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Why the World Is Watching a Military Takeover in Mali

2020-08-19 04:10:06

The military in Mali arrested the country’s president and prime minister on Tuesday in a coup staged after weeks of destabilizing protests over a disputed election, government corruption and a violent Islamist insurgency that has lasted for eight years.

The streets of Bamako, the capital, exploded with both jubilation and gunfire after President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and his prime minister, Boubou Cissé, were detained along with other government officials. Around midnight, the president announced on state TV that he was resigning.

The effects of the turmoil could spill beyond the borders of Mali, a country whose strategic location has geopolitical implications for West Africa, the Sahel, the broader Arab world, the European Union and the United States.

France has remained deeply involved in the affairs of Mali, its former colony, decades after the country gained independence.

Under their brutal rule, Malians in those areas under jihadist control were forced to follow a strict religious code or risk severe punishment. Women were forced into marriage, and historical sites were demolished.

The rebels lost control of their territories after French forces intervened to help the Malian military drive them out. But armed groups continue to terrorize civilians in the countryside, and the violence has metastasized across borders into the neighboring countries of Burkina Faso and Niger.

More than 10,000 West Africans have died, over a million have fled their homes and military forces from West Africa and France have suffered many losses.

“That is the major concern here,” said Chiedo Nwankwor, a researcher and lecturer at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “These various jihadist movements in Africa do not bode well for any Western government.”

In the years following its independence from France in 1960, Mali was viewed as having achieved a good track record in democratic government.

In 1996, a New York Times correspondent on a reporting trip to Mali made note of the pervasive poverty afflicting the citizenry but said the West African country nevertheless had become “one of this continent’s most vibrant democracies.”

But Mali, once cited as a democratic role model in the region, has lurched from one crisis to another since the 2012 coup that overthrew President Amadou Touré a month before elections were to be held.


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