Colonel Assimi Goïta, author of two coups in less than a year, was sworn in as the new president of Mali in a ceremony held this Monday at the Bamako International Conference Center (CICB), after which he launched a message of outstretched hand to the international community. “We will hold credible, fair and transparent elections within the established deadlines [febrero de 2022]I would like to assure regional organizations and the international community as a whole that Mali will respect its commitments for the general interest of the nation, ”he said after his inauguration. Goïta has appointed the politician Choguel Maïga, a member of a citizen movement, as Prime Minister of the transition.
In this way, the discreet and taciturn former commander of the Malian Special Forces Assimi Goïta, 38 years old and with a solid training and military experience that he has put to the test in the field in clashes with rebels and jihadists on more than one occasion, puts at the forefront of a country in decomposition, hit almost daily by terrorist violence, gangrene by corruption and bad government and destabilized by a wave of citizen and union protests. Almost always dressed in his military uniform, khaki neck warmer and green beret, and eternally surrounded by a praetorian guard armed to the teeth, Goïta was hardly a stranger until last August 18.
It was that day when he appeared on national television surrounded by other colonels such as the leader of the military junta that had just taken power after months of demonstrations against the Government led by the civil movement M5-RFP (Agrupación de Fuerzas Patrióticas). The removal of the then president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK), was received by the majority of the citizens with relief and joy. Beyond the rigorous condemnations and aware that Keita’s political project had run out of credit, the international community decided to give these young coup plotters a chance on the condition that the transition did not last forever and that they lead the country will place a civilian.
The military accepted, but played their cards. Of all possible civilians, they removed retired colonel and former Defense Minister Bah Ndaw from the hat, but they reserved the vice-presidency, which went to Assimi Goïta himself, and four ministries. On paper, a transitional civilian government; in reality, an executive controlled from within by the coup plotters. At the same time, the civil society that had put the protests and the dead in the streets to overthrow the IBK regime was excluded from the distribution of seats. After a few months of truce, the powerful union National Union of Mali Workers (UNTM) joined the fight with a general and indefinite strike.
Last May and with the government under siege, President Ndaw and his Prime Minister Moctar Ouane dared to remove two of the ministers who were members of the military junta. But the ordeal went wrong and Goïta responded with the second coup in less than a year, what French President Emmanuel Macron defined as “a coup within a coup.” After the mandatory confinement in the Kati military base, the true epicenter of Malian political life replacing the Koulouba palace, Ndaw and Ouane were released a few days later, stripped of all their positions. Assimi Goïta assumed all power, the Constitutional Court endorsed the maneuver and the street assumed it with a mixture of complacency and resignation.
The international community responded with more rhetoric than facts, without setting economic sanctions. The African Union (AU) and the Economic Commission of West African States (Cedeao) temporarily suspended Mali and the World Bank announced the provisional halt of its financial activity in the country. However, the harshest wake-up call came from France, which announced the halt of all joint military operations. This decision, which will be reevaluated in the coming days, puts Operation Barkhane, the main spearhead against jihadism in the Sahel, to idle.
Precisely the inauguration of Goïta coincides with a moment when radical and intercommunity violence is hitting harder than ever in the Sahel. This weekend, neighboring Burkina Faso suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history with the killing of some 160 civilians by an armed group near Sebba, in Yagha province, while another 11 civilians were killed to the north. from Menaka, in Mali.
For this reason, Goïta did not hesitate to take advantage of his inauguration to reassure his external allies, announcing that he was maintaining the transition calendar and that Mali would respect its international commitments. At the same time, in order to win the favor of civil society, he has appointed Choguel Maïga, a member of the M5-RFP, as Prime Minister of the transition.