posted on Wed 19 Aug 2020 12:10 PM
Security Council Closed Videoconference on Mali

This afternoon (19 August), Security Council members will hold a closed videoconference (VTC) on Mali after soldiers arrested President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and other government officials yesterday (18 August). Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is expected to brief. France, which is the penholder on Mali, and Niger asked for the meeting, and it is likely that Council members will issue a press statement following the session.

The unfolding developments began yesterday at the Kati military base about 15 kilometres outside Bamako, where soldiers reportedly detained senior officers and seized weapons. (Kati is the same base from which soldiers led by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo launched the coup d’état in 2012.) After taking over the base, the soldiers advanced on to Bamako and arrested President Keita, Prime Minister Boubou Cissé and other high-ranking officials.

The crisis comes amid large protests since June by a coalition of opposition parties and civil society groups led by influential religious leader Iman Mahmoud Dicko, who have been demanding Keita’s resignation over Mali’s insecurity, corruption, the weak economy, and disputed election results. In late April, the Constitutional Court annulled the results for 31 seats of this year’s legislative elections to the benefit of Keita’s ruling party, which was a trigger for the protests known as the June 5 Movement.

Last night, Keita announced in a televised address that he was resigning and said that he had agreed to dissolve the National Assembly and the government. Members of the military also made a televised announcement today, and a spokesman for the soldiers, Col. Maj. Ismael Wague, said that they plan to set up a transitional government and would hold new elections after a “reasonable time”, stating that they had intervened over growing “chaos, insecurity and anarchy” and were “keen on the stability” of Mali and on having “strong institutions capable of better managing our everyday lives”.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been mediating between the June 5 Movement and the government. A red line for ECOWAS has always been any unconstitutional ascension to power, which it has said it would “not tolerate”. In an initial statement yesterday, ECOWAS reiterated its firm opposition to any unconstitutional political change and condemned the “current attempt”. Late last night, ECOWAS issued a second statement, denouncing the “power grab by Malian military putschists” and demanding the release of Keita and other arrested officials. ECOWAS said that it was suspending Mali from all decision-making bodies of the regional organisation, as it did after the 2012 coup and was closing all land and air borders with Mali. It also requested the immediate activation of the ECOWAS Standby Force and demanded the immediate implementation of sanctions against all putschists and their partners and collaborators.

Other multilateral organisations and governments also condemned yesterday’s developments. A statement by the chairman of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, “strongly condemn[ed]” the detention of Keita and other government officials, rejected any attempt to change the government unconstitutionally, and called on “ECOWAS, the UN and entire international community to combine our collective efforts to oppose any use of force as a means to end the political crisis in Mali”. In a statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres also condemned the arrests, and demanded “the immediate restoration of constitutional order” and the “unconditional release” of Mali’s leaders”. The EU “condemns the attempted coup d’état under way in Mali and rejects all unconstitutional change”, according to a statement by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. In addition to this afternoon’s Security Council meeting, the AU Peace and Security Council met today on the situation and announced that it was suspending Mali from the AU until constitutional order is restored.

During today’s Security Council meeting, members are also likely to condemn violence and actions outside of the constitutional framework. Council members will be interested in gaining more information on the unfolding developments, including any links between the soldiers and the opposition movement, which have not been clear. As they followed developments around last month’s protest, they have backed the ECOWAS efforts. After a 27 July closed VTC on Mali, Council members said in press elements that they strongly supported the ECOWAS mediation and took note of the ECOWAS recommendations earlier that day during a virtual summit of West African heads of state. The president of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, is the current chair of the ECOWAS Authority. Council members are also likely to discuss developments in Mali during their monthly luncheon (via VTC) with the Secretary-General ahead of this afternoon’s meeting.

Later this month, the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution that renews the Mali sanctions regime. The sanctions—an assets freeze and travel ban—were established in 2017 as a tool to pressure the government and armed groups in northern Mali to implement the 2015 Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, support to which is the primary strategic priority of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). In addition to the agreement’s slow implementation, yesterday’s events in Bamako come as Mali struggles to stem widespread insecurity in its northern and central regions from terrorist groups and intercommunal violence.