The dangerous game of Assimi Goïta

Mali: The dangerous game of Assimi Goïta
The transitional vice president caught everyone off guard by leading a second coup in nine months. But in the face of international pressure, how far can he go?

It is difficult to define, this colonel of the special forces… And not only because of this beige choker which he has taken the habit of raising on his face as an anti-Covid mask. Who is Assimi Goïta really? What is he looking for? Many of those who have frequented or crossed paths with him answer the same thing: man is an enigma. He does not speak or very little. He never lets his feelings show. And when he moves, he is often surrounded by a praetorian guard who forms an impassable cordon around him.

By leading a second coup in nine months, the 38-year-old coup officer once again caught everyone by surprise. Monday, May 24, after the officialization of a ministerial reshuffle removing two of his relatives, Colonels Sadio Camara and Modibo Koné, respectively Ministers of Defense and Security, his blood only turns. He arrested Bah N’Daw, the president of the transition, and Moctar Ouane, the prime minister, and demanded that they be taken to the Kati military camp.

Certainly, in recent days, Bamako was buzzing with rumors about the tensions between the executive couple and the head of the junta which overthrew Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta last August. But no one imagined that Mali would fall so abruptly into a new constitutional vacuum.

Sole master on board

To justify his coup, Goïta le taiseux does not speak but publishes a press release. He affirms that the eviction of Modibo Koné and Sadio Camara from the government, against his will, is a “violation of the transitional charter” and of the “oath taken. [par Bah N’Daw] September 25, 2020 ”. He goes on to explain that he saw himself “in the obligation to act” to “preserve the transitional charter and defend the Republic”, and specifies that “the transition process follows its normal course” and that “the planned elections will be held in 2022 ”.

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Less than 48 hours later, and despite pressure from foreign partners and international organizations, the killer Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta obtained the heads of N’Daw and Ouane. Like the former head of state, also taken by force to Kati after being overthrown on August 18, the two men were forced to resign by a quarteron of officers from the former National Committee for the hello to the people (CNSP, officially dissolved). All under the dumbfounded eye of diplomats from ECOWAS who came to try a mediation. “You are just kids,” Bah N’Daw blurted out to them, as furious as he was helpless as he signed his resignation letter.

“Either he’s very sure of himself or he’s lost his mind

Assimi Goita does not care about the reprimands of his elder, who, like him, came out of the army. And it proves to those who are still looking to probe his intimate springs that he is not cold-eyed: the vice-president proclaims himself the new president of the transition. On the evening of May 26, he sent his special adviser, Commander Baba Cissé, to the press to justify his seizure of power.

This evokes deep differences with Bah N’Daw and points to the mismanagement of the State by Moctar Ouane. This time, things are clear: Assimi Goïta intends to be the only master on board, even if the boat seems to be adrift. Even if it means giving reason to those who, from Paris to Abidjan via Niamey, were worried about the ambitions of the former student of the military Prytanee of Kati.

“The situation could very quickly degenerate”

How far will the mysterious Goïta go? Difficult to know, as each day drains its share of twists and turns on the banks of the Niger River. “Either he is very sure of himself, or he has lost his mind,” notes a high-ranking official dubiously. “It is difficult to see how all of this can prosper,” adds another.

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For now, the various components of the army are watching attentively but not moving. As in August, this new coup has the merit of having been perpetrated without a shot being fired or a victim being to be deplored.

“Assimi Goïta, Malick Diaw, Ismaël Wague, Sadio Camara… The CNSP officers all have different ambitions. Tensions may even have existed between them. For three days, they give the impression of being rather on the same line. But if their unit shatters for one reason or another, the situation could very quickly degenerate, ”analyzes a shrewd observer. The deadly fights between red berets and green berets after Amadou Haya Sanogo’s coup d’état against Amadou Toumani Touré in 2012 are still in everyone’s mind.

Coming from the special forces, the new leader of the transition can count on the support of this elite corps. It also benefits from the support of the National Guard, of which Colonels Sadio Camara and Modibo Koné are members. It is very present in Bamako and is responsible for presidential security. Finally, there is no doubt that Goïta also enjoys a certain popularity in the barracks of Kati.

“He will have a lot of trouble holding on”

There remains the question of the support of public opinion and the attitude of the international community. Internally, only the Movement of June 5 – Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP) seems to adapt to the situation, with in particular a possible post of Prime Minister in sight. But many voices have already been raised against this new putsch. Moussa Mara, Housseini Amion Guindo, part of the members of M5-RFP, the Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) ​​of the late Soumaïla Cissé, the Party for the National Renaissance (Parena) of Tiébilé Dramé… Number of officials and many parties denounced this derailment of the transition.

“If the heads of state of the region close the central bank in Bamako, the junta will quickly be suffocated

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Ditto for several civil society bodies, such as the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), the Malian Association for Human Rights (AMDH) or the order of the Bâtonniers… “In August, the street had brought the putschists to power. Today, popular enthusiasm is much lower, ”said a foreign analyst.

Beyond the Malian borders, from ECOWAS to the African Union via the United Nations, the condemnations are unanimous. Same thing in the capitals of West Africa, except perhaps in Lomé, Faure Gnassingbé maintaining rather good relations with the new strong man of Bamako. For its part, the United States “strongly condemned” the arrest of the leaders of the transition, threatened the putschists with sanctions and suspended their assistance to the Malian defense and security forces.

As for Emmanuel Macron, who was relatively well disposed towards the Malian transition a few months ago, he quickly denounced a “coup d’état in the coup” and referred to “immediate measures of targeting against military and political leaders who are hampering the transition ”.

Some also point to the much less vehement tone of the French president towards Mahamat Idriss Déby and the Chadian high-ranking officers who seized power in N’Djamena after the death of Idriss Déby Itno on April 18.

Rare actor of weight not to have stepped up to the niche, and many of whom evoke links with Colonels Sadio Camara and Modibo Koné: Russia, whose rivalry with France is growing on the continent.

“If Goïta persists despite international pressure, he will have a hard time holding on,” predicts a West African diplomat. There is a very effective and politically fairly easy measure to take: the closure of the Bamako central bank by Uemoa. If the heads of state of the region decide to cut the tap, the junta will quickly be suffocated. A radical solution which would also have serious social consequences for the Malian population.

Author: Young Africa – Young Africa


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