BAMAKO, Mali — Mali is a landlocked country located in the Western part of Africa. Historically, Mali’s powerful empires have created a society known for its advancements in mathematics, astronomy, art and architecture. However, in the last decade, military coups in Mali have severely affected its population.
The Military Coups in Mali
In 2012, a military coup in Mali helped bring Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to power as the president. Keita’s election in 2013 initially had promising results. His popularity quickly diminished due to allegations of corruption and security issues involving terrorist groups threatening the Northern region.
In August 2020, President Keita was forced to resign at gunpoint by another military group. On Aug. 18, his resignation was televised to the Malian people. The coup was led by a group that identifies itself as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People. Assimi Goita is the leader of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People. The group wants to lead a transitional government that will put either a military general or a civilian leader in charge through a fair election.
Although Malians took to the streets of its capital of Bamako to celebrate the military coup, many international leaders worry that the civil unrest could destabilize the entire region. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met with Goita with the hopes of reinstating the constitutional order. The National Committee for the Salvation of the People is willing to assist with creating a transitional government without the reinstatement of Keita.
What Could This Coup Mean for Struggling Malians?
Not only is Mali considered to be among the poorest countries in the world but it is also dealing with a refugee crisis that is further destabilizing the country. Firstly, world leaders worry that this military coup could worsen the refugee crisis. Ongoing violence in the Northern and Central parts of the country have forced Malians to go South. The violence has made education and necessities unavailable. Additionally, displaced Malians are dealing with food insecurity. Currently, Mali has “45,000 refugees and 250,000 internally displaced people.”
Furthermore, economic sanctions on Mali could worsen the economy. ECOWAS has prohibited economic flows between its 15 members and Mali. As of 2019, 42.7% of Mali’s population is living in extreme poverty. China has been one of the major sources for financing economic development in Mali. China opposes the coup by force and is calling for peace because internal instability could halt the Chinese development plans, which could be detrimental to Mali’s already unstable economy.
In addition, the military coup throws Mali into further political, economic and social chaos. Mali has had several political conflicts since its independence from French colonial rule in 1960. More recently, the public celebration of Keita’s resignation suggests that public discontent was widespread and far more deep-rooted than initially thought. Many people consider this coup not just to be a coup against Keita’s leadership, but a coup against a system that was not working for the Malian people as a whole.
Aid to the People
Although the coup could lead the country into further instability, it is evident that the National Committee for the Salvation of the People is willing to work with international leaders to create a system that works specifically for the Malian people. In addition, though some NGOs have had trouble sustaining long term humanitarian relief in Mali due to consistent military insurgencies, there has been some important work.
The European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations has not given up on providing aid to these communities facing political instability. In 2020 alone, the EU has provided almost €30 million in assistance to Mali. This funding helps refugees seeking safety from violence, those suffering from food shortages, and those dealing with the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic. Funds go towards shelter, food, sanitation and education.
Clearly, more work is needed to improve the situation the military coups in Mali has caused. The government needs to stabilize and, should the National Committee for the Salvation of the People remain in power, it will need to improve the living conditions of the people in the country.
– Camryn Anthony