Mali’s military government says it foiled countercoup attempt

Assimi Goita’s military government accuses an unnamed Western state of supporting the alleged coup attempt.

Colonel Assimi Goita, new interim president of Mali, walks during his inauguration ceremony in Bamako, Mali
Goita, leader of two military coups and new interim president, walks during his inauguration ceremony in Bamako, Mali on June 7, 2021 [File: Amadou Keita/Reuters]

Mali’s military government says its security forces thwarted an attempted coup, led by army officers and supported by an unnamed Western state, last week.

The government’s announcement on Monday comes after years of turmoil in Mali, where Colonel Assimi Goita led coups in 2020 and 2021 before becoming president of the West African nation.

The statement read out on state television said a “small group of anti-progressive Malian officers and non-commissioned officers attempted a coup on the night of May 11 to 12, 2022”.

“These soldiers were supported by a Western state. The attempt was thwarted thanks to the vigilance and professionalism of the defence and security forces.”

The news release did not name the country it was accusing nor did it give many details.

However, relations with former coloniser France have deteriorated significantly under Goita’s rule, prompting the French military to begin a withdrawal of its forces that had spent nine years fighting armed groups.

“The government of the Republic of Mali condemns with the utmost rigour this outrageous attack on state security, the purpose of which is to hinder — or even annihilate — the substantial efforts to secure our country and return to a constitutional order that guarantees peace and stability,” the statement continued.

The government news release added that security had been stepped up at checkpoints on the roads leaving the capital, Bamako, in an effort to catch accomplices.

A military source speaking on condition of anonymity spoke of about 10 arrests and said others would be arrested.

The government statement said “all necessary means” were being mobilised for the investigation and to find accomplices.

Mali increasingly isolated

The accusations of foreign interference come ​as Mali becomes increasingly isolated. A day earlier, the government spokesman had announced that Mali was dropping out of a five-nation regional security force known as the G5.

Last month it said it was permanently suspending French media outlets Radio France International and France 24, two of the most listened to news outlets in the West African country. Malian authorities accused RFI and France 24 of publishing false reports about abuses committed by Malian soldiers.

Mali’s government also accused the French army of violating the country’s airspace and denounced what it said was the unauthorised use of surveillance drones.

Those allegations came after France released videos appearing to show Russian mercenaries burying bodies near an army base in northern Mali, which had been handed over by the French to Malian forces.

Amid the fallout with France, Mali’s military-dominated government has forged closer ties with Russia in its battle against armed groups.

France and other nations sharply condemned the August 2020 overthrow of Mali’s democratically elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Nine months later, Goita launched a second coup when he fired the country’s interim civilian leaders and became president himself.

While the military initially pledged to return power to civilians by February 2022, it failed to organise elections by the deadline. Last month, the government said it would need two more years in power before it could organise a vote, incurring regional sanctions.

Among Malians, the failure of the French troops to rout out the armed groups linked to ISIL and al-Qaeda has also led to rising anti-French sentiment – bubbling under the surface since independence – and support for the military government in Bamako.

Source: News Agencies