Soldiers in Mali on Tuesday arrested President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, as well as the prime minister and other top officials.
Why it matters: The uprising from within the military follows months of protests in the West African country. It’s unclear who will take charge if Keïta is removed from power, adding deep uncertainty to Mali’s intertwined political and security crises.
The big picture: Protests have rumbled on since June in the capital, Bamako, over corruption and a deteriorating security situation.
- Judd Devermont, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says, “Insecurity is the backdrop to this, but it’s really about political disillusionment and a sense that this is a government that is focused on enrichment and self-interest and not democracy — not addressing the needs of the public during a pandemic and an economic recession.”
- Keïta, two years into his second five-year presidential term, had resisted calls to resign but failed to appease the protesters.
Driving the news: Prime Minister Boubou Cissé called for dialogue after the mutiny began, before apparently being detained. State TV temporarily went off the air, and European embassies said they’d been warned that soldiers were heading toward Bamako.
- Protesters gathered to celebrate the news, particularly after rumors of Keïta’s arrest began to circulate, Reuters reports. Soldiers were greeted with cheers as they drove through the capital.
- “It was not immediately clear who was leading the mutineers, who would govern in Keita’s absence or what the mutineers’ motivations were. A military spokesman said he had no information,” Reuters notes.
What they’re saying: ECOWAS, a bloc of regional countries, urged the mutineers to “return to their positions without delay,” while the African Union said it “strongly rejects any attempt at the unconstitutional change of government in Mali.”
- France, which has ongoing counter-insurgency operations in Mali, also condemned the uprising. President Emmanuel Macron has discussed it with regional leaders, per AFP.
- The U.S. has also said it opposes “all extraconstitutional change” in Mali.
What to watch: “It’s incumbent on the region and its partners to stabilize the political situation as soon as possible because if this continues to spin out, it will create more opportunities for deterioration in the rest of the country,” Devermont says.
- The military handed over power to civilian leaders after the 2012 coup, but the instability also allowed extremist groups in north and central Mali to strengthen their positions.
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