Man Accused Of Trying To Kill Mali President Dies In Custody

Security personnel watch an alleged attacker (C) as he lies in the back of a vehicle at The Grand Fayçal Mosque in Bamako on July 20, 2021, after two assailants attempted to stab Mali’s interim transitional President Colonel Assimi Goita during Eid al-Adha prayers at the mosque in the Malian capital. 
EMMANUEL DAOU / AFP

 

A man accused of trying to kill Mali’s military strongman Assimi Goita, the figure behind two coups in less than a year, has died in custody, the government said on Sunday.

The suspect, whose identity has not been revealed, had been taken into custody following the assassination attempt at Bamako’s Grand Mosque on Tuesday.

“During investigations… his health deteriorated” and he was then hospitalised, but “unfortunately, he has died,” the government said in a statement.

It added that an autopsy had been immediately ordered to determine the cause of death.

A man armed with a knife lunged at Goita after prayers for Eid al-Adha on Tuesday, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

Goita was whisked away by his security detail and later appeared on state TV to say he was doing “very well”, downplaying the significance of the assault.

“That’s part of being a leader, there are always malcontents,” he said.

“There are people who at any time may want to try things to cause instability.”

His attacker, a young-looking man dressed in jeans and a white shirt, was apprehended at the scene and taken away by the Malian intelligence services.

The suspect was never presented to judicial authorities, a source requesting anonymity told AFP on Sunday.

His identity was not revealed, but commissioner Sadio Tomoda said late Tuesday that he was a teacher, without elaborating.

Prosecutors had opened an inquiry into the incident.

On Sunday, the government said the suspect’s death was not an obstacle to continuing the investigation, “especially since preliminary evidence and intelligence gathered indicate that he was not an isolated element”.

 Political instability

 

Security personnel escort an alleged attacker (C) from The Grand Fayçal Mosque in Bamako on July 20, 2021, after two assailants attempted to stab Mali’s interim transitional President Colonel Assimi Goita during Eid al-Adha prayers at the mosque in the Malian capital.

 

 

The attack capped months of political turmoil in a country that has rarely enjoyed stability since gaining independence from France in 1960.

Goita, a special forces colonel in his late thirties, headed a putsch last August that ousted elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita after weeks of protests over graft and a bloody jihadist insurgency.

The junta, in the face of international condemnation, handed power to a civilian-led transitional government that promised to restore civilian rule in February 2022.

But in late May, Goita, who was vice president in the transitional government, ousted president Bah Ndaw and premier Moctar Ouane, saying they had sought to “sabotage” the handover.

In June, with Goita as interim president, a new government was unveiled, with military figures in key roles.

As the African Union and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS piled on the pressure, Goita vowed the government would uphold all commitments and pledged to stage “credible, fair and transparent elections”.

Mali’s neighbours and allies have been viewing the crisis with disquiet, fearing the impact on efforts to stem a jihadist insurgency that is unfurling across the Sahel region.

The bloody campaign erupted in the north of Mali in 2012 and has since spread to Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.

France, the mainstay of the anti-jihadist operation, has been especially critical of the military takeover in Mali.

It suspended military cooperation after the second coup and then announced a major drawdown of its 5,100-man Barkhane mission

-AFP

UPDATED: One Arrested In Stabbing Attempt On Mali Interim President

 

FILES) In this file photo taken on August 19, 2020 Colonel Assimi Goita speaks to the press at the Malian Ministry of Defence in Bamako, Mali, after confirming his position as the president of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP). 
MALIK KONATE / AFP

 

 

Two armed men, including one who wielded a knife, attacked Mali’s interim president Assimi Goita on Tuesday, an AFP journalist saw, during prayers in the great mosque in the capital Bamako.

The attack took place during festivities for the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha. The president has since been taken from the scene, according to the journalist.

Religious Affairs Minister Mamadou Kone told AFP that a man had “tried to kill the president with a knife” but was apprehended.

Latus Toure, the director of the Great Mosque, said an attacker had lunged for the president but wounded someone else.

AFP was not immediately able to confirm the accounts.

Mali has been struggling to contain a jihadist insurgency that first emerged in the north of the country in 2012, and has since spread to Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.

