Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has been ousted from power, removed by troops unwilling to keep up a bloody fight against jihadists and religious extremists who have been gaining ground while charges of corruption against the government continue to pile up.
The “mutinous” army had been taking heavy casualties in the seemingly endless fighting despite vast quantities of international support, training and intelligence pouring in from the U.S. and France. The U.N. alone spends $11.2 billion annually on a peacekeeping mission with 16,600 peacekeepers.
While frustration was building in the military, citizens in the cities were taking to the streets by the thousands to protest alleged corruption, the lack of economic opportunity, the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and disputed legislative elections in March.
The protests were led by a coalition of religious and political leaders, known as the June 5 Movement, who have since expressed support for the military insurgents.
This week ended months of civil unrest when Malian troops took over the capital city, Bamako, to the cheers of thousands seen widely on media videos. Col. Assimi Goita, a Malian military officer, declared himself provisional leader of the country. “By making this intervention,” he said, “we have put Mali first. Mali is in a sociopolitical and security crisis. There is no more room for mistakes.”
Goita was the true force behind the coup, according to the French news agency AFP.
Until this latest development, the 44 year old Goita enjoyed a long and deep relationship with the United States, according to Pentagon sources of the Washington Post. He worked for years with U.S. Special Operations forces focused on fighting extremism in West Africa, attended U.S.-led training sessions and spoke regularly with U.S. troops.
Goita also took part in U.S. Africa Command exercises known as Flintlock. He attended a Joint Special Operations University bilateral seminar at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, the Defense Department was reported to say.
The commander of the country’s Autonomous Special Forces Battalion, Goita shared his frustration with colleagues about the rising violence in Mali, sending out videos of torched villages on WhatsApp.
Keita had hoped concessions to opponents and recommendations from a mediating delegation of regional leaders would help stem the tide of dissatisfaction, but the protest leaders rejected proposals to join a power-sharing government.
“Whether he’s been arrested or not, what is certain is that his end is near. God is granting our prayers. IBK is finished,” said Haidara Assetou Cisse, a teacher, referring to Keita by his initials.