in Mali, but also in neighboring countries.

Now these plans are on hold – thanks to the overthrow of Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta on August 17th by the army, which has received basic training from the EU mission for seven years, in which, according to Borrell, 90 percent of Malian soldiers took part. Federal Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer also confirmed on Wednesday: “It is well known that some of the leading figures of the putschists also received training in Germany and France.”

International training of the coup plotters

According to a report, two of the putschists once studied in Germany, one at the Bundeswehr University in Munich. There was also higher-level training elsewhere: Junta members Malick Diaw and Sadio Camara studied in Russia, and France and the US are working with Mali’s special forces, whose commander, Assimi Goita, now heads Mali’s military junta.

Goita is also said to have taken a course in counterterrorism at the George C. Marshall Center in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a partner institution in Germany and the USA. The US suspended cooperation with Mali’s armed forces in response to the coup, but the US embassy in Bamako was the first to meet with the military government on Thursday.

Germany’s military cooperation with Mali was the subject of the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. All international authorities have condemned the coup – but a reinstatement of the ousted president is off the table since he said this week that he doesn’t want it at all. It is now only about his release and the transition to a civil reorganization.

The first step took place on Thursday: Keïta was released in Bamako. Junta chief Goita declared that the joint fight against terrorism with the foreign troops would now be continued. France’s chief of staff, General Lecointre, called on the EU to resume its training program: “You have to be able to distinguish between a political and a military reality.”

German soldiers “doing well”

But the mandate of EUTM Mali provides for the support of the “legitimate authorities” – that excludes formal cooperation with a military junta. “It’s a question of principle,” says political expert Issaga Kampo in Bamako.

And the German soldiers in Mali? Three days after the coup, the Bundeswehr announced that they were “doing well”. However, they would not leave their camps for the time being, but would stay in Koulikoro 60 kilometers outside the capital Bamako and in Bamako itself.

The 900 German soldiers at the UN mission (Minusma) in Gao, far away from Bamako, continue as if nothing had happened. “The German soldiers of the Minusma in Gao are currently continuing their mission unchanged,” explains the Bundeswehr Operations Command.


Mali prepares IBK succession

Supported by the street, the military junta demands a three-year transition to review the foundations of the Malian state.

Saturday evening, a delegation of ECOWAS (right) met, at the Ministry of Defense, in Bamako, the soldiers of the junta, including Colonel Assimi Goïta, just appointed president of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP ).
Saturday evening, a delegation of ECOWAS (right) met, at the Ministry of Defense, in Bamako, the soldiers of the junta, including Colonel Assimi Goïta, just appointed president of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP ). AP / AP

No one will say it officially, but the coup d’état which, five days ago, toppled Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has now been confirmed. Even among his relatives, we now confide “look to the future», A future without IBK. The deposed president knows it and says it. On Saturday, during a brief interview with a delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the former head of state assured that he did not want to regain power. Wounded in his pride, IBK, long locked in the denial of his unpopularity, now refuses the idea of ​​this return demanded by some of his peers. Sick and exhausted, IBK, threw in the towel. IBK’s history with Mali was only brought up to know how to exfiltrate it from the Kati military camp where he was still being held. According to a source within the ECOWAS, the junta gave its agreement on Sunday evening for the “release»: The«will be able to return to his home“From Bamako, and”travel for care».

This departure from IBK is

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In Mali, no agreement on the timetable for the return to civil order

Published on : Modified :

Discussions between the ruling junta in Mali and the West African emissaries of ECOWAS ended on Monday without an agreement on the conditions for a return to civil order in the country in turmoil.

After three days of negotiations, the junta in power for a week in Mali and the West African emissaries separated, Monday, August 24, without agreement on the conditions for a transfer of power to civilians, after the coup d’etat having overthrown President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta.

The emissaries must now return to report on these three days of discussions and the heads of state of ECOWAS will confer on Wednesday to decide to strengthen or on the contrary to lighten the measures taken following the putsch.

