Mali: Is Assimi Goïta ready to hand over power in 20 months?

By Fatoumata Diallo
Posted on Wednesday, 23 March 2022 16:57

Colonel Assimi Goïta, in Bamako, 18 September 2020. © Michele Cattani/AFP

Following strong tensions, discussions resumed between Ecowas and the Malian junta. The latter presented a new proposal to Goodluck Jonathan, the West African mediator, who arrived in Bamako on 18 March.

His last visit to the Malian capital did not go well. On 26 February, Goodluck Jonathan, the emissary of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) in Mali, left empty-handed, as he and the country’s authorities had failed to agree on how long the new transition period should last.

The former Nigerian President was undoubtedly more enthusiastic this time around when he stepped onto the tarmac of the Modibo Keïta-Senou airport in Bamako on the afternoon of 18 March for a two-day visit.

According to our information, this trip, which took place one month after the end of the transition period, was at Assimi Goïta’s invitation. This gave hope to the West African organisation, which for several weeks had been demanding that Mali “return to democratic order” as soon as possible.

Ecowas counts the months

To this end, Senegal’s President Macky Sall, current chairman of the African Union (AU), made sure to emphasise the fact that the two parties had resumed discussions. “Today, on the eve of the Ecowas mediator’s visit to Bamako, I met with Colonel Assimi Goïta. I am pleased that dialogue has resumed to find a negotiated solution to the crisis in Mali,” he said on his Twitter account.

Translation: On the eve of the Ecowas mediator’s visit to Bamako, I met with Colonel Assimi Goïta. I am pleased that dialogue has resumed to find a negotiated solution to the crisis in Mali.

Ever since he took over the AU on 6 February, Sall has made the Malian dossier a priority. According to our sources, Jonathan and the Senegalese President discussed this subject over the phone two weeks ago.

Despite high-level diplomatic efforts, there is no guarantee that the discussions will lead to an agreement between the Malian authorities and Ecowas, as their positions have not changed.

Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo, Niger’s Mohamed Bazoum and Côte d’Ivoire’s Alassane Ouattara all feel that the transition period should not be extended for more than 12 months, an opinion shared by the West African organisation. At the end of February, its technical committee recommended that elections be held within 12 to 16 months. For its part, the AU feels that the transition period should last a maximum of 16 months.

Concessions

But Goïta wants more. According to several sources in Bamako, he had initially announced that he would stay on for another five years. However, he has recently said that he is willing to review the situation, even though he does want the transition period to last another 20 months.

“The military in power believe that some of the work resulting from the conclusions of the Assises Nationales de la Refondation should be implemented. Moreover, they rely on insecurity to justify the new timetable they wish to propose. The Malian armed forces are currently multiplying operations so that elections can be held in favourable conditions. They feel that 12 months is too short a deadline,” says our diplomatic source.

Will Ecowas listen to these arguments?

Despite its seemingly uncompromising facade, Goïta’s junta appears ready to make concessions so that it can find common ground with Ecowas, as it is eager for its diplomatic and trade sanctions to be lifted. “To advance the process, the military has not ruled out dismissing Choguel Kokalla Maiga as prime minister and replacing him with one who would be more open to continuing dialogue with the international community,” says our diplomatic source.

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