On August 18th of 2020, a group of Malian officers initiated a mutiny at the Kati military base near Bamako, the capital of Mali, demanding political reforms and fair elections.
The rebels said they had detained several high-ranking officials, including President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse. Keita subsequently announced the resignation of the government and parliament.
The coup leaders have declared the formation of a National Committee for the Salvation of the People, closed the country’s borders, and imposed a curfew.
The military coup comes in the wake of an ongoing political crisis in Mali, with supporters of the opposition “5 June Movement” taking to the streets to demand Keita’s resignation starting earlier this summer. Clashes on 11-12 July between protesters and security forces led to the deaths of 11 people, with over 120 reported injured.
The opposition accuses Keita of failing to deal with corruption and restoring security in the country amid escalating jihadist and inter-communal violence.
As it turns out, in another embarrassment for US training programs for international forces, this coup in Mali found itself linked to an American training program. Colonel Assimi Goita, the new dictator of Mali, graduated from US training courses.
That’s a problem for Washington, also as photos of Goita were featured heavily on US military sites regarding the training operations. The military has so far avoided comment on the matter, though some media are reporting that the photographs were disappearing from the sites when the news started to break.
It looks bad, but also isn’t shocking. Mali’s last coup, in 2012, saw the exact same thing, with Captain Amadou Sanogo having been through six training missions with the US before the coup.
Meanwhile, Foreign Policy reports that “The United States has halted all security assistance training and support for Malian military forces that carried out a coup in the West African country after new details emerged that the coup was orchestrated in part by military officers who received training from the U.S. military.”
Meet Mali’s junta leader: “Let me introduce myself, I am Colonel Assimi Goita, chairman of the National Committee for the salvation of the People”. https://t.co/BgmnfpHYOP
— Harun Maruf (@HarunMaruf) August 20, 2020
And further, the report continues:
The Washington Post first reported that Goita, the head of the new junta, was trained by U.S. and European forces, including U.S. Special Operations forces. Lt. Col. Anton Semelroth, a Pentagon spokesperson, told Foreign Policy in a statement that the U.S. military is “looking into other Malians who have participated in U.S. training and, though counter to that training, may have played a role in the recent mutiny.”
Yesterday, someone shared with me that Col. Assimi Goita, pdt of Mali’s « Comité national pour le salut du peuple » appeared in a 2019 US military article at their 2019 Flintlock joint exercise. Today the article looks like it has been removed by the DoD. https://t.co/En3ekjveY6
— Tommy Miles (@tommymiles) August 20, 2020
The number of coup leaders, war criminals, and general bad actors in the training program has raised concerns that the Pentagon is too heavily focused on efficiency and fostering relationships with Western military bureaucracies, without focus enough on respect for civilian governance and democracies.