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Growing international rejection of the coup in Mali

In the aftermath of the second Malian coup in under a year, international and regional positions continued to unfold, calling on national and international actors to support the Malian state institutions and rule of law as a means to prevent recurring crises, ensure respect for human rights, and reiterate the need for engaging in a dialogue to restore peace, stability, and fundamental freedoms in Mali. 

Mali’s Constitutional Court appointed Assimi Goita as an interim president two days after declaring himself interim leader on 28 May 2021, pursuant to Article 37 of the Constitution. Guetta was officially sworn in before the Supreme Court on 7 June 2021 at the Centre International de Conferences de Bamako (CICB).

Suspension of membership and cooperation with Mali

On 30 May 2021, in an extraordinary summit on the situation in Mali, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) decided to suspend Mali from the ECOWAS institutions, without imposing sanctions similar to those imposed in the wake of the first coup of August 2020. The ECOWAS also renewed the call for the immediate appointment of a new civilian prime minister; however, it did not call into question the legitimacy of the inauguration of Assimi Goita as a new interim president after ratification of Mali’s Constitutional Court nor demanded his stepping down. As a consequence of suspension, Mali will not be able to attend or host ECOWAS meetings, take up regional or sub-regional positions affiliated with the ECOWAS, or assume the presidency of the ECOWAS.

Days following the ECOWAS’ suspension of Mali, the African Union (AU) took a similar step as recognized in a statement by the African Peace and Security Council on 1 June 2021, in which it suspended Mali until restoration of normal constitutional order in the country. In its statement, the AU called on the Malian military to urgently and unconditionally return to its barracks and to refrain from any future interference in the political process calling for creating favorable conditions that pave the way for an unimpeded return to democracy warning that failing to hand power over to a civilian authority will urge the AU to impose targeted sanctions and other punitive measures on Mali without hesitation.   

Mali’s isolation further grew by the International Organization of La Francophonie’s decision on 3 June 2021 to suspend Mali’s membership and its participation in all decision-making bodies until restoration of the democratic rule. Concomitantly, on 4 June 2021, the World Bank temporarily suspended its financial operations in Mali funded by its affiliated International Development Association (IDA) valued at $1.5 billion. The United States has also suspended all of its security assistance to Mali.

Deliberations and emergency summit on Mali

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) closely monitors the political developments in Mali and has reiterated its commitment to work with the ECOWAS and AU to support Mali’s successful implementation of the transitional agenda and its return to normal constitutional order and rule of law through free and transparent elections. To that end, Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana and current Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government hosted a summit in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, aimed at reviewing the current political and social crisis in Mali, defining the next course of action for transition, and examining the context of security challenges and the ongoing terrorist attacks, reiterating the importance and necessity of respecting the democratic process along the lines of the 2001 ECOWAS Protocol on democracy and good governance, particularly Article No. 45 thereof. 

The summit put forward a set of recommendations calling for the appointment of a new civilian prime minister, forming a new inclusive government for completion of the transitional period, and emphasizing the need to uphold the interim period for 18 months till the presidential elections are held on 27 February 2022, noting that a supervisory mechanism will be set up for monitoring the elections which will not see the participation of transitional president and vice president.

France’s suspension of joint military operations 

French President Emmanuel Macron warned of the risks of Mali’s coming under a greater Islamist influence. Macron’s statements came simultaneously with France’s announcement of restructuring its military presence in the Sahel. The French President described the new coup as a “risk” that will cause Mali to be more open to radical Islamism.

Relatedly, calls for a dialogue with armed groups reverberated in Mali during the transitional period. In October 2020, Mali’s transitional government expressed its willingness to open dialogue with armed groups but France opposed the idea. During his visit to Bamako on 6 October 2020, France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, made clear his divergent position on dialogue with weapon bearers, a position which the UN Security Council and G5 Sahel (G5S) endorse.

On 3 June 2021, the French Armed Forces announced France’s temporary suspension of its joint military operations with the Malian forces. The statement of the French armed forces said that the “requirements and red lines have been set by the ECOWAS and AU to clarify the framework for the political transition in Mali” noting that the suspension decision has been made after consultations with the Malian authorities and army and that the decision will be re-evaluated in the coming days while the French forces will continue to operate independently in Mali. This statement serves as a warning to figures in the transitional government who call for dialogue with armed groups and reiterates the need for assurances that civilians will return to positions of power and the democratic life will be restored.    

In a joint press conference with Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, announced the participation of hundreds of German soldiers in missions of the MINUSMA and the European Union Training Missions (EUTM). Between 2016 -2020, Germany spent close to €3.2 billion, on civil stabilization measures in the G5S. Merkel stressed the need to continue deployments provided that red lines are not crossed, elections are held, no communication is made with jihadist movements, and an exchange agreement is reached on developments in Mali.

In response to France’s suspension of joint operations with the Malian forces, the Malian Ministry of Foreign Affairs received on 4 June 2021, Joel Mayer, the French ambassador to Mali, for calming down and searching  for a solution. The official statement published at the end of the meeting stressed that Mali will respect its commitments vis-à-vis the international community and reiterated France’s affirmation of the importance of partnership between the two countries in combating terrorism, provided that Mali makes pledges and provides assurances pertaining to the transitional period.

In short, the recent coup in Mali gives rise to political uncertainty, exacerbates intra-state social tensions and ethnic divisions, poses security challenges, increases terrorist attacks, and leaves Mali regionally and internationally isolated, particularly after the suspension of its membership in the regional ECOWAS and the continental AU in addition to the suspension of security assistance from major international support institutions

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