Social and political discontent has been bubbling in Mali for more than a year, and while military intervention has been cautiously welcomed by some, it is not seen as the solution.

What began as a mutiny by the Malian armed forces on the 18 of August, only 15 km outside of the country's capital in the town of Kati, quickly snowballed into a full-blown military intervention as the day went on. It ultimately led to the toppling of the government.

By midnight, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, also known as IBK, and several of his cabinet members, had resigned.

"The army are liberators and have liberated the country from a President who has put national interests beneath his personal interests and those of his family," says Obertan Tiguida Dite Ty-Cherie, the President of the Nyeleni Women's Association of Mali.

"IBK has gone to great lengths to undermine the national interest by selling off assets and mass corruption," added Cherie, speaking to TRT World over the phone.

Months of protests that started with two rounds of disputed parliamentary elections between March and April resulted in the second military intervention in ten years for Mali.

When Malian security forces loyal to IBK fired at protestors, killing more than 11 people, they failed to end the protests. Instead, they further galvanised them, emboldening the opposition.

The country's political opposition and civil society had united under a coalition called 'The Movement-Gathering of Patriotic Forces' (M5-RFP). A grouping of disparate voices, M5-RFP, saw their frustrations vocalised by an influential imam, Mahmoud Dicko.

Pape Diallo, an activist from the M5-RFP coalition, described the tensions as permeating "all the sectors of society."

"There were no more options for a crisis exit dialogue between the IBK regime and the M5-RFP," said Diallo speaking to TRT World.

Colonel Assimi Goita speaks to the press at the Malian Ministry of Defence in Bamako, Mali. Goita was trained by the US, France and Germany and now has emerged as one of the main figures in Mali.
Colonel Assimi Goita speaks to the press at the Malian Ministry of Defence in Bamako, Mali. Goita was trained by the US, France and Germany and now has emerged as one of the main figures in Mali. (AFP)

Weak governance and loss of sovereignty

Malian society has endured almost a decade of a broadly unstable political environment. A takeover of the northern half of the country by separatists nearly gave way to the total takeover of the country by 'jihadi' orientated groups which led to foreign intervention.

In the face of IBK's government, which to many Malians seemed bereft of ideas and was unable to provide answers to some of the country's most pressing needs, Dicko's spiritual leadership and mobilising power saw crowds filling the streets in numbers not seen for decades.

"Billions of dollars have been diverted from the Malian army, and no one knows where it's gone," says Cherie adding that, "thousands of soldiers have died in their fight against insurgency in the North of Mali. When IBK arrived in power, only one part of the country had problems, now more than two-thirds of the country has conflicts."

It is still unclear in which direction the Malian military officers, led by Colonel Ismael Wague, will shape the country. Nevertheless, in their public statements, they have stated that any transitional government will be decided "by Malians."

That sense of national sovereignty being impinged on by outside forces has been a strong undercurrent driving the protests, and the military is keen to bank on that sentiment publically.

Cherie says Mali is a sovereign country and will not be 'schooled' by anyone in terms of democracy.

"Mali, unlike France, has never pillaged another country to feed itself. We shouldn't rely on France to build our country," she added.

The sense of frustration that outside powers have propped up and supported bad governance is palpable amongst activists with whom TRT World has spoken.

"The West," Cherie believes, has forfeited any ability to "teach us democracy" when it supported IBK as a democratising figure in the country even as he committed human rights abuses, torturing and killing many.

Protesters in Bamako, Mali, on Friday 19 June calling for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
Protesters in Bamako, Mali, on Friday 19 June calling for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. (Reuters)

French connection

In 2012, when the French military intervened in Mali, it sought to quell the chaos. Now, many feel Paris has overstayed its welcome.

An intervention aimed at reducing insecurity has not brought stability to the country - far from it, in fact. Over the last few years, civil society groups have grown weary at what they see as an occupation by their former colonial power.

“We protest against the French presence because we see it as more of an occupying force than a support mission in Mali,” said Malick Konate to TRT World, in March of this year.

The impact of the French military in the country had been “only negative” and had resulted in the country’s sovereignty and dignity being taken away, says Konate, an activist and journalist in the country.

Malians like Konate believe that France has an altogether different agenda in the country. Initially, French intervention was conducted under the auspices of Operation Serval, lasting from December 2012 to July 2014.

In August 2014, a new permanent military base was set up in the Sahel region which includes the Sahel countries of Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad under a newly branded mission called “Operation Barkhane”. It replaced Operation Serval.

France has been keen to show that the 5,000 strong military force operating in its former colonies, is not a new form of colonisation. Local activists, however, believe that France is keen on updating a colonial-era plan to control the Sahel as a means of projecting its power.

“The French military presence in the Sahel is none other than the implementation of the OCRS,” says Konate about a territorial collective created by France in 1957 under the name of the “Common Organization of the Saharan regions.”

The OCRS lasted until 1963 but its legacy resonates with civil society who do not see French presence as altruistic.

“After seven years of tourism,” says Konate, “we ask for the outright departure of French troops from Mali,” in a bid to restore sovereignty.

The incident follows mass protests demanding the resignation of Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The sign reads:
The incident follows mass protests demanding the resignation of Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The sign reads: "Death to France and its allies". (Reuters)

Rebuilding Mali

Malians are keenly aware that after a decade of instability, only they can rebuild their country and heal divisions - outside help has too often proved to be a chimaera.

Activists that TRT World spoke with believe that the military intervention could provide the country with the breathing space to reset their affairs. But they are cautious.

Ibrahima Kebe who is the President of the Faso Kanu Political Association, a local civil society group, believes the military intervention had the "merit of putting an end to a clan and corrupt regime, hated by the people."

"The army alone cannot, in any case, solve Mali's problems alone. But, if, as it claims, it associates itself with civil society, this may be the opportunity to rebuild our democracy, to restore territorial integrity and our sovereignty," added Kebe, speaking to TRT World.

"But, if the army chooses the option of keeping the regime in place, by replacing X with Y, its intervention will have served no purpose in solving the problems that preoccupy the Malian people."

Source: TRT World