Roundup of Thoughtful Commentary on Mali’s Coup

A lot of garbage has been written about Mali’s coup. Here are some pieces, though, that I find good and thoughtful. I’ll add the obvious disclaimer that I don’t agree with every word of every piece, and in some cases I disagree with the thrust of the piece as a whole, but nevertheless what follows is some of the best writing I’ve seen on the coup:

  • Ibrahim Maïga interviewed by L’Essor, “Le problème du Mali va au-delà d’IBK” [“Mali’s Problem Goes Beyond IBK”] August 25. One point Maïga makes, which I don’t think non-Malian analysts (including me) have made enough, is that it was not just the M5-RFP protest movement but also strikes in the health, justice, and education sectors that the president was in real trouble.
  • Niagalé Bagayoko interviewed by France24, “Au Mali, une junte militaire qui ‘connaît les normes internationales et sait les utiliser'” [“In Mali, A Military Junta That ‘Knows International Norms and How to Use Them’.”] August 28. One crucial point Bagayoko makes is that the junta, by claiming they are acting on behalf of a “popular revolution” rather than carrying out a coup, implicitly highlight the ways in which (a) not all leaders with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are themselves champions of supposed regional and international norms, and (b) not all ECOWAS leaders may themselves enjoy strong  popular support at present.
  • Alain Nyamitwe, “Mali’s Unconstitutional Change of Government: Rules Are Made for the People,” The Elephant, August 28. Nyamitwe, a former Burundian minister of foreign affairs, discusses a wide range of coups, revolutions, and third term bids and also discusses how norms and practices are evolving. His conclusion: “Sanctions in the form of an embargo only punish the masses. In the current global context of COVID-19, an embargo on Mali would only contribute to worsening an economic situation which is already difficult to say the least. The legitimate grievances of the people of Mali must come before the interests of regional and international actors. It is our hope that the next ECOWAS Summit will “rewrite the script” on Mali. The ECOWAS mediator in Mali, former president of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan, continues efforts on the ground where even other international actors are meeting the “colonels”, the new big boys in town. In all these efforts, people should come first. It’s all about them.”
  • Rémi Carayol, “Mali. Le coup d’État marque la fin des illusions françaises” [“Mali: The Coup d’État Marks the End of French Illusions”] OrientXXI, August 28. The title’s prediction is almost certainly wrong! But the content is good – a look at how the failures leading to the coup came from the Malian political class and from France, and perhaps most of all from the relationship between the two as represented in the person of IBK – at first, according to Carayol, the favored candidate of France in 2013; and then, by 2018, someone who had lost France’s confidence but whose corrupt tendencies and problematic re-election drew no real criticism from France. 
  • Gilles Yabi, “Organiser des élections le plus vite possible au Mali serait une grave erreur” [“Organizing Elections As Fast As Possible in Mali Would Be a Serious Mistake”] Jeune Afrique, August 25. Yabi’s suggestions are quite sensible – creating broadly acceptable transitional structures, drawing up a clear roadmap for the transition, adopting a “realistic calendar,” and insisting on the personal integrity of senior office-holders – but I wish he would have been more specific about who exactly is supposed to make sure that all that happens.
  • Peter Tinti, Raouf Farrah, and Matt Herbert, “Crime After Mali’s Coup: Business As Usual?” Global Initiative, August 31. An excerpt: “One high-level official arrested by the CNSP shortly after the coup was General Moussa Diawara, who led Mali’s main intelligence directorate. According to a United Nations Security Council report, Diawara provided protection and promises of impunity to traffickers from the Lamhar Arab community in exchange for payments from Mohamed Ould Mataly, a representative in Mali’s national assembly. Ould Mataly has long been tied to drug trafficking, including via his son-in-law, Mohamed Ben Ahmed Mahri, one of the most well-known drug traffickers in the Sahel. It is unclear what other arrests or resignations will follow in the coming weeks. However, there is little indication that these arrests or Keïta’s removal from power will diminish the role and power of patronage networks within Mali’s political and security establishment, nor impact criminal networks’ exploitation of them.”
  • Michel Goya, “Quand t’es dans le désert” [“When You Are in the Desert”], La voie de l’épée, August 24. From the conclusion: “With raids and strikes, Barkhane whacks and waits. At the price of the loss of a soldier every two months on average, and at the cost of a million euros per enemy combatant eliminated, we have waited for seven years for Mali to stop being inert, for a real force coming from who knows where to offer to relieve us, or for an extraordinary change to shake up everything.” I’m not really a fan of this imagery of an “inert” Mali – the thread running this and so much other commentary is that ultimately, everything is the Malians’ fault for not having the will to solve their own problems, and I don’t agree with that – but I think the piece captures very well how French thinking and operations have evolved, and not evolved, in Mali.

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