“Mali crisis was predictable, except for IBK”

Malian researcher Brema Ely Dicko explains why President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's arrest by the army comes as no surprise.Who are…

Malian researcher Brema Ely Dicko explains why President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s arrest by the army comes as no surprise.Who are the soldiers who arrested President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse? And what are their motivations?

The coup was carried out by the army, the gendarmerie and the national guard. 

The first reason of their action is the social and political situation that saw massive protest marches organized by the ‘Mouvement du 5 Juin – Rassemblement des Forces Patriotiques (M5-RFP), a heteroclite group of political activists, civil society and religious figures, including the well-known Imam Mahmoud Dicko. 

Since June 5, this movement has been regularly staging street demonstrations demanding IBK’s departure.

The arrest of the president, his Prime Minister and several senior government officials may also have a link with the dismissal on Monday by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of his second aide-de-camp. 

The latter is an officer living in the Kati army barracks, in the suburbs of Bamako, from where the mutineers left on Tuesday to arrest the head of state and his underlings. 

The reason that triggered the intervention of the army was an attempt to arrest the dismissed aide-de-camp at the Kati military barracks, a move vehemently opposed by his supporters. 

Subsequently, there were warning shots and the mutinous soldiers seized the opportunity presented by the fluidity of the situation to move towards the capital and take on the authorities.

Was the handwriting on the wall?

It was a scenario that everyone had feared for some time, except perhaps President IBK and his entourage. 

They thought that the popular movement demanding the departure of the main occupant at the Koulouba presidential palace would run out of steam over time or that a political compromise was still possible, even if it had to be struck with only a few of the protesters who would accept to join a national unity government.

This blindness of the presidential side had no objective reason, however. 

The general climate in the country should call for caution. 

The failure of mediation initiated by the Economic Community of West African States and entrusted to former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, should have served as a telltale sign. 

The discontent repeatedly expressed by the families of soldiers engaged in the fight against jihadist militias and who regularly suffer deadly attacks should have pushed IBK and his entourage to be more flexible with his opponents and beware of a possible coup by at least part of the army.

What are the possible consequences of the military intervention on the country’s political situation?

In the early hours of the army’s movement towards the capital, their action was condemned by France, the United States and ECOWAS. 

If they do not quickly reach an agreement with President IBK, one can expect political and economic sanctions against Mali, a poor country with limited resources and confronted for almost ten years of conflict with jihadist movements. 

The hypothesis should be taken very seriously, especially since Mali is located in a region where several countries are threatened by instability, due to crises involving the future of sitting heads of state. 

In neighboring Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire, the ambition of their current presidents to run for a third term portends a dangerous situation. 

In these countries, soldiers could take inspiration from their Malian military counterparts and seize power by force.

Maliian soldiers have no choice but to start dialogue as soon as possible with IBK’s party and the leaders of the protest movement, who wanted the president out. 

The aim of this dialogue is to find a solution to the crisis which should lead to the kind of government that would initiate inclusive reforms given that the main problem for Mali under IBK was above all a question of governance.