Mali: Military Junta Drags Feet Over Setting Up Transitional Authority

ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments in a virtual meeting called for a 12-month transition process to civilian rule in Mali.

Two weeks after a group of Malian soldiers ousted former President Ibrahim Boubabar Keita, the country's new ruling military junta still has not made public its plans for a transitional government.

"Currently, everything is going very well, there's no problem, work is ongoing for a successful charter," said Malick Diaw, vice president of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), referring to a document outlining the transition.

Following a meeting between the CNSP and political parties, Diaw told journalists on Monday that they were working on "a good document for the transition, with good architecture, to put in place a good transition".

A key sticking point is the junta's desire for a long transition led by a soldier, while mediation efforts led by West African regional bloc Ecowas tries to convince the military of the need for a short transition led by a civilian.

A group of mutinous soldiers from the Kati military base arrested President Keita, commonly known as IBK, on 18 August, broadly aligning themselves with an ongoing opposition protest movement that had held months of mass demonstrations calling for IBK's resignation.

From one coup leader to another

Members of the ruling military junta met with traditional Malian leaders on Sunday afternoon, and the country's former military leader Moussa Traore.

CNSP leader Colonel Assimi Goita was depicted side-by-side with ex-President Traore, who seized power in a coup in 1968 and was himself overthrown in 1991.

The meeting, broadcast on state-run ORTM, was described as an opportunity for the CNSP to receive advice and blessings.

Traore said he told the young soldiers about his experiences as Mali's leader, including errors committed, as well as what to avoid, according to an ORTM report. He described the CNSP as "patriots" who are setting Mali straight.

Mali's last coup led by Captain Amadou Sanogo was in 2012, ousting Amadou Toumani Touré, who was eventually replaced by Keita in elections the following year.

Junta meets with 'natural partner'

The CNSP had met with leaders of Mali's opposition on Saturday - the M5-RFP group, 5 June Movement - Rally of Patriotic Forces, a coalition of civil society and opposition groups, who had led protests against IBK.

In an interview with RFI, Imam Mahmoud Dicko, one of the M5 leaders, said there was no point in "dragging out a transition" following the ousting of President Keita by a group of soldiers.

He added that "three years is too much", pointing to previous suggestions that the junta wanted a three-year transition led by soldiers.

Protests led by the M5 group had channelled much of the public discontent surrounding IBK's government, allegations of corruption, botched legislative elections and growing insecurity, before the soldiers decided to arrest the president.

How long is transition?

"We still have to find a way out of this situation quickly," said Dicko, suggesting that 18 months or less was "reasonable".

Members of the M5 group urged the junta to appoint a civilian to run any transition, reported RFI's David Baché, who spoke to those attending talks at the Kati military base, just outside of Bamako.

The anti-IBK group was more open to the idea of having a soldier occupy the position of prime minister.

On the length of such a transition, the M5 leaders offered a compromise of 18 months - somewhere between the two to three years wanted by the CNSP and one year demanded by regional bloc Ecowas, according to Baché.

The opposition reminded the military junta that they had more legitimacy than any other actor and could in effect be a "natural partner" to the CNSP.

Ecowas playing hardball

West African heads of state reiterated their demands to the junta on Friday following a video conference meeting chaired by Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou, acting president of Ecowas.

The regional bloc urged the CNSP to "immediately" put in place a civilian transition, in consultation with the constitutional court, political parties and civil society organisations.

Ecowas wants a 12-month transition, leading to elections, otherwise further sanctions would be progressively implemented.

A potential candidate for transitional president would be a personality known for their professional qualities, as well as moral and intellectual integrity, Ecowas said in a five-page declaration. This president would not be allowed to stand in subsequent elections. A prime minister would, likewise, be a civilian.

Cold, hard cash

Ecowas countries already slapped financial sanctions on Mali, with the country frozen out of international financial transactions through the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO).

Banking operations, notably within the West African CFA franc zone, remain blocked, hindering refinancing of the economy and monetary creation.

Ecowas has also threatened to stop business and economic flows between neighbouring countries and Mali, except for essential goods, and called for sanctions against the coup plotters and their associates, the 15-country bloc said in a 20 August declaration.

Despite international condemnation of the coup and objections from Ecowas, Malians have generally been supportive of the CNSP and ousting of IBK, with more than 80 percent of people in Bamako disagreeing with the stance taken by Ecowas, according to a recent survey.

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