The junta, which has promised to return power to civilians after a period of transition of a duration to be determined, expects the Economic Community of West African States to lift the sanctions announced on August 20. The ECOWAS had in fact ordered the closure of the borders of the Member States with Mali and decided to stop all financial and commercial flows, except those relating to essential products.

The country, faced with a humanitarian crisis and state failure, in addition to the spread of jihadism and intercommunal violence, is suffering. “It is the people who will suffer much more (from) sanctions”, underlined Ismaël Wagué, spokesman for the soldiers gathered around the new strong man, Colonel Assimi Goïta.

Points of contention

No agreement has emerged on the conditions for a transfer of power to civilians: the duration of the transition and the nature of the leader, civilian or military, at the head of the country during it, remain points of contention between the two parts. Sources within the West African mission lent the military the project of a three-year transition, led by one of their own.

Mali: the transition and the fate of IBK at the heart of the discussions

A position far removed from the “reasonable” time limit in which the junta promised general elections on the evening of the coup d’état of August 18. Also remote from the ECOWAS demand for an “immediate return to constitutional order”.

The junta, faced with protests on social networks, however challenged to defend such strong positions. “At no time did we speak of a government with a military majority,” Ismaël Wagué reacted. “Any decision relating to the size of the transition, to the transitional president, to the formation of the government, will be made between Malians” and will give rise to “massive consultation”, he assured journalists.

IBK definitely ruled out

“Former IBJ president will be under house arrest in Bamako”

The only concrete progress in the discussions: junta officials and West African emissaries have indicated that the reestablishment of Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta in office was no longer on the agenda, the head of state overthrown on the August 18 having told the emissaries no longer wanting to govern. The restoration of IBK was an initial requirement of ECOWAS.

The putschists who arrested and detain him have accepted that ECOWAS emissaries see him on Saturday. Much confusion remains however on the whereabouts of the deposed president and on a possible departure from Mali with the West African mission.

At the request of this mission, the junta accepted that Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, 75, leaves the country “when he wants” for medical examinations, the ECOWAS “guaranteeing” his return to the country, said Colonel Wagué.

With AFP


still no agreement between the junta and ECOWAS on a return of civilians to power

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In Mali, discussions between representatives of West African countries and the junta, in power for a week, in Bamako, have so far given nothing. The two sides separated without reaching an agreement on the conditions for a transfer of power to civilians. The military had announced a civil transition within a reasonable, ill-defined time frame, while the ECOWAS demanded an immediate return to constitutional order.

With our correspondent in Bamako, Serge Daniel

The main point of disagreement between the junta and the ECOWAS mediation concerns the duration of the transition.

As a first step, the junta, as a basis for discussion, proposed three years, and this Monday it proposed two years of transition. Mediation for its part, according to the Nigerien Minister of Foreign Affairs who has been very active in the negotiations, wants between seven and twelve months.

They have already proposed two years this morning. We find this to be too much. […] We consider it a step forward, but we tell them to make more efforts and they do not refuse. They say they will think it over.

Kalla Ankouraou, Nigerien Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and African Integration.

Who will be at the head of the transition, who will lead the junta, who will be its members? Here too there are some differences. The mediation of the economic community of West African States wants a retired civilian or a soldier.

We had discussions about the transition, the transition team, the transition president, the government. Nothing is stopped. Nothing is decided. We, at our level, the final architecture of the transition will be discussed and defined between us. In view of the efforts that have been made, we demanded that they also see how to lift the sanctions.

Colonel-Major Ismaël Wagué, spokesperson for the military junta

The sub-regional institution leaves however with a hope, that within 24 hours, before the meeting next Wednesday of the heads of state of the ECOWAS by videoconference, the junta will still make efforts on the cited points.

However, ECOWAS did not leave completely empty-handed. She agrees to turn the page on President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta who said he was no longer interested in power. There is therefore no longer any question of reinstalling him in power. He will, in principle, be released soon. The junta spoke about it. She also called for the lifting of sanctions against Mali.