The conflict has also been mirrored by political instability in the capital.

Colonel Goita led a coup last August, ousting elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita after weeks of mass protests over corruption and the long-running jihadist conflict.

In May, he ousted a transitional government that had been entrusted with the task of leading the country back to civilian rule in February 2022.

He was then named transitional president, but has pledged to keep to the goal for returning to civilian government.

Mali Strongman Stands By February Elections, Names Civilian PM

FILES) In this file photo taken on August 19, 2020 Colonel Assimi Goita speaks to the press at the Malian Ministry of Defence in Bamako, Mali, after confirming his position as the president of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP). MALIK KONATE / AFP

 

Malian strongman Colonel Assimi Goita stood by the goal of staging elections next February as he was sworn in as transitional president on Monday, also naming a civilian premier after international outrage over the country’s second coup in nine months.

Goita, who had already headed a coup that toppled the West African country’s democratically elected leader last August, ousted the civilian president and prime minister of a transitional government on May 24.

In doing so, he sparked diplomatic uproar and deepened fears of chaos in a country key to efforts to stem the jihadist insurgency sweeping the Sahel.

“I swear before God and the Malian people to preserve the republican regime… to preserve democratic gains,” said Goita during the swearing-in ceremony in the capital Bamako.

The colonel, dressed in full military regalia, added that Mali will stick to its commitments and pledged to stage “fair and transparent” elections by February next year.

It is unclear how Mali’s partners and neighbours, who have condemned the second coup, will respond.

The latest putsch prompted the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to suspend Mali, and to call for the appointment of a civilian prime minister.

France also suspended military cooperation with Malian forces and stopped giving military advice.

READ ALSOECOWAS Suspends Mali Over Second Coup In Nine Months

PM from opposition

After Goita’s swearing in, Malian political veteran Choguel Maiga was announced as prime minister in a statement read out on Mali’s national broadcaster.

The 63-year-old’s appointment had been expected for days. As a leading figure in the opposition M5 movement, Malian observers view Maiga as a figure who can lend credibility to the post-coup administration.

The M5 helped build dissent that led to the ouster of former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita last August following mass protests over perceived corruption and a bloody jihadist insurgency.

But the movement became sidelined in the first post-coup government, which was dominated by military figures.

This transitional government pledged to reform the constitution by October, and stage elections in February.

Still, the M5 became a vocal critic, calling the transitional government a “disguised military regime”.

However there has a rapprochement between the group and the army since the May 24 coup.

Soon after the putsch, Goita floated that he wanted to appoint an M5 figure as his prime minister.

The appointment of a civilian premier fulfils a key international demand.

Rifts ahead 

 

Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa.
Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa.

 

Maintaining its international partnerships, not least with former colonial power France, is crucial for Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries and whose security forces suffer from poor equipment and training.

France has 5,100 troops stationed in the Sahel to help fight jihadist violence that erupted in Mali in 2012 and now threatens the region.

 

In this file photo taken on August 26, 2020 French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a face mask, looks on as he waits for Senegal's President to arrive for their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Ludovic Marin / AFP
A file photo taken on August 26, 2020, of French President Emmanuel Macron. Ludovic Marin / AFP

 

By stressing that Mali would stick to its commitments on Monday, Goita appeared to be seeking to allay international concerns.

In a move that will reassure foreign partners, the colonel also promised to continue work on the 2015 Algiers accord, a shaky agreement between the central government and several armed groups.

The deal, which has never been fully implemented, is seen as crucial to ending Mali’s grinding conflict.

Its future was put into question, however, when it became clear that Maiga was poised to become the prime minister.

As an opposition figure, he had been a vocal critic of the peace accord. Other potential rifts loom on the horizon.

Maiga is close to religious leader Mahmoud Dicko, who has repeatedly spoken in favour of negotiating with the jihadists — a position ferociously opposed by France.

Goita himself alluded to such negotiations on Monday, stating during the ceremony that “inclusive national dialogue” will continue in a “judicious manner”.

