Africa: Lessons From Mali –

After issuing threats of sanctions against Mali unless Ibrahim B. Keita was re-instated, ECOWAS is now negotiating to get the former President a safe exit to seek medical assistance. The coup is now a fait accompli. It could have been avoided and Keita could have completed his term and ideally organize free and fair elections in 2023. The problems of Mali did not start with Keita but he exacerbated the difficulties rather than resolve them. When he was elected in 2013, the greatest national priority was security. Jihadists had occupied 1/3 of the country. Under his watch, jihadists and militias have made 2/3 of the national territory ungovernable.

The insecurity affected every sphere of life. Tens of thousands were displaced. Food security, education, health, all crumbled.

As if all this was not enough, endemic corruption became a way of life for political class totally disconnected from the realities. Billions were stolen by government officials, most of the family members of the President. A good example was the purchase of military hardware that could neither be driven not flown. “Cardboard tanks,” they call them. Presidential jets. Palaces.

When people started to demonstrate, rather than discuss the real issues, Keita ran to ECOWAS for salvation. While enlisting ECOWAS to appease demonstrators on one hand, he unleashed security forces on the demonstrators on the other. Ironically, the leader of the coup, Colonel Assimi Goita was brought from the war front against jihadists to suppress demonstrations in the capital.

Finally, what broke the camel’s back was the constitutional changes introduced by Keita, in the midst of the pandemic to strengthen his hold on power and prepare for 2023.