Mali coup following cabinet reshuffle puts next year’s transition to civilian rule in danger

Bah N’Daw, Mali interim president

MALI’S efforts to transfer to civilian rule have been thrown into doubt after disgruntled members of the junta that seized power in a coup nine months earlier arrested the West African country’s president.

Bloomberg News, quoting the African Union and United Nations, said on Monday evening that Bah N’Daw and Mali’s prime minister, Moctar Ouane, were taken to the Kati military headquarters after a cabinet reshuffle left out two members of the junta.

A joint statement issued along with the West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS and other members of the international community called for the immediate release of the ministers. “The international community rejects in advance any act of coercion, including forced resignations,” the statement said.

“They emphasize that the ill-considered action taken today carries the risk of weakening the mobilisation of the international community in support of Mali.”

The developments raised new alarm about whether the transitional government would be able to move ahead freely with plans to organize new democratic elections as promised by next February in Mali, where the UN is spending $1.2bn a year on a peacekeeping mission, said Bloomberg News.

In a separate article, Bloomberg News cited J. Peter Pham, the former US Special Envoy for the Sahel, now with The Atlantic Council, as saying: “The crisis is a setback. The transitional set-up was a balance agreed by local stakeholders, endorsed by the African Union and ECOWAS. One party can’t change terms and not expect a negative reaction”.

Mali produced 66.5 tons of gold in 2020, making it the third-largest producer of the metal in Africa, according to the Mali Mining and Petroleum Conference and Exhibition. Companies including Barrick Gold Corporation and AngloGold Ashanti operate in the West African nation.