For those keeping count of the number of successful versus attempted coups in Mali, as the excerpted accompanying article from African Arguments—a leading scholarly publication about the region—the tally is now up to four out of four, or 100%. That is an impressive number, especially considering that worldwide coups are becoming less frequent and when they do occur, only about 40% are successful. The article’s author explains that Mali’s coup success rate can be traced to at least two factors.

The first factor is explained in context of Mali’s independence from France in 1960. Mali was different from many of the other African countries gaining independence at about the same time. Prior to that independence those nations had security forces established by their colonial rulers to suppress dissent as well as protect the colonial regime. The author’s argument states that when independence occurred, many of the new governments inherited these forces, and, expanding upon them, used them to repress their own people. Mali however did not establish its army until after independence. With no serious external foes and also no history of repression, this new army became the protector of the country’s peace and security, thus creating what the article describes as a tacit social contract between the army and the people.

According to the author, in 1968, an economic crisis coupled with frustration of the president’s management of it, triggered the first coup. It was a popularly supported one. Rather than transition to a civilian government as was supposed to happen, the coup leader instituted a police state that lasted for 22 years. However, despite that outcome, additional coups occurred against unpopular presidents again in 1991, 2012, and most recently in August of this year. With parliament and the judiciary unable to implement sufficient checks on executive power, the author believes that these coups were seen by many as necessary and perhaps the only way to rid the country of an unwanted leader.

The second factor behind Mali’s numerous and successful coups, as explained in the article, is related to foreign countries having a strong interest in Mali’s security situation. This has led to foreign governments bolstering Malian military strength through training and/or donations. At the same time, Malian leaders, including ineffectual ones, are also bolstered. This results in a situation the article essentially describes as an emphasis on security at the expense of good governance. The author’s conclusion is that, based the past paradigms, the recent August coup was similarly a result of a strong military coupled with an unpopular president.

In fact, if we exclude short-lived interim leaders, Mali – which until not too long ago was held up as a beacon of democracy in the region – has only had one president that has not left office at the barrel of a gun.

Source: Kodjo Tchioffo, “4 out of 4: Why has Mali had so many successful coups?” African Arguments, 27 August 2020. https://africanarguments.org/2020/08/27/4-out-of-4-why-has-mali-coups-had-so-many-successful-coups/

In fact, if we exclude short-lived interim leaders, Mali – which until not too long ago was held up as a beacon of democracy in the region – has only had one president that has not left office at the barrel of a gun.

In the just 60 years since independence, Mali has experienced four coups. They have all been successful. They have all be welcomed by citizens at the time. And, sadly, they have all failed to meet the aspirations of the people. The 1968 coup led to nearly 25 years of dictatorship. The 1991 coup ushered in relatively stable but ineffectual leadership. The 2012 coup prompted devastating military losses in the north. In all these instances, it was only a matter of time before Malian soldiers again felt the need to intervene, starting the same cycle anew.

Mali’s very first president, Modibo Keita, was deposed in a coup in 1968. Mali’s second president, Moussa Traoré, met the same fate in 1991. A period of relative political stability followed, until Amani Toumani Touré (known as ATT) was ousted too in 2012. Eight years later, IBK has left office the same way.

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