Some more thoughts on the coup in Mali

 

A street scene during the early hours of the coup in Mali. AP photo.

The situation is still very much in flux in Bamako, where a coup dislodged the government of President Touré from power at least temporarily. Here are some thoughts, reflections and questions that I’m stuck with after monitoring this coup for the last few days:

This is a really amateurish coup

ThinkAfricaPress has analysed this quite well. The coup leaders seem to be more surprised than anybody that they are “in power” now (whatever that means, see below). They are all junior officers and there is little indication that they got the support of the top brass of the army or of parts of the political elites.

The first days of the coup were marked by surprisingly little violence but a general breakdown of order, with looting soldiers becoming a familiar picture in Bamako. This will not endear them to the general population and there are already reports that the general sentiment on the street is turning against the junta.

What exactly does “in power” mean?

Capt. Sanogo, the apparent leader of the coup, claims that he currently is “in control of all the country”. That can be regarded as wishful thinking, but it of course begs the question, what the mutineers control exactly and if it is justified to talk of them being “in power” like all the media does currently.

What we know for a fact is that the national broadcasting offices are under the control of the junta, as they air regular statements. The presidential palace seems to be taken as well and its fall marks the moment that most people began attributing control to the mutineers.

But it is telling that Capt. Sanogo is conducting his business not from the Palace, the natural seat of power, but from the barracks of Kati, a town 30 km from Bamako were the coup started. There are reports that presidential guard units stationed in the city are still loyal to President Touré and Capt. Sanogo’s retreat to known terrain seems to give these reports credit.

President Touré is reported to have gone into hiding close to the capital and to be guarded by loyalist soldiers. There were reports of at least one other mutiny (in the town of Gao) in support of the coup, but there is little indication that the whole army is supporting the junta. I think that currently nobody is really “in power” in Mali and much will depend on who is willing to take it.

Where is President Touré?

There has been no public comment by Touré since the early hours of the coup and he remains in hiding. The African Union has said he is “safe” and close to Bamako, but there are no further details. The junta seems to want to imply in their statements that they know his whereabouts, but that can be doubted. So were is the president and what is his status? More importantly, what are his plans?

The immediate effects of the coup have contradicted its goals

The junta claims that it’s main motivation for the coup was the government’s handling of the Tuareg rebellion, namely the losses taken by the Malian army. So far though, the coup has only led to even more gains by the Rebels, who are about to take Kidal, an important town in the North of the country.

If Kidal falls into the hands of the MNLA (other reports say that Ansar Dine, a rival movement is threatening the town), this would be a huge setback for the army and would give any future government a much harder time negotiating for the national integrity of Mali.

What do you think? How will the coup develop and is there the risk of a counter-coup?