Mali: Junta's Popularity Growing Despite International Opposition

Coup leader and Vice President Assimi Goita, left, former President Bah N'Daw, centre, and former Prime Minister Moctar Ouane (file photo).

The Mali junta's popularity is growing despite international opposition towards it.

On Friday, supporters of the military leadership attended a mammoth rally to show their support for the junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita.

The junta's rising support comes on the backdrop of rising anti-French sentiment, fuelled by French President Emmanuel Macron's opposition to a military-led transition government.

On Friday, France announced the suspension of a joint military operation with the West African state which is battling nearly a decade long Islamist induced war in the northern region.

The suspension means that the French army will cease to provide military advice and training to the Malian forces.

France has over 5,000 soldiers in the Sahel region including Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso, which have suffered incessant jihadist attacks launched from Mali.

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) last week suspended Mali over the coup, a move followed by the African Union.

And on Saturday, it emerged that the World Bank had suspended funding for the country over the coup. The bank, through its International Development Association (IDA) arm, is currently funding $1.5 billion worth of projects in the country.

In a statement, it said its move, which is "temporary", was in "accordance with the World Bank policy applicable to similar situations." It added that it was closely monitoring and assessing the situation.

Majority of Friday's protesters were from the M5 Movement, a coalition of civil society and opposition political parties, which called for the rally. The protesters assembled at the Independence Square in the capital Bamako, displaying placards endorsing the junta and some condemning France.

Civilian prime minister

This comes as the nation anticipates the naming of a new civilian prime minister. Mr Choguel Kokalla Maiga, who is the head of the M5 Movement, has been proposed for appointment as the PM.

Several protests by the group in August last year led to the first coup in Mali that ousted former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. But the group was side-lined in the transition government.

A government reshuffle meant to satisfy the group led to the second coup on May 24, after two senior coup leaders were dropped from the new government. The interim president and prime minister were detained but later released after international outcry.

Protests

Friday's rally marked the one-year anniversary of the protests.

Prime Minister designate Maiga addressed the crowd, noting that Mali was looking for support from its allies and not sanctions and threats, which he said would only complicate the ongoing political crisis. Mr Maiga is expected to set up a "broad-based" government that should spearhead the transition to democracy under a plan negotiated by Ecowas.

"We will respect international engagements that aren't contrary to the fundamental interests of the Malian people," he told the protesters on Friday, he "Sanctions and threats will only complicate the situation," he added.

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