Security Council Consultations on Mali Coup d’État via VTC*
Tomorrow afternoon (26 May), Security Council members are expected to hold closed videoconference (VTC) consultations on Mali following yesterday’s (24 May) arrest of transitional President Bah N’daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane by military officers. Special Representative and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) El-Ghassim Wane is expected to brief, giving his first briefing in this capacity. France and the “A3 plus one” (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) requested the consultations. At the time of writing, Council members were negotiating a press statement on the developments.
The crisis occurs as Mali has been attempting to implement a political transition following the August 2020 coup d’état. Yesterday’s coup was preceded by ten days during which the transitional government was reshuffled. On 14 May, the transitional government led by Prime Minister Ouane resigned. President N’Daw reappointed Ouane that same day, instructing him to form a new “broad-based” government. This came amid renewed social unrest and recent demands for the government’s dissolution by the June 5 Movement, which organised months of protests last year against former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta before he was ousted by the military in August.
Yesterday (24 May), Ouane announced the formation of the new government, in which the military—which has maintained a strong role in the transition-—retained the key ministries of defense, security, territorial administration and national reconciliation, although two officers formerly heading these ministries were replaced. However, soon after the new government was announced, the military arrested N’Daw, Ouane, and the newly appointed minister of defense, who are being held in a military base outside of Bamako.
Today (25 May) transitional vice-president Colonel Assimi Goïta, a leader of the August 2020 coup, announced that he had taken power. In a statement read on national television, Goïta maintained that he had not been consulted in the government reshuffle and blamed N’Daw and Ouane for nationwide strikes and protests. Goïta stated that the elections planned for February 2022, in accordance with the 18-month timeline brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for restoring an elected government, would take place as scheduled.
The new coup has triggered international condemnation. A 24 May joint statement by the local transition monitoring committee based in Mali, comprised of the AU, ECOWAS, MINUSMA, and other representatives of the international community including France, Germany, the UK, the US and the EU, demanded the “immediate and unconditional release” of the transitional leaders. The committee further called for the transition to “resume its course and be concluded on schedule” and stressed that the “reckless action” risks “weakening the mobilization of the international community in favor of Mali”. Today (25 May) French President Emmanuel Macron threatened targeted EU sanctions against those who carried out the coup, while the European Council echoed the EU’s readiness to consider targeted measures in its conclusions of a summit held on 24 and 25 May. An ECOWAS delegation led by its Mediator to Mali Goodluck Jonathan arrived in Mali today (25 May) to try to resolve the crisis.
Wane is likely to brief members on the developments and reiterate messages from the 24 May joint statement, including the need to restore the country’s transitional arrangements under civilian leadership. Any progress in the ECOWAS mediation before the Council meeting is likely to be reflected in his remarks. Council members are likely to strongly condemn the coup. They may further express support to regional efforts and call for restoring the political transition. It seems that France, the penholder on Mali, has proposed a draft press statement that underscores such elements.
Even before the recent crisis, there was concern about whether the transitional authorities could implement key reforms, including critical electoral reforms to hold elections within the transition calendar. Council members are likely to express frustration about this setback to the transition process, which has already diverted attention in recent months from implementing Mali’s 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement between the government and armed groups in northern Mali. It also occurs as terrorism and intercommunal violence destabilise central Mali and the wider Sahel region and while extremist groups may be seeking to expand their presence into southern Mali.
Following last year’s coup d’état, the Council sought to support ECOWAS’ mediation efforts. Once a political transition was agreed, the Council welcomed the new arrangements in an October 2020 presidential statement, which set out expectations that the authorities would complete the transition in the 18-month timetable while continuing to implement the 2015 peace agreement, carrying out efforts to stabilise central Mali and combating terrorism. The presidential statement also requested that MINUSMA support the transition within “its mandate and existing resources”. Council members have started preparing for next month’s MINUSMA mandate renewal. The mission’s role in supporting the political transition, in a freshly complicated climate, is expected to be a key issue in Council members’ considerations on possible updates to MINUSMA’s mandate.
*Post-Script: On 26 May, the Council issued a press statement (SC/14532) strongly condemning the arrest of Mali’s transitional president and prime minister.