Mali’s Future Depends on Development of the Sahel
August 4, 2020
The letter below was sent on September 1, 2020 to the Bureau of African Affairs, Department of State. The letter does not express my full thoughts about what precipitated the coup and the polices necessary to ensure future of Mali. However, as a long standing member of the Mali Affinity Group, and fierce defender of Mali’s sovereignty, I support much of letter’s content.
A Way Forward for Mali
After several months of daily massive anti-government demonstrations in the streets of Mali’s capital city, Bamako, the Malian military intervened during the week of August 17 to remove President Keita and his government. While there appears to be broad and intense popular support for the military’s move, it violates the constitution and international law. In response, the West African community (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), the United States, and the European Union condemned the military’s actions and it triggered the suspension of economic and military assistance from donor governments, as well as from the international financial institutions. While in the custody of the military, President Keita tendered his resignation, and has been allowed to return to his personal residence.
The ECOWAS mediator delegation, headed by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, had been working to end Mali’s internal political crisis for several weeks before the military takeover. This delegation is continuing to speak to the leaders of the military takeover, and to the different political factions, with the objective of returning the nation to civilian rule as soon as possible, through a brief transition, and new democratic elections.
The leaders of the military takeover are talking about a three year transition, revealing their total distrust of the Malian political elites. Such a long period of military rule is clearly unacceptable for a number of reasons, including the temptation to institute permanent military rule, as in the corrupt military dictatorship of General Moussa Traore, 1968-1991.
Here is what we recommend for U.S. policy toward the Republic of Mali at this time.
- Continue to recognize and support the ECOWAS mediating mission as the lead international group to assist the Malians to establish an expeditious return to
- Engage all stakeholders to implement the terms of the Algiers Accords without delay.
- Through the U.S. Embassy Defense Attaché, encourage the Malian military commanders to immediately bring in civilian political persons to share planning and
implementation of the transition. (N.B. The head of the military takeover group is Colonel Assimi Goita, who trained in the United States with American Special
- Encourage a mixed civilian and military transition of no more than one year, followed by the organization of elections. The process should include civilian political
leaders who are domestically or international known and respected for their democratic commitment to good governance, transparency, and free and fair elections
- Provide assistance to American democracy institutions such as IRI and NDI to immediately send personnel to Mali to assist in the preparation of free and fair elections and reforms, and engage with civil society to address grievances around the political process with a special focus on combating corruption.
- Inform the Malian takeover military leadership that economic and military assistance will be restored as soon as it is clear that the government is under civilian control, and that preparations for elections are well advanced.
- Consult closely with the French Foreign Ministry, and the French military to encourage continued support in the fight against “jihadist” terrorists in the north of Mali.
- Begin to plan significant economic development projects for the north in order to deal with the socioeconomic causes of the insurgency.
In my brief interview below with CGTN, I discuss the effects on Mali of the the Western organized regime change against Muammar al Gaddafi in October 2011. The 2012 coup in Mali as well as the recent coup, have as their immediate cause, the destruction of Libya led by President Obama and his immediate circle of advisors. However, it is the failure over decades to develop the Sahel with basic infrastructure in rail, roads, water, and electricity that has systematically affected the Sahel, creating the conditions for the growth of violent extremism. The imposed underdevelopment of the African continent is the underlying cause for the majority of political and economic hardships that plague Africa today.
Watch my interview below that begins at 11 minutes 40 seconds and ends at 14 minutes.
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com