Mali: France’s Position in Africa Critical after American Backed Military Coup

The leader of the military coup in Mali, Colonel Assimi Goïta, announced on Tuesday 25 May 2021, that he had stripped interim President Bah Ndaw and prime minister Moctar Ouane of their competencies, after they had been arrested and taken to Kati military camp near Bamako. The constitutional court announced afterwards that Colonel Assimi Goïta had been appointed President of the state of Mali “to lead the transition process to its conclusion”.

Goïta for his part announced on state television late on Friday evening that he would appoint a new prime minister from among the members of the alliance that led the protests against former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita last year. Colonel Assimi Goïta, who led the coup that toppled President Keita on 18 August 2020, accused the President and the prime minister of attempting to sabotage the interim period by forming a new government without consulting him beforehand, although he was in charge of defence and security. He said, “this undertaking indicates a clear intention by the president of the interim period and the prime minister to violate the transitional charter… it has been proven that the intention was to sabotage the transitional process” (Al Jazeera 21/05/2021). He added that he was “obliged to react and strip the president and the prime minister, as well as all the implicated individuals, of their prerogatives” (Ibid). Colonel Assimi Goïta indicated in a statement aired on state television and read by one of his associates in military uniform that the “transitional process will continue its normal course and the elections will take place in 2022” (ibid).

The UN Mission in Mali, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), African Union, France, US, UK, Germany, and the European Union (EU) issued a joint communiqué in which they “strongly condemned the attempted coup and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of these authorities” (France24 24/05/2021). This was a pre-emptive American manoeuvre aimed at framing the reactions and confine them to the release of the interim leaders and the demands to return to the transitional political process; and this is exactly what happened soon after.

It seems America was behind goading Colonel Assimi Goïta to remove the interim president, Bah Ndaw, and prime minister Moctar Ouane from the scene in order to contain the popular resentment towards the French presence, and circumvent the manoeuvres of France who had been undermining the role of the putsch’s leaders to consolidate her influence through them. The picture becomes clearer by reading the sharp and tense French reaction to the coup that toppled the interim president and the prime minister; French President Macron was swift in condemning the coup, demanding the immediate release of Bah Ndaw and Moctar Ouane, and calling for the immediate resumption of the normal progress of the transitional period. In an interview with “Le Journal Du Dimanche” (JDD), Macron threatened to withdraw French troops from Mali if the country headed towards “radical Islamism” following a second coup in nine months. He stressed that he had passed a message to West African leaders stipulating that he would not support a country where democratic legitimacy and a political transition process were no longer in force. He also announced during a European summit that the European leaders “strongly denounced the arrest of Mali’s president and his prime minister,” which in his view was “a coup within a coup… which was unacceptable” (France24 30/05/2021). He concluded by saying that France was ready “in the coming hours to impose specific sanctions on the individuals involved” (ibid).

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for his part was quoted by French news agency as saying that “France condemns strongly the coup that took place Monday in Mali. We demand the release of the president and his prime minister whose safety must be secured, and the immediate resumption of the normal transitional process” (France24 25/05/2021).

France’s endeavour to lure the president of the transitional period and the prime minister was reflected in the collusion of the two men in reshuffling the cabinet and removing some ministers who were loyal to the leaders of the coup. The prime minister tendered his resignation from the new government on 14 May to President Bah Ndaw who reinstated him immediately and requested him to initiate a dialogue with the political class in order to form the forthcoming government. It was clear that France was behind forming the new government after she had weaved strong ties with President Bah Ndaw who had just returned from a Paris summit on Africa’s economy. Two days after his return from Paris on 24 May, he announced the new government, from which two military officers with ministerial portfolios were removed. All this occurred amidst a very tense atmosphere as the opposition, 5 June Movement – Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP) led by Sheikh Mahmoud Dicko, announced that they would stage a protest on 4 June with the aim of toppling the transitional government and dissolve the National Transitional Council.

The response of the army leaders was swift; one hour after the new cabinet was announced, interim President Bah Ndaw and prime minister Moctar Ouane were arrested and taken to a military base in Kati. Colonel Assimi Goïta, who was vice-president, announced that what happened was a sabotage of the transitional period because the prime minister and the President formed a new government “without consulting the vice-president.”

In order to lend legitimacy to the measures they undertook and gain popular support, the leaders of the coup in the military council invited the leaders of the 5 June Movement to Kati hours after the president and prime minister had bee arrested and pledged to appoint a new prime minister from among them.

This is how Mali’s second coup was carried out as an American step to bulwark the domestic situation against French troublemaking and to discipline France, Mali’s old colonialist master, who wanted to run Mali’s affairs in isolation of America. The US had allowed Russian presence in Mali and some African states to generate friction between her and France who has always objected to classifying Russia as an enemy to NATO, whereas Russia, who did not condemn the coup, saw its entry into Africa as an opportunity for investment and exchanging services with America, and this was inferred by Russia’s decision to veto the sanctions proposed by France against Mali during the extraordinary meeting of the United Nations Security Council held at the request of France.

America terrified France when she curbed her influence in Chad by doing away with Idriss Déby whom she used to allow to take the French interests into account. And due to France’s repeated attempts to infiltrate America’s agents in Algeria, Mali, and Tunisia, America endeavoured to muzzle her by liquidating those who coordinated with her such as Idriss Déby, and by toppling the Malian president and his cabinet. America is also working on disciplining Tunisia’s president Kais Saied by exposing his attempts to tinker with the structure of the regime and placing him before two options: either executing her agenda, maintaining the structure of the regime, supporting the “democratic transition”, consolidating decentralisation, and compelling France to secure her interests in Tunisia exclusively via the American gates, or face being constitutionally swept away if he continued lending his ears to France.

President Kais Saied received on 11 May 2021 a telephone call from US Vice-President Kamala Harris, and according to a communiqué issued by the White House, the two sides reiterated the importance of preserving the democratic institutions, upholding the sovereignty of law and combating corruption. Harris also stressed the continued commitment of the US to supporting democracy in Tunisia. According to leaked reports, Kamala Harris’s call came after the Francophone entourage surrounding President Kais Saied had impeded the US Undersecretary of State from meeting President Saied for two days. The US Undersecretary of State had made his request to the presidential office whose director, Nadia Akasha, was in contact with the French and coordinating with them according to confirmed reports. This is what led America to monitor France’s unilateral moves through which she is aspiring to fill the void left by Brexit, besiege her, thwart her manoeuvres, and control the areas of her influence and interests in Africa whose resources represents France’s lifeline.

Copyright © LCIR 2021

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