« ECOWAS is not here to impose a government on the Malian people. Whether it is an elected or transitional government, the decision will be up to the Malians. The mission of our delegation is to make people understand that within ECOWAS there is a protocol in force which governs the entire West African region in this area. In the event of an abnormal situation, it applies. »

► To read also: Mali: junta proposes three-year transition with military leadership


Coup in Mali: support remains important

After the coup, the EU and Germany should not give up their military cooperation with Mali. Guns must not fall into the wrong hands.

After the coup, there is a risk of weapons falling into the wrong hands Photo: Thomas Wiegold / photothek / imago

The military takeover by means of a coup in Mali sounds undemocratic, which is why it was strongly condemned at international level. The West African Economic Community Ecowas in particular has repeatedly emphasized in the past few weeks that President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was “democratically elected” and that he is being adhered to. The concern that neighboring countries with weak governments, which are also affected by violence and unrest, will certainly lead to similar developments.

The government itself has zealously contributed to the fact that the coup did take place, be it through party pictures of Keïta’s son Karim, who is a member of parliament, human rights violations by the army in the center of the country, continued powerful terrorist groups in the north or economic lack of prospects. With the prospect of three more years in standstill or even possible deterioration – Keïta’s mandate officially ran until August 2023 – the coup seemed the last resort. The frustration was already palpable when Keïta’s re-election in 2018. The incumbent was re-elected with little enthusiasm. But that was also because the opposition, with Soumaïla Cissé, only had to offer the old, worn-out team of politicians.

Instead of denying all aid to Mali, it is important to take the putschists at their word. Do you stick to your statement, “we don’t want power, but we want the country’s stability”? Will there be a quick roadmap to get out of the crisis? Do all stakeholders have their say? Can it be possible to find actors who do not belong to the old power clique?

Uniform of the EU training mission Mali

Photo: Thomas Wiegold / photothek / imago

First of all, the bloodless coup speaks for the putschists. If these first impressions are confirmed in the coming days and weeks, it will also apply at the military level that cooperation must not be discontinued. The risk that terrorist militias will spread further in the north these days is real. In this context, there is a risk that weapons, such as those of the EU training mission, fall into the wrong hands. This is precisely why it remains important to continue the numerous missions in which the Bundeswehr is also involved.

For years, out of geopolitical interests, the EU and Germany have supported a corrupt government that practices nepotism and that has not advanced their country. Now it is important not to let Mali and the region slide further into chaos.


Algeria is worried again about the destabilization of Mali

DECRYPTION – Involved in dialogue with the Tuaregs and jihadist groups, the northern neighbor remains on the defensive after the coup d’état in Bamako.

By Adam Arroudj

After the coup d'état against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK) in Mali, Algerian diplomacy reacted on Wednesday with a
After the coup d’état against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK) in Mali, Algerian diplomacy reacted on Wednesday with a “Firm rejection” of all “Unconstitutional change of government”. ANNIE RISEMBERG / AFP

In Algiers

Algeria, already concerned about the situation in Libya and Niger, this week saw a traditional source of instability reactivated at its southern border, over 1,300 kilometers: Mali. After the coup d’état against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK), Algerian diplomacy reacted on Wednesday, as it had done during the 2012 coup against Amadou Toumani Touré, with a “Firm rejection” of all “Unconstitutional change of government”.

A condemnation in principle which suggests that at the same time “Algiers is in a situation of observation vis-à-vis what is happening in Mali and waiting in the face of what the great powers will decide, analysis Nordine Azzouz, editor of the daily Reporters and specialist in questions on the Maghreb and the Sahel. Foreign Affairs called in their communiqué the charter of the African Union for political and diplomatic convenience. “

For the army, where the scenario of a “Pakistanization” of the Sahel has never been ruled out,

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Coup in Mali: Putsch after German training

The military in Mali overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. Before that, it was also “upgraded” by the Bundeswehr.

