Assimi Goïta, now president of Mali’s transition government, has been looking for allies since the 24 May 2021 coup. At the Koulouba Palace in Bamako, the colonel has swapped the military command maps of the Mopti region, which he used to look at when he was commander of the Autonomous Battalion of Special Forces and Warfare Centers (BAFS-CA), for the no less complex map of Malian politics.
Ever since he deposed former president Bah N’Daw and prime minister Moctar Ouane, Goïta has been meeting more regularly with representatives of Mali’s “forces vives.” This quest for support has become all the more vital as the 37-year-old colonel has been under great pressure, ever since France’s President Emmanuel Macron announced the temporary suspension of its military cooperation with Mali.
List of demands
On the evening of 2 June, the day before France made its announcement to abandon joint military operations with Mali, Goïta received representatives of the ex-rebels of the Coordination des Mouvements de l’Azawad (CMA). Choguel Kokalla Maïga is currently serving as the President of the transition government’s prime minister.
Maïga, who is still president of the strategic committee of the Mouvement du 5 Juin-Rassemblement des Forces Patriotiques (M5-RFP), is a critic of the 2015 peace agreement and has been calling for it to be renegotiated for years. However, the CMA feels that the agreement should not be changed.
The climate of the meeting was all the more tense because, in the hours following N’Daw and Ouane’s arrest, the CMA threatened to “not accompany the current transition government unless it agreed to its demands.” The CMA – which had two ministers in the previous government (Mossa Ag Attaher for youth and Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou for agriculture) – took advantage of the meeting to lay out its terms.
“We had a heated exchange with the President,” said Attaye Ag Mohamed, head of legal affairs within the CMA, who had travelled from Kidal for the occasion. Goïta, who met with them because he wants to “put in place a government of national unity”, also expressed his concerns about “pressure from the international community,” said Mohamed.
Strengthening its power in the North
One of the CMA’s main “priorities” is ensuring that certain provisions of the peace agreement are inscribed in the future Constitution. The formal rebels would like to replace the Haut Conseil des Collectivités Locales with a senate. They also insist on putting in place the “provisions of the agreement that move towards greater regionalisation, by transferring more powers to local authorities” and are demanding that future regional presidents be elected by direct universal suffrage.
This is a way for the CMA to strengthen its own power in these northern regions, where the populations have long expressed their frustration at being forgotten by the central state.
The CMA also brought the thorny issue of territorial redistribution to the table. “We know that a process has already been launched, but we believe that the method should be reviewed,” says Mohamed. This is due to the fact that decisions regarding territorial division have been made unilaterally, without consulting the population. Mohamed, who says that there is a “lack of political will” in regards to this issue, has demanded that the number of electoral districts in the northern part of the country be increased. The aim, he asserts, is to obtain “better representation within the institutions.”
However, the territorial redistribution project, which aims to create nine additional regions to reach a total of 19, is sometimes criticised due to the imbalance it creates between the north and the south, to the detriment of the latter. Some regions in the northern part of the country, where the population density is low, have thus gained more administrative circles than others in the north, which are more populated.
Finally, on the security front, the CMA called for the reconstituted army – as provided for in the peace agreement – to be established as quickly as possible. A first contingent of 600 men – made up in equal parts of soldiers from the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa), CMA fighters and the platform – was deployed in Kidal in February 2020. But since then, the deployment seems to have stalled. The CMA is expected to get a say – or even a veto – over the timetable, the constitution of the chain of command, the definition of deployment zones and the missions that will be assigned to the soldiers of this reconstituted army.
Even by the end of the meeting, Goïta had still not committed to any of the CMA’s terms. “We will see in the coming days how the negotiations will proceed,” said Mohamed. For its part, Ecowas has indirectly endorsed Goïta’s seizure of power and chosen not to introduce economic sanctions against him. However, Colonel Goïta, who is under pressure on all fronts, may be tempted to accept all the former rebels’ demands to secure their support.
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