Mali: coup d’état, turmoil, intervention

The ongoing crisis in Mali has wreaked havoc globally. World leaders are condemning the coup d’etat in Mali as Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita stepped down on August 18. Keita along with Prime Minister Boubou Cisse were arrested by the mutinous soldiers. Observers suggest that the mutinous soldiers are threatening to further destabilise and jeopardize counter-insurgency efforts led by France and the United States. Growing international concern around instability in Mali and West Africa is not irrelevant or sensationalised. The threatening extremism by the coup is a driver of illegal migration to Europe.

National Committee for the Salvation of People (CNSP)

The military group, which identifies itself as the National Committee for the Salvation of People (CNSP), said in an address to the nation it would oversee a political transition, new elections and a curfew, CNN reported

A member of the CNSP, Colonel Major Ismael Wague, accused Keita’s government of corruption and failure to address threats by extremist groups in the region, among other grievances, CNN reported. 

The coup was welcomed by anti-government protesters in Mali’s capital city of Bamako who had taken to the streets since June calling for the president to step down, The Associated Press reported.


Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced his resignation late Tuesday on state television. Various media reports suggest that the announcement came after Keita was held by the the CNSP. Regular demonstrations and rebellions against Keita and his position boiled down to his forced resignation. .

Keita spoke to Malian national broadcaster ORTM just before midnight and said his resignation was effective immediately. The ORTM TV channel referred to him as the “outgoing president.”

“I wish no blood to be shed to keep me in power,” Keita said. “I have decided to step down from the office.”  the mutineers detained him at gunpoint, further rocking a country that is in the grip of a jihadist insurgency-plagued by civil unrest.

He also announced that his government and the National Assembly would be dissolved, certain to further the country’s turmoil amid an eight-year Islamic insurgency and a growing coronavirus pandemic.

Roots of havoc

It was in 2012 that the roots of the current mutiny in Mali reside. Libya’s 2011 civil war followed an armed coup in Mali the very next year. It was carried out by soldiers opposed to what they saw as a weak response to a growing separatist insurgency by Tuareg rebels in the country’s north.

Former coloniser France, along with the UN, has maintained a peacekeeping mission in Mali since 2013. Keita was elected in 2013 with a mandate to pursue peace talks.

Media reports reveal that in 2015, a deal with some rebel groups was signed, granting greater autonomy to the northern region. Experts around the world criticized the deal for failing to include other armed factions. Some experts from the Africa Program highlighted a few criticisms of the deal:

  • Lack of Stakeholder Inclusivity
  • Lack of Geographic Scope
  • Weak Political Buy-In
  • The Accord is crumbling due to three interlinked issues: (1) its failure to engage all actors contributing to instability, (2) its limited geographic scope, and (3) limited commitment and political buy-in from its signatories and guarantors.

In 2008, Keita was re-elected in a vote marred by low turnout and allegations of fraud. Armed groups have drawn upon deep resentment toward the state over rampant corruption and human rights abuses by security forces.

United Nations intervention

The United Nations has joined global condemnation of the military takeover in Mali, which saw President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta forced to resign.

The UN’s Security Council echoed similar calls by regional bodies for the immediate release of all government officials and the restoration of constitutional order.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sought “the immediate restoration of constitutional order and rule of law,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.


Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says Canada condemns the junta that forced Mali’s president from power this week.

Champagne said Canada, which still has a handful of military officers and police working with the UN in Mali despite wrapping up a year-long helicopter mission last September, called on Malian security forces to follow the constitution and respect human rights.

He also said that any Canadians in Mali who need emergency assistance from consular officials should get in touch with the Canadian embassy in Bamako or call Global Affairs Canada’s emergency hotline.

American Embassy in Mali

The U.S. embassy in Mali released alerts on its website. The security alert for Bamako, Mali, read: The U.S. Embassy is aware of the implementation of a nationwide curfew from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. and the closure of Malian air and land borders until further notice.  Modibo Keita International Airport in Bamako is closed and commercial flights have been suspended.  Sporadic gunfire in Bamako was reported this morning.  The U.S. Embassy cautioned that demonstrators may mobilize without advance notice and recommended that all U.S. citizens remain vigilant.  Likewise, the U.S. Embassy is recommending its staff exercise caution, remain indoors, avoid non-essential travel, and respect the nationwide curfew.

The U.S. Embassy has taken the following additional steps in response to the ongoing security threats:

  • Implemented a curfew from 9:00 pm to 6:00 am until further notice.
  • Personnel are recommended to remain indoors.
  • Employees have been advised to avoid any unnecessary travel until further notice and to be cautious when crossing the bridges.

United States condemnation

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday condemned the military coup in Mali and called for the release of arrested government officials and their families, as well as assurances about their safety.

Pompeo labeled Tuesday’s events a “mutiny” and called on “all political and military actors to work towards a restoration of constitutional government.”

“The United States strongly condemns the August 18 mutiny in Mali as we would condemn any forcible seizure of power,” the secretary said in a statement.

“We urge all stakeholders in Mali to engage in peaceful dialogue, to respect Malians’ rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and to reject violence.”

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