Geopolitics

Mali: Second Military Coup Raises Questions At Home And Abroad

Nine months after the military installed a new interim leader, a young colonel has again taken over the country in what looks like pure power play. But it may not be so simple, and Malians and international allies alike worry about what happens next.

BAMAKO — Camp Soundiata-Keita is well guarded, and so are its secrets. On Saturday, May 29, in the village surrounding the military base, just 15 kilometers from the Malian capital, Bamako, strangers are met with suspicions and trepidation. "What are you doing here?" scolds a local woman, to an unfamiliar face. She is soon joined by a soldier on guard duty.

In these hills, the birthplace of all Mali"s coups over the years, tensions have remained high since the most recent ousting of the civilian government on May 24. Like the coup nine months ago, this one was also carried out by Colonel Assimi Goïta. In the interim, the mysterious special forces commander became Mali's vice-president. However, when transitional President Bah N'Daw formed a new government that excluded two people close to Goïta, the Colonel responded by arresting the transitional President and his Prime Minister Moctar Ouane. They, along with several other government officials, have since been released but were forced to resign.

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Mali Coup: Fractured Opposition Leads To Military Power Grab

After the Aug. 18 coup d'état in Mali, a growing popular protest movement that emerged in June may be quickly forgotten.

PARIS — The military coup that has taken place in Mali raises doubts about the continuation of the strong movement of popular protest that has, in recent weeks, taken on the appearance of a real revolution. In spite of the declarations of the "National Committee for the Salvation of the People," it is feared — as has happened before in Africa — that the military will begin to get used to holding power and "forget" to return it to civilians. Be that as it may, this coup, denounced by the entire international community, adds to longstanding pessimism toward the situation in Mali.

Since gaining independence in 1960, Mali has never ceased to create problems for the world's powerful countries, particularly France, which did everything possible to overthrow the socialist regime of Modibo Keïta, the country's first president. General Moussa Traoré"s coup d"état in 1968 and the establishment of a liberal system have somewhat eased concerns, despite the corruption that at the time flourished around the presidential family. This in turn fostered the emergence of a social movement leading to the advent of democracy in 1991 and Alpha Oumar Konaré — Mali's first fairly elected president — coming to power.

Reforms have increased support around Muslim religious leaders opposed to France.

During the years 1990-2000, Mali became a model of democratic rule, surpassing Senegal, which until then had been cited as the best example of African democracy. The successful democratic shift with President Amadou Toumani Touré in 2002 reassured Western powers that Mali had reached a stable democratic regime. This was despite rumors of the ruling class and senior officers in the Malian army being involved in corruption and drug trafficking, and Touré"s inability to implement more Western values in social policy reforms in the face of religious opposition.

This situation, together with the takeover of northern Mali (an area that became known as Azawad) in 2012 by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, resulted in the coup d"état led by officer Amadou Haya Sanogo, head of a motley coalition of Marxists and nationalists opposing the dismantling of the country. After the coup failed, interim President Dioncounda Traoré appealed to French President François Hollande to intervene militarily in Mali and stop the southwestward advance of jihadists.

Operation Serval led to the restoration of civilian power throughout the country, the temporary elimination of the jihadists and the triumphant election of Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta in 2013 with the support of Muslim leaders. Up until then, the power of the president was limited by an alliance between the Wahhabi Mahmoud Dicko and the Sufi Bouyé Haïdara who, after having supported Keïta, abandoned him during the 2018 presidential campaign.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in Bamako on Aug. 19 — Photo: Imago/Starface/ZUMA

Relations have since soured between the government, civil society and Muslim religious movements after the president was accused of wanting to increase his power by amending the Constitution, promoting homosexuality and the teaching of gender theory, while abolishing the practice of female genital mutilation. Such reforms have increased support around Muslim religious leaders opposed to France, such as Mahmoud Dicko and Bouyé Haïdara.

Added to this is the corruption, which appears to have gotten closer to the presidential family for some time. Another reason for the ire of the Malian nationalists is that the government, through the 2015 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, is said to have agreed to grant autonomy to the Azawad region.

It all amounted to an explosive cocktail that led to the formation of the heterogeneous coalition of the Movement of June 5 - Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP) and the popular demonstrations that followed.

Time will tell whether this revolution can continue.

The fact remains that these demonstrations and the existence of the M5-RFP movement have shown that a real revolution is at work in Mali. This revolution is based on a political alliance between a Marxist and nationalist movement and another so-called "Islamist" movement, provided that it does not tie itself down to the supposedly Wahhabi character of Mahmoud Dicko.

This strong popular opposition, present especially in the capital of Bamako and other large cities, is rooted in a deeply Muslim population. They follow Dicko because he and his movement reflect the appearance of a truly Malian Islam, far from the Western and especially French fantasies that present its leader as being subservient to Saudi Arabia.

Time will tell whether this revolution can continue and produce the changes so long awaited by a people who, it seems, have accompanied with fervor the seizure of power by the military and the fall of Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta as its immediate consequence.

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Against Jihadism, The Power Of Art

With "Timbuktu," Abderrahmane Sissako searches deep to make artistic sense of the senseless horrors committed in the name of radical Islam. His movie has been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards.

