When Constantino Chiwenga, Zimbabwe's vice-president and health minister, suspended by-elections in October 2020 citing Statutory Instrument ... (SI) 225A as a means to curb Covid-19, many believed a new date would be set. Instead, the government has remained silent on the matter, with many wondering if this is truly a measure to control the pandemic, or a strategy by the ruling Zanu PF to stop the MDC Alliance from winning back seats it lost after the recall by its breakaway party, the MDC-T.
The gesture says a lot about France’s perception of Assimi Goïta’s power grab in Mali. On 3 June, the French Ministry of Defence announced the temporary suspension of its military cooperation with the Malian authorities.
“Requirements and red lines have been set by Ecowas and the African Union to clarify the framework of Mali’s political transition. It is up to the Malian authorities to respond quickly. Pending these guarantees, France, after informing its partners and the Malian authorities, has decided to suspend – as a precautionary and temporary measure – joint military operations with the Malian forces as well as national advisory missions for their benefit,” the ministry said.
These decisions, it added, “will be re-evaluated in the coming days in light of the answers provided by the Malian authorities.”
In concrete terms, all joint operational missions between the soldiers of the French Barkhane force and the Malian Armed Forces (Famas) have been suspended as of 3 June. “The message is both very clear and very concrete,” says a French source. “The President had shown his true colours with his successive declarations. This decision is the logical follow-up.”
Warning and demands
After Bah N’Daw, president of the transition government, and his prime minister Moctar Ouane were arrested by members of Colonel Goïta’s former junta on 24 May, France’s President Emmanuel Macron had denounced this “unacceptable coup d’état within a coup d’état.”
Then, in an interview with the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, he said that he had “passed on the message” to West African leaders that he “could not stay by the side of a country where there is no longer any democratic legitimacy or transition.”
On 30 May, Ecowas’ heads of state held a summit in Accra, Ghana, to discuss the situation in Mali. They decided to suspend Bamako from the sub-regional organisation and condemned the 24 May “coup d’état”, while remaining silent on Colonel Goïta’s appointment as the new president of Mali’s transition government.
Ecowas also called for the immediate appointment of a “new civilian prime minister” and the formation of a “new inclusive government” to carry out the transition government’s agenda. It also stated that the 18-month transition period must be respected and that elections must be held no later than 27 February 2022.
Paris has given its assurances that “a return to normalcy” will be possible, as soon as the conditions set by Ecowas are met.
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