21:30 GMT16 June 2021
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    Mali's military has been locked in conflict with Islamist militias in the desertous northern provinces since NATO's destruction of Libya in 2011 destabilized the Sahara region. Former colonial ruler France joined Mali's fight in 2013, but as the war drags on it has become increasingly unpopular, especially as civilian deaths at French hands mount.

    In the wake of a coup d'etat by the Malian military last week, the African Union has voted to suspend Mali and has threatened sanctions against the Sahelian nation if a civilian-led government is not restored. This follows a similar decision on Sunday by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

    In a Tuesday statement, the Addis Ababa-based bloc called for "an unimpeded, transparent and swift return to the civilian-led transition ... failing which, the Council will not hesitate to impose targeted sanctions."

    A similar move was made in August 2020 after the Malian military carried out a coup against democratically-elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, but they dropped the suspension once a civilian-led government was created in early October.

    Last week, Vice President Assimi Goita, who is a colonel in the Malian Army, had former Interim President Bah Ndaw, former Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, and former Defense Minister Souleymane Doucoure arrested and removed from office. Goita claimed they had violated the Transitional Charter by announcing a new cabinet that removed two other colonels as heads of the defense and security ministries without consulting with him first. Goita named himself as the new interim president on Friday and on Monday, Choguel Maiga as the new interim prime minister.

    © AP Photo / Associated Press
    Former Defense Minister and retired Col. Maj. Bah N'Daw, right, is sworn into the office of transitional president, and Col. Assimi Goita, left, head of the junta that staged the Aug. 18 coup, is sworn into the office of transitional vice president, at a ceremony in the capital Bamako, Mali, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020.
    Maiga is from the June 5 Movement - Gathering of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP) umbrella party that grew out of the mass demonstrations last summer that preceded the August 2020 coup. The military coup that removed Keita from power was also masterminded by Goita and a group of other army colonels who called themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (NCSP). Both M5-RFP and the NCSP were named as the primary brokers in the Transitional Charter introduced last October, which is intended to chart a path to 2022 elections, but the formal grouping of the NCSP was abolished in January.

    From the beginning, the civilian-military alliance was tenuous, with M5-RFP complaining in early September that the military was excluding it from most working groups on the creation of a transitional order that would return Mali to democratic government. 

    The establishment of the interim government, which included the appointing of Ndaw and Ouane, saw heavy inclusion of military figures responsible for the coup and the charter explicitly provides for their immunity from prosecution for the coup. M5-RFP was reportedly furious at having not received any ministerial posts in the interim government, and by early May, the party was demanding a smaller role for the military, claiming it was slowing the process of reform. They demanded “a more law-abiding and more legitimate” body, but Ndaw delivered a "broad-based" government by removing the Defense Minister Sadio Camara and then-Security Minister Colonel Modibo Kone, both army colonels, and replacing them with civilian figures. Hours later, Goita launched his second coup.

    The Malian coup is just the latest to be carried out by troops trained by US Africa Command. As Sputnik reported, AFRICOM's counterterrorism training programs are linked to at least seven coups d'etat in Africa since AFRICOM's establishment in 2008. Goita has received extensive training from US Special Operations forces and has also trained in France and Germany, and the European Union has said it trained up to 90% of the Malian military. After the coup, Goita said the plan for 2022 elections had remain unchanged.

    Related:

    Mali's Military Junta to Release Ousted Interim President, Prime Minister 'In Some Time', Aide Says
    EU to Continue Military Cooperation With Mali as Coup Leader VP Goita Appoints Himself President
    Mali is Just the Latest: US Africa Command Trained Troops Behind at Least Seven Coups in 13 Years
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    civilians, military coup, African Union (AU), Mali
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