A day after the prime minister and acting president of Mali were whisked away to a military base outside the capital, Vice President Assimi Goita, who masterminded the August 2020 coup that brought them to power, announced they had been stripped of their duties.
In a statement read on public television on Tuesday morning, Goita said President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Oane had attempted to “sabotage the transition,” but noted the original plan “would proceed as normally, and the scheduled elections will be held in 2022.”
Goita accused the two of failing to consult him prior to a cabinet reshuffle on Monday that saw two central coup figures ousted from their positions heading the defense and security ministries.
"The president and the prime minister violated the most important clause of the Transitional Charter during the appointment of ministers to the new government by failing to negotiate the power bloc with the Vice President," Goita said. "As a result, measures were taken in order to protect the basic document of the transitional period."
The Transitional Charter was introduced in October 2020 after a new civilian interim government was announced amid heavy international pressure to restore democracy after the coup. Authored by Goita, the document lays out the principles that govern the 18-month period until new elections can be organized.
However, it’s not clear how the charter requires their consultation with the vice president when appointing ministers, as Goita has claimed, especially since the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, the group of army officers who oversaw the forcing of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita from office in August 2020, was dissolved in January.
Interior Security Minister Modibo Kone and Defense Minister Sadio Camara, the two ministers removed from their posts on Monday in what Ndaw called a “broad-based” cabinet reformation, were also members of the former NCSP alongside Goita, who according to the charter is “responsible for defense and security” as vice president. Ndaw, too, is a military man, a colonel-major who was once chief of staff of the Malian Air Force and served as Keita’s defense minister prior to the coup.
Ndaw, Ouane, and the newly appointed defense minister, Souleymane Doucoure, were arrested just hours after the new cabinet was announced and taken to Kati Military Base about 15 kilometers outside the capital of Bamako.
Goita’s actions have been widely condemned, with statements by the African Union, the United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and several world powers demanding the release of Ndaw, Ouane, and Doucoure.
Keita’s August 2020 removal came after heavy police repression of three months of mass protests in Bamako fanned by a wide variety of factors, including recent parliamentary elections marred by violence, the unpopular ongoing war in the north against Islamist militias in which French military forces were taking part, Keita’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a poor economy.
The June 5 Movement - Gathering of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP) emerged from the protests as an umbrella group uniting disparate sections of Malian politics, including many figures who had once been Keita supporters, such as Imam Mahmoud Dicko, the former head of Mali's High Islamic Council. The group is mentioned alongside the NCSP as one of the key players in the formation of the Transitional Charter. However, according to Al Jazeera, tensions between M5-RFP and the military over the latter’s lasting control in the transitional government helped pressure Ndaw to consider the cabinet changes that led to his Monday ouster.