5 Things To Know About The Military Coup In Mali

5 Things To Know About The Military Coup In Mali

The leader of the coup received U.S. military training: 5 things you should know about the military coup in Mali. Photo: Col.-Maj. Ismael Wague, center, spokesman for the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, holds a press conference at Camp Soudiata in Kati, Mali, Aug. 19, 2020, a day after armed soldiers took Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta into custody. African and Western leaders condemned the coup, warning it could exacerbate Islamic extremism. (AP Photo)

Some people rejoiced in the streets of Mali after a group of military colonels seized power, but not everyone is happy about the coup in this West African country, where French soldiers and U.N. peacekeepers have been fighting jihadist groups, The BBC reported.

Mali has a population of 19.077 million with 42.36 percent living in urban areas. The country’s gross domestic product is $17.2 billion and the per capita income is $901, according to World Bank statistics.

Here are five things you should know about the military coup in Mali.

What happened

Soldiers staged a mutiny at a key military base in Kati, a town close to Bamako. Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, Prime Minister Boubou Cissé, and other senior government officials were arrested by the military.

Around midnight on Aug. 18, Keïta announced he was resigning. “The events came amid a weeks-long political crisis that has seen opposition protesters taking to the streets to demand the departure of Keïta, accusing him of allowing the country’s economy to collapse and mishandling a worsening security situation,” Al Jazeera reported.

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Keïta said he did not have a choice.

“Today, certain parts of the military have decided that intervention was necessary. Do I really have a choice? Because I do not wish blood to be shed,” Keïta said.

Coup leader was trained by U.S. military

The U.S. Pentagon has confirmed that the military officer who declared himself in charge after leading the Mali coup that ousted the president was trained in the U.S.

Col. Assimi Goita is the head of the junta in power and he worked for years with U.S. Special Operations forces. His work with U.S. forces focused on fighting extremism in West Africa. 

Goita also received training from Germany and France.

“By making this intervention, we have put Mali first,” Goita said in an Aug. 20 broadcast alongside top government officials. “Mali is in a sociopolitical and security crisis. There is no more room for mistakes.”

Goita participated in U.S. Africa Command training exercises in West Africa known as Flintlock, The Washington Post reported. He also attended a Joint Special Operations University bilateral seminar at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

“The act of mutiny in Mali is strongly condemned and inconsistent with U.S. military training and education,” said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Anton T. Semelroth, a Pentagon spokesman.

In 2019, Mali received $342.95 million in U.S. government appropriations, according to ForeignAssistance.gov. For fiscal year 2020, Mali requested $78,925,000 from the U.S. government.

The Malian military will receive no more support from the U.S. until further review, Pentagon spokesman Semelroth said.

Neighbors not happy

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to which Mali belongs, has condemned the coup. The community has demanded Keïta’s reinstatement as president. The organization has moved to suspend Mali from its decision-making body, Al Jazeera reported.

National Committee for the Salvation of the People

The soldiers behind the coup are calling themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People. They appeared on state TV vowing to stabilize the country. 

“We are not holding on to power but we are holding on to the stability of the country,” said Ismail Wague, deputy chief of staff of the Mali Air Force.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wague said.

2012 Malian coup

Mali hasn’t been able to regain stability since an uprising of the Tuareg people in 2012 that was hijacked by Islamist militants.

In the 2012Malian coup, mutinying soldiers, upset over the government’s handling of the Tuareg rebellion, attacked several locations in the capital Bamako, including the presidential palace, state TV, and military barracks.

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Keïta, now 75, was elected in 2013 following the 2012 coup and promised to bring peace and stability and fight corruption. He won a second five-year term in 2018, Reuters reported.

Prior to this week’s coup, there have been months of protests over corruption allegations. At least 14 people were killed in July during demonstrations.