After a second military coup in Mali in less than a year, Colonel Assimi Goita, who seized power again this past week, told the news media that a new prime minister will be appointed within the next few days. 

The political chaos in the arid, violence-plagued country has Mali’s allies, who are there to help, questioning the coup leaders’ motives and the country’s direction. 

Mali’s Military Seeks Broader Support by Aligning With the Opposition

“In the coming days, the prime minister who will be appointed will carry out a broad consultation between the different factions,” Goita said in a press conference on Friday.

Goita will seek a broader support base by choosing a prime minister from the opposition M5 movement, a once-powerful group which the military shunted aside after August’s coup.

“Either we accept joining hands to save our country, or we wage clandestine wars and we will all fail,” Goita added.

Colonel Goita and former President Bah Ndaw
Former President Bah Ndaw was arrested on Monday by the military ruling junta and forced to resign on Wednesday before being released.

The M5 movement had spearheaded the protests against President Keita, but was left out of the power-sharing by the ruling junta.

M5’s spokesman, Jeamille Bittar, released a statement saying that the movement would nominate Choguel Maiga as prime minister.

Colonel Goita’s Coup Within a Coup

Goita led the coup last August against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita amid protests against perceived corruption and the government’s failure to quell armed insurgent groups some of which aligned with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. But faced with the threat of regional sanctions, Goita and other coup leaders agreed to hand over power to a transitional government that would steer the country back to civilian rule.

Goita was then appointed vice president of the interim government led by President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane. The interim government was supposed to stabilize the country until elections could be held within 18 months. Bah Ndaw himself was a former Army officer. Yet, in a reshuffling of governmental posts, he left off two Goita-appointed senior government leaders. 

The ruling military junta then arrested Ndaw and Ouane along with Mali’s defense minister on Monday and held them at an army base. The United Nations Security Council condemned the act as “unacceptable.” The UN’s condemnation was reiterated by France, which has about 5,100 troops in Mali fighting Islamic insurgents. French President Emmanuel Macron then threatened “targeted sanctions” against the military junta leaders in what he described as a “coup within a coup.”

Ndaw and Ouane were released on Wednesday and promptly resigned placing Goita right back in the seat of power. Goita was then named interim president by Mali’s constitutional court.

The constitutional court said on Friday, that Goita would “lead the transition process to its conclusion” and carry the title of “president of the transition, head of state.” The decision was made due to the “vacancy in the presidency.”

But Goita’s move wasn’t a shock to analysts inside of Mali as the colonel has been meeting with opposition, religious, and union leaders trying to rally them around his ruling junta. This removes any doubt that, regardless of the elections next year, the military rules Mali.  

French troops in Mali
French SOF troops, part of Task Force Takuba, are battling Islamic insurgents in Mali.

The United States announced on Wednesday that it was “suspending security assistance” for Mali’s security and defense forces.

Mali Faces a Dire Security Situation

The French have been trying to get Washington more involved in the fight against the insurgencies raging in the Sahel, the semi-arid region south of the Sahara and covers the countries of Mali, Niger, Chad, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso. Ned Price, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said that the U.S. will “consider targeted measures against political and military leaders who impede Mali’s civilian-led transition to democratic governance.”

A military coup against the president in 2012 first thrust Mali into the turmoil it now faces. In the face of the 2012 coup, ethnic Taureg separatists rebelled against the government in the tenuously controlled north. That rebellion was quickly taken over by Islamic terrorists linked to al-Qaeda. The French intervened on behalf of their former colony and drove the insurgency nearly out of the country in 2013. 

Nevertheless, the insurgents were joined by foreign fighters and have regrouped, reorganized, and, since 2015, moved south to more populated central Mali. The violence has now spread across the Sahel.