The President is still in prison, the Vice President has claimed power, and it is unclear whether he will ever renounce it again. While the UN is meeting in an emergency session to discuss the situation in Mali, Bamako prevails in the capital. “People on the street say, “Well, Mali. This will happen six more times,” says anthropologist and Mali expert Mirjam de Bruijn from Bamako.
De Bruijn, professor of Africanism at Leiden University, landed in Bamako yesterday to supervise a project there. “I got on the plane with the message that there was another coup d‘état, so I first feared that I would not get into the country,” she says on the phone. “But it’s very quiet here, you don‘t notice that much.” She’s barely seen any military.
According to her, Malineans are more concerned with threatening sanctions from the international community. “Because they hit the people here the hardest.”
Children played ‘ordinary’ football in Bamako yesterday:
After several months of relative rest, Mali has again plunged into an administrative disorder this week. On Monday, President Ndaw and Prime Minister Ouane were arrested by military personnel. They‘re still being held in an army base near Bamako. And by now, they have resigned their function.
Ndaw led the interim government which, after years of violence and advancing jihadism, had to lead the country to an elected civilian government in a year and a half. In September, the former colonel took power from the army, which deposed President Keïta last August.
It went wrong when Ndaw decided on Monday to replace two high-ranking soldiers closely involved in that coup as ministers. More than an hour later, Ndaws Vice President Goita intervened and ordered military personnel to pick up the headpieces.
According to Goita, a colonel who led the coup d’état against Keïta, Ndaw had not consulted with him the changes in the Cabinet and violated agreements. Professor De Bruijn expects Goita to become president in the foreseeable future. “That‘s what you do when you take power as Vice President.” de facto de junta now has power in Mali, she says.
The arrest of the President and Prime Minister led to international convictions. In a joint statement, the US, EU, UN and the association of West African countries called for ECOWAS to be released immediately.
Former colonizer France spoke of a new coup d’état. President Macron warned on Twitter about “targeted sanctions” against those involved.
Goita promised yesterday to hold new, free elections next year, as was stipulated in the appointment of the interim government. Mali expert De Bruijn saw a lot of ifs and buts in those words. “It could be just the end of 2022 or 2023. They say here that it looks like he smelled the plush, and that he likes it very much.”
At the same time, the coup d‘état neglects what, according to De Bruijn, is the biggest problem in Mali. “For how will the protection of this country continue? People fear that the jihadists will continue to advance and in the pieces I know well, like Boni, I know that the military now operate on their own. If you are busy with a coup d’état, you are not busy with the rest of the country.”
Jihadist groups associated with terrorist groups al-Qaeda and IS have benefited from the disorder in Mali for years. For example, at the military coup in 2012, jihadists took over large parts of the country.
The extremists want to establish a caliphate in the region:
An intervention in 2013 led by France could somewhat stop the advance. Dutch soldiers were also active in Mali between 2014 and 2019, and the UN still spends more than one billion annually on the peace mission in the country.
Professor De Bruijn says that fear increases. Outside the eye of the world, there are abominations in Mali, she says.
“ Friends of mine are scared, people flee and many children go to their families in Bamako, because the schools in the north are closed. But there‘s also a limit to that. I was just talking to someone who said, “I’m sending my children abroad.” We are now seeing a kind of free course of conflict, with a touch of terrorism.”
Coincidentally, De Bruijn was also in Bamako in August, during the previous coup d‘état. At that time, she still tasted optimism among Malineans about the future of their country, because the army forced the unpopular former President Keïta to resign.
That optimism isn’t there right now, she says. “People don‘t see a solution anymore. They have also seen that this does not work,” she says about the experiment with the interim government. “No, it’s not a good scenario right now.”