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Mali, Recipient of $140 Million in Canadian Foreign Aid, Undergoes Military Takeover

Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has resigned following a successful coup at a military base in Kati where he had been taken captive.

The Big Picture: The Malian coup d’état comes following months of protests from concerned citizens, who are fed up with growing jihadist insurgency in the north, the impending collapse of the domestic economy along with suspected corruption among the government’s elite.

  • In July, the president’s son, Karim Keita, resigned from his role as Chair of the Parliamentary Defence Committee after a video surfaced of him aboard a luxury yacht.

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How it Unfolded:

  • On Tuesday morning, citizens awoke to the sound of military vehicles roaming the streets in the direction of Kati, an important military base close to the capital city, Bamako.
  • By Tuesday evening, Malian rank-and-file soldiers had arrested several important government officials, including President Keita, Prime Minister Boubou Cissé and Finance Minister Abdoulaye Daffe.
  • Shortly thereafter came the resignation of President Keita and the dissolution of the government.
  • The nation awoke to jubilation Wednesday morning as soldiers blasted music from their jeeps and fired bullets in the air.
  • During an overnight telecast on Wednesday, Colonel Assimi Goita established a temporary junta labelled the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, of which he is the chair.
  • Colonel-Major Ismael Wague made an address to the people of Mali, in which he denounced the fallen government as “weak and complacent”.

Several countries have denounced the coup:

  • The foreign ministers of France, the United States, Canada, Russia, Turkey and China all condemned the coup.
  • The United Nations Security Council scheduled a closed meeting on Wednesday to discuss the unfolding situation.
  • President Keita had received broad support from Western Allies, especially France, which hosts over 5,000 soldiers in the region to combat Islamist insurgents.

What it Means for Canada:

  • Canada is one of Mali’s primary donors for international assistance and has deployed both military and expert police to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
  • Foreign Minister François-Phillipe Champagne last visited the country in January 2020, where he announced funding for several projects costing more than $78.9 million.
  • Mali is one of the top recipients of Canadian foreign aid, with $139 million being invested in the country in 2019. Global Affairs Canada states this aid goes towards all sorts of programs from poverty alleviation to supporting security reform, including small arms management.

What happens next:

Two possibilities emerge following the coup d’etat. An election takes place and restores the democratic structure of the country with new personnel. A more aggressive possibility is that charismatic Imam Mahmoud Dicko, known as “the people’s imam” and the de facto leader of the opposition movement, takes broader control of governance in the region.

  • Dicko has spoken out against the “Westernization” of the country and successfully lobbied against gender equality legislation.
  • He also successfully petitioned for the removal of a school textbook that discussed homosexuality.

The Bottom Line:

The coup d’état could be a massive moment not only for Mali’s history but for the future of all West Africa. Should the deeply traditional Imam Mahmoud Dicko have a broader influence on domestic policies, Mali could quickly turn into a theocratic republic to the chagrin of its Western allies. If such an inroad occurs, more direct foreign involvement could result.

  • For now, Malian citizens are concerned with their own safety from the looming threat of violent insurgents. The so-called “people’s imam” may offer an antidote for these concerns.
  • The National Committee for the Salvation of the People has promised elections within a “reasonable” amount of time. It remains to be seen how the junta will move forward, and which notable figures will be elected in Keita’s place.

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