For the time being and at least in the capital Bamako, the Malian state is in the hands of a new military junta – the Comité National pour le Salut du Peuple (National Committee for the Salvation of the People, CNSP). The name is very much in keeping with what other juntas around the world have called themselves; such bodies so often attempt to position themselves as acting or speaking on behalf of “the people,” “the nation,” “democracy,” or all of the above. Seizing power on August 18, the CNSP forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta to read a statement very late that night in which he resigned and also dissolved the National Assembly. The CNSP came on state television early in the hours of August 19 to read a statement in which they promised elections will follow on a quick but unspecified timeline.
Who makes up the CNSP? Here is one Malian observer’s captioning of a still image from the junta’s televised statement:
To translate: from left to right, Colonel Modibo Koné, Colonel Assimi Goïta, Colonel-Major Ismaël Wagué, Colonel Malick Diaw, and Colonel Sadio Camara. And press outlets are citing additional names: General Cheick Fanta Mady Dembélé (DW), and a few others that have appeared in outlets I don’t consider fully reliable. The BBC has micro-profiles of Diaw, Camara, and Dembélé. Note that in press coverage today and yesterday, various ranks have been attributed to different members of the CNSP.
RFI‘s Serge Daniel referred to this as a “senior officers’ coup.” I think that’s fair, but I think analysts need a vocabulary that captures a middle ground between “senior officers’ coup” and “junior officers’ coup.” The CNSP was not led by captains and majors – the leader of the 2012 coup in Mali was a captain, for example – but neither did this mutiny/coup come, it seems, out of the very top of the Malian military. Note, for example, that ousted President Keïta’s final cabinet included two generals who do not seem to have participated in the coup, and neither did the top service chiefs. The CNSP appears to come out of, essentially, the next few levels of the military hierarchy – divisional commanders, officers occupying deputy posts within the services (Wagué has been widely identified as the deputy chief of staff of the Air Force), etc.
Whether all of the CNSP’s members were involving in planning the mutiny/coup is an unresolved question; some of them could be latecomers, and undoubtedly there is a growing bandwagon effect for now. But the coup does appear to have generated support quite quickly from a fairly wide swath of officers at the colonel and even the general level. Do they speak for the Malian armed forces as a whole? Not necessarily, but there do not seem to be any immediate stirrings of an attempted counter-coup.
Unsurprisingly, the junta does not appear to include Tuareg and Arab officers – that is, officers from the far north. For context, the Tuareg, despite their prominence in a series of rebellions in Mali, make up only a small percentage of the overall Malian population, and there have long been fraught issues involving the integration of the Tuareg into the armed forces.
Some of the questions I posed yesterday about the coup are already being resolved. President Keïta has resigned, which constitutionally should automatically make the President of the National Assembly the interim President of Mali, and should trigger new elections with 21-40 days. The CNSP is not committing to any of that, however, and the National Assembly’s dissolution disrupts that constitutional line of succession anyways. The CNSP is, however, committing itself to upholding the peace agreement for the north (the 2015 Algiers Accord). The CNSP also committed to continued coordination with the various international security deployments in the country, including the United Nations’ Multidimensional Integration Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), France’s Operation Barkhane, the G5 Sahel, and Takuba Task Force. Furthermore, the CNSP said it would uphold the conclusions of the December 2019 National Inclusive Dialogue. Many questions, however, remain open, about the past, the present, and future.
Here is the CNSP’s televised statement: