Mali is in the midst of its most serious political crisis in years. Thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent days, demanding the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The situation is so volatile that the Presidents of six countries in Africa flew to the capitol of Mali to try and mediate a solution to this crisis, though their intervention did not quell the protest movement.

Why is Mali in a deep crisis?

In 2012, Ethnic Tuareg separatists in northern Mali declared independence and launched an offensive to take control of territory they claimed as part of their new country. For a time, they joined forces with hard-core Jihadi groups and succeeded in evicting government forces from large swaths of northern Mali, including the city of Timbuktu. Soon, though, the partnership between the Islamists and the ethnic separatists frayed, with Islamist groups wresting control of captured territory from the Tuareg separatists, imposing harsh Islamist rule in areas under their control.

Soon, the Jihadist forces renewed their offensive against the government of Mali. It was at this point that the Malian government asked for international assistance. The French military intervened directly on their behalf, beating back the Jihadist insurgency. Meanwhile, a UN Peacekeeping force, now known as MINUSMA, deployed to stabilize areas that were formerly controlled by insurgents.

In 2015, a peace agreement negotiated between President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and key armed groups affiliated with the Tuareg separatists ushered in a new constitutional order. Since then, the country has nevertheless been beset by instability. It is, for example, the deadliest UN peacekeeping mission–by far.

 

The June 2020 Protest Movement in Mali

This recent history provides useful context and background for this Global Dispatches podcast conversation with Amadou Bocoum. He is the Mali Director for the NGO Search for Common Ground and I caught up with him from Bamako, the capital city which is in the south of the country.

Since June, there have been a number of major protests in Bamako against president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. These protests are united under an umbrella group called the June 5 Movement, which was the day of the first protest. But on June 11th, these protests escalated quickly–and became deadly. Several protesters were killed in what has become the worst political crisis in Mali since that 2015 peace accord.

In our conversation, Amadou Bocoum describes how these protests were sparked by a court decision to annul the results of parliamentary elections of 31 opposition candidates. But as he explains the discontent that is driving these protests runs much deeper.

This is a very useful conversation about a crisis that is very much unfolding at the present time — and is one that is of profound regional and international significance.

 

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