Cheers in the Malian capital Bamako after the coup Photo: ap

BERLIN taz Seven years and a week after Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was elected President of Mali with almost 78 percent of the vote, his own army deposed him to the cheers of the population. On Wednesday night, the 75-year-old read his resignation on state television after mutinous soldiers arrested him in his official residence and brought him “for talks” to the Kati barracks on the outskirts of the capital Bamako.

“Do I really have a choice?” Asked the arrested president, whom everyone in Mali calls IBK after his initials, in his address. “Blood must not be shed for my continued office,” he continued and drew the conclusions.

What began in the morning as a mutiny by dissatisfied soldiers in Kati turned into a military coup by evening – in a country that, like no other in Africa, has its military equipped, trained and supported from abroad.

More than 12,000 UN soldiers, up to 5,000 soldiers from France, a regional Sahel reaction force and an EU training mission work with the army in Mali, which is also a partner country in the Bundeswehr’s “training initiative”. According to the report by the federal government, the German “Enhancement” provides “conceptual advice and training”, “material support”, “increasing the mobility of the armed forces” and “technical qualification”.

Military worries about the country

Seen in this light, the exercise was a success. The putschists were mobile, well equipped and obviously had a concept. After President IBK resigned on television, the generals sat in front of the cameras and announced the establishment of a “National Council for the Salvation of the People” (CNSP) to lead the country to “credible” free elections. “We have decided to take responsibility before the people and history,” said CNSP spokesman Ismael Wagué. “Our country Mali sinks more and more into chaos, anarchy and insecurity every day.”

In front of the presidential pass in Bamako: citizens and soldiers

In front of the presidential pass in Bamako: citizens and soldiers Photo: Reuters

Hardly anyone would disagree with this diagnosis – perhaps with the therapy. After all, Mali’s generals are at least partly responsible for the fact that the insecurity in Mali has spread enormously. Outside the capital, no part of the country is safe anymore. The army is hardly or not at all present in large areas. Local militias against armed Islamists carry conflicts deep into society.

Army operations have led to massacres of civilians several times. In addition, there have recently been corruption scandals in which, among other things, the president’s son was involved, the disappearance of the leader of the parliamentary opposition and irregularities in the parliamentary elections. Protests in Bamako against all of this have been violently suppressed several times since June.

Now the soldiers can be celebrated. Because what the civil protest movement has not achieved, they have achieved: the resignation of the president and government. And unlike Mali’s last military coup eight years ago, the work of low-ranking soldiers, high-ranking generals are now seizing power. Your spokesman Wagué is Deputy Chief of the Air Force.

A putschist was only in Moscow

Next to him sat Colonel Malick Diaw, Chief of Staff of the 3rd Military Region, and Colonel Sadio Camara, former head of the Kati Military School. They are all familiar faces at the regular high-level meetings between the foreign military missions in Mali and Mali’s armed forces. Coincidence or not: Camara only returned from Moscow two weeks ago from a training course.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita reads out his resignation

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita reads out his resignation Photo: ORTM TV / ap

Internationally, the fall of the elected institutions has been unanimously and sharply criticized – not only out of concern for Mali’s democracy, but also out of fear. After Mali’s last military coup in 2012, rebels from the insurgent Tuareg minority conquered half the country and proclaimed an independent republic that quickly came under the control of radical Islamists. France had to intervene with thousands of soldiers in 2013. The war continues to this day.

At that time only Mali was a country of civil war. Today the violence also has the neighboring countries Niger and Burkina Faso under control. There, too, there is an authoritarian and at the same time weak state and there is mistrust among the people of a government elite that is seen as corrupt and incompetent and is supported by abroad.

To this end, controversial elections are pending in all of Mali’s southern neighboring countries – Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Niger. When the signs point to a storm in West Africa, the coup in Mali was the first roar of thunder.