The three factors that led to the coup in Mali

The three factors that led to the coup in Mali

The putschists who conducted a military coup in Mali, where political crises have continued since May, forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign, announcing that the elections would be held in the most reasonable time frame possible.

The Malian Air Force deputy chief of staff, Ismail Wague, who appeared on the state television ORTM with a group of soldiers, read a statement. Wague said that a period of civil and political transition would be experienced, upholding that “as National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) they have decided to take responsibility for the people and of history”. Stating that they did not seize power, Wague claimed that they were trying to maintain the stability of the country.

The Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS), a while before Wague’s announcement, strongly condemned the coup and announced that it closed the land and air borders with Mali and stopped all its commercial and economic activities.

We talked about the infrastructure of the crisis in Mali and its reflections on the region with the researcher on Africa, Kaan Devecioğlu, PhD Student in the Department of International Relations at Istanbul Medeniyet University:


Could you tell us about the process that led Mali to the military coup?

There have been four coups in Mali so far, the previous one took place 8 years ago. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who won the elections held after the coup in 2012, ruled his country under the shadow of the violent acts of extremist groups that exist in his country to date. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, protests have continued in recent months. Despite all these unfavorable conditions, Mali was shaken by the kidnapping of opposition leader Samuel Cisse 3 days before the election in March, and on election day, due to the fact that the ballot boxes were trashed, chaos arose in the northern and central regions of the country in the second round of elections in April. Regardless, Keita was elected, and the anger of the people moved in this direction. However, in this context, the Constitutional Court dropped 30 members of Keita’s party as attorneys.

The crisis escalated, and 14 people lost their lives on July 14 during the protests under the coordination of the Patriotic Forces Demonstration in partnership with the M5-RFP. As a matter of fact, this situation gave rise to the interpretation of many researchers that it paved the way for the coup. The coup ended with the resignation of Keita in the first hours of August 19, after the military mobilizations that started on August 18, and after the detentions in the evening hours.

In this respect, we can talk about three basic points that triggered the coup: first, the corruption and bad economic conditions in the country; the second being the accusations made in the UN report regarding the activities of senior administrators in the drug trade in Mali which caused disagreement between the military and civilian bureaucracy, and lastly, the dismissal of the Presidential security chief on the evening of August 17.

Revolution in Mali: Will the change in power spell the end of French influence?


In addition to the internal dynamics of the country regarding the factors that triggered the coup, the intervention of foreign countries is also actively being discussed. France stands out here in particular. What is the role of France in Mali? What is the importance of Mali in the context of the Libyan crisis?

France continues to exercise considerable power over its former colonies since their independence. In this context, they have built the new colonialism model within the framework of the CFA region on a dominant model in the context of political, sociological and cultural interests for about 60 years. The underlying reason for this situation is the excessive dependence of France on Francophone African resources to supply cheap raw materials.

It is useful to read the geopolitical interactions experienced in the Sahel in recent years as an effort to regain the areas that France lost in the power struggle in the 21st century. In Sahel geopolitics, Mali is central to France. As a matter of fact, France has 5,100 soldiers in this region. For example, France provides 80% of its electricity production from nuclear power, and only 50% of this need is from uranium obtained through the AREVA company in Niger. In this context, Mali’s gold, uranium and possible oil resources are indispensable for France.

Although it is not possible to make sharp comments on the intervention of foreign countries, it is noteworthy that Colonel Sadio Camara, Colonel Diaw, Lieutenant Colonel Mama Seku Lelenta, Brigadier General Cheick Fanta Mady Dembele were among the leaders of the Mali coup.

The Great Anti-French Revolution in Mali: Françafrique Fails

In the post-coup period, we can predict that three names from the civilian and military wings will come to the fore: Imam Mahmud Dicko, who was active in the civilian protests and respected by the majority of the non-violent Islamic wing in the country; from the military wing, Colonel Sadio Camara and Colonel Malik Diaw, who is only 25 years old.


The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement, expressing concern and stressing that Turkey would continue to stand by Mali. How does this phenomenon reflect on Turkey-Mali relations?

I think that Turkish foreign policy makers made an appropriate statement, taking into account relevant considerations and balances. The state of Turkey has never been a supporter of the coup and the junta, something which Turkey has suffered from itself. Uncertainty is thus dominating Mali, and Turkey awaits the end of this uncertainty and peace for the people of Mali. I think we will see that the necessary diplomatic steps will be taken in the following process.


Would the coup in Mali be reflected in neighboring African countries?

In my opinion, this possibility is quite high. For example, we saw that the extremist groups that emerged in Libya during the post-Gaddafi period were concentrated in the north of Mali, and we experienced that the fire there spread to other countries due to Mali’s non-involvement. If you do not take the initiative to extinguish a fire that burns right next to you, that fire will spread to you. Therefore, I think it is highly probable that other countries, especially Mali’s neighbors Burkina Faso and Niger, which are already surrounded by the interactions in Sahel geopolitics, will have negative repercussions with the effect of the existing cliques if they do not contribute to the peace and tranquility in this country.

Sahel chaos: How terrorists are taking power in Mali, Niger and the region as a whole


It is well known that France has nearly 5,000 soldiers who have served in Mali since January 2003. Likewise, the United Nations (UN) has around 10,000 ‘peacekeepers’ in Mali. It is also known that there are various groups linked to Al Qaeda, especially in the desert regions in northern Mali. France and the UN claim that they keep troops in Mali under the name of fighting these organizations.

France launched the Operation Serval on January 11, 2013, on the grounds that “the fight against political instability in Mali and the activities of al-Qaeda-linked groups and the purification of the northern lands of the Malian government (including the cities of Timbuktu and Gao) from radical terrorist organizations”. However, the conflicts and crisis have only deepened since France’s operation.

Conflicts also spread to other countries rich in minerals in the Sahel region (Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea).

The Berber factor in African geopolitics

Countries in the Sahel region are known to be rich in bauxite, uranium, iron, gold and oil reserves.

France, which started the Operation Serval in 2013, first sent 3,000 soldiers to the country and then another 1,500 in August. Although France announced that it had ended the operation on July 15, 2014, it did not withdraw the troops from the country, but instead deployed them in Mauritania, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and carried its military activities to the wider Sahel region under the name of Operation Barkhane, which started in 2014.

Macron continues France’s Mali and Sahel policy. In Mali, which gained its independence from France in 1960, the ongoing interventions of France are getting intense reactions.

On the other hand, it was on the agenda that France sent troops from the military base in Mali to the south of Libya to support Haftar.

Elif İlhamoğlu

Elif İlhamoğlu is political scientist and  journalist (Turkey). She is studying for PHD on the political science and international relations department at Istanbul University. She visited Middle East countries, Syria, Lebanon, Iran several times and did interviews with the leaders as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hilal al-Hilal Secretary General of the Syrian Ba'ath Party.

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April 2024