PARIS — The expansion of jihadism these past 15 years puts our very concept of humanity at risk. We have, as such, long awaited the film that would artistically assess — and not only on sociological, political or spectacular levels — this extreme phenomenon. What was missing was a work that would complete the challenge of making something that shows so little concern for humanity exist as an aesthetic subject.

The old dilemma of art face-to-face with monstrosity. How should it be approached without betraying the subject, or betraying oneself? How should it be relayed without toning it down? Few works have managed to do so, whatever the name behind which the crime hides itself in history: law in Sophocles’ Antigone, war in Goya’s The Disasters of War or Picasso’s Guernica, genocide in Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah or Rithy Panh’s S-21, humiliation in Elia Suleiman’s Chronicle of a Disappearance.

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Rebuilding Timbuktu's Destroyed Heritage

Jihadists destroyed 14 of the 16 sacred mausoleums of the "city of 333 saints" two years ago. Local and international efforts are restoring the sites, an encouraging a more tolerant Islam.

TIMBUKTUSand and mounds of stone are everywhere. That’s all that’s left.

In Timbuktu, in the West African nation of Mali, the “cemetery of the three saints” now lies in ruins in the suffocating heat. It’s difficult for visitors to imagine that two years ago, two mausoleums of global significance stood here.

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Geopolitics
Jean-Loup Amselle

Not Only 'Neocolonialsm' - Why African States Keep Failing

As France embarks on its third military intervention in Africa in the past three years, in the Central African Republic, a search for the sources of a continent's perennial instability.

PARIS — The recent French interventions in North Africa (Libya, Mali), and the one that began last week in the Central African Republic, raise the question of the very existence of the state on the continent.

Even though anthropologists identified the existence in precolonial times of two types of societies — state societies represented by kingdoms and empires, and segmentary lineage society, organized in tribes — it is clear that the former's characteristics are very different from that of the rational bureaucratic state, which one can observe nowadays in most developed countries.

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Geopolitics
Jean-Philippe Rémy

In Mountains Of Northern Mali, France Faces Elusive Enemy And Quagmire Risk

French and Chadian troops search for terrorist groups who melt into the landscape and launch suicide attacks in the towns. Initial plans for France's rapid return home have been revised.

KIDAL - If you've ever stepped foot here, you might think the Adrar of Tigharghâr were created by the gods of rebellion. In the rocky mountains, a large stream flows, nourishing the heavy vegetation, something absolutely vital in this dry land where you face death at every corner if you don’t drink water or shield yourself from the elements.

And the rocks seem to have been naturally sculpted just so that you may rest in their shadow. In the past, these mountains were a base for the Tuaregs during their conflict against the Malian army or the French colonial forces. Today, it’s the theater of a crucial battle in the ongoing French military operation against the Islamic rebels affiliated with Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

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Sources

As Mali Turns, A French Take On Just Wars, Quagmire And Limits Of The UN

-Editorial-

PARIS - The problem with making statements when you are the President is that you have to follow through.

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Geopolitics

French Troops Seize Last Mali Rebel Stronghold, Paris Eyes Quick Exit

LE PARISIEN, LE NOUVEL OBSERVATEUR (France), THE GUARDIAN (UK)

Worldcrunch

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Geopolitics
Jean-Phillipe Rémy

Postcard From Mali - Riverside Whispers From A Nation At War

MOPTI - Each dugout canoe that arrives on the banks of Mopti, unloads its passengers, cargo -- and the latest news. In this dry and cold season, it takes a few days to reach Gao and Timbuktu, which are further up the Niger River.

These two cities are now seeing a crucial phase of the military operation against Islamist rebels allied to Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), in the form of French-Malian airstrikes. The telephone lines and roads are cut off. There are no outside witnesses. (On Tuesday, French military forces confirmed that together with the Mali army, they had taken solid control of both cities.)

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Geopolitics

French-Mali Forces Capture Timbuktu, Fleeing Islamists Burn Ancient Manuscripts

FRANCE 24, FRANCE TV INFO, AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE (France), REUTERS

Worldcrunch

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Geopolitics

Breakaway Mali Islamist Miliant Group Calls For Peace Talks

AFP, FRANCE 24 (France), REUTERS

Worldcrunch

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Geopolitics
Albert Bourgi

France's Intervention In Mali, And The Continental Spillover

The terrorist attack and hostage-taking in neighboring Algeria is just one of the ways that France's intervention in Mali could spread across Africa, and beyond.

PARIS - An unlikely bond unites France's two most recent heads of state, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande: they both gave the green light to interventions in Africa just a few months after taking office.

Sarkozy authorized action in Chad in 2008, and Hollande of course, has taken France into war in Mali this past week.

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Geopolitics
Jean-Philippe Rémy

In Mali's Capital, Where France Is Now Revered -- And Al Qaeda Is The Enemy

France's just launched military intervention in Mali has earned the old colonial power praise from those fearing Islamist extremists. The fight, however, has only just begun.

BAMAKO – They all came out at once, in the early afternoon of Sunday, in the center of Mali’s capital, Bamako – the little French flags, being sold by street vendors.

Down the road, a truck drives by with a huge blue-white-red banner flying in the wind, its loud speakers playing the 19th century French Sambre and Meuse Regiment military anthem full blast.

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Geopolitics

France At War: Military Intervention Launched In Mali

LE MONDE, LIBERATION, FRANCE 24 (France)

Worldcrunch

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