AFP

Mali’s Assimi Goita To Be Sworn In As Interim President

In this file photo taken on August 19, 2020 Colonel Assimi Goita speaks to the press at the Malian Ministry of Defence in Bamako, Mali, after confirming his position as the president of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP). ANNIE RISEMBERG / AFP
In this file photo taken on August 19, 2020 Colonel Assimi Goita speaks to the press at the Malian Ministry of Defence in Bamako, Mali, after confirming his position as the president of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP). ANNIE RISEMBERG / AFP

 

Mali’s Colonel Assimi Goita, following his second coup in nine months, will be sworn into office Monday as transitional president despite international condemnation of the power grab.

And while Goita is not known for being a great talker, the 37-year-old officer’s investiture speech will be closely followed, said one diplomat in the capital Bamako.

“It will be the moment for him to reassure and to solemnly make clear commitments on how the remaining eight months of the transition will go,” said the diplomat, who asked not to be identified.

Following international pressure, the government installed after Goita’s first coup last August pledged to reform the constitution by October, and stage elections in February next year.

Now that Goita has brushed aside this first transitional administration to seize power again, Western diplomats will be listening carefully for confirmation that this is still the timetable in a country whose stability is crucial for the wider region.

The ambassadors themselves will stay away from the investiture ceremony, the diplomat said.

Instead, they will send more junior envoys to the event.

While that will be “neither a boycott not a sanction”, it will send “a political signal”, the diplomat added.

The ceremony will take place at the International Conference Centre in Bamako at 10 am (1000 GMT).

Mali is key to the stability of the Sahel region, and Western powers want to see a return to stable, civilian rule as soon as possible. For the moment, however, Goita and his fellow colonels are in charge.

Goita dismissed the civilian president and prime minister of the transitional administration on May 24, leading former colonial power France to suspend its cooperation with the military — and for the African Union to suspend Mali’s membership.

– Maiga in frame –

Leader of the coalition M5-RFP (Mouvement du 5 Juin-Rassemblement des Forces Patriotiques) Choguel Kokalla Maiga (C) speaks to the press as the coalition proposed his candidature to the premature after that colonel Assimi Goita led a coup to overthrow the government.
Michele Cattani / AFP

 

France and Mali’s other partners want assurances that a civilian administration will be back in power come February 2022.

Goita is expected to nominate as his prime minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga, a former minister and member of the M5 protest movement which helped to force out former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita last August following mass protests over perceived corruption and a bloody jihadist insurgency.

M5 became sidelined in the army-dominated post-coup administration, dubbing the transitional government a “disguised military regime”.

But there has been a noticeable rapprochement between the group and the army since the May 24 coup.

Maiga, 63, insisted Friday that his country would abide by its international obligations, and he also paid homage to French troops who have died in the country.

Maintaining its international partnerships, not least with France, is crucial for Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries and whose security forces are thinly resourced.

Violence remains all too prevalent in the country which on Thursday saw 11 Tuareg killed by as yet unidentified assailants near Menaka in the northeast — only the latest among thousands of victims in intercommunal and jihadist violence which has displaced around one million people.

The extent to which the region as a whole faces uncertainty was underscored when presumed Islamist radicals killed at least 160 people in neighbouring Burkina Faso’s northeast on Friday night in the worst attack the country has seen.

In a message Sunday to Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, Goita said he “strongly condemned this cowardly and hateful attack.”

As Goita prepares to cement his position in Mali, constitutional expert Mamady Sissoko said his investiture could hardly be regarded as legal.

“We are faced by a show of force and this (taking the oath of office) should not be,” Sissoko said.

-AFP

Mali’s New President Heads To ECOWAS Over Double Coup

 In this file photo taken on August 19, 2020 Colonel Assimi Goita speaks to the press at the Malian Ministry of Defence in Bamako, Mali, after confirming his position as the president of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP).  ANNIE RISEMBERG / AFP
In this file photo taken on August 19, 2020 Colonel Assimi Goita speaks to the press at the Malian Ministry of Defence in Bamako, Mali, after confirming his position as the president of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP). ANNIE RISEMBERG / AFP

 

Mali’s junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita left the capital Bamako Saturday, his first full day as president, headed for Ghana where West African leaders will decide on a response to the country’s second coup in nine months.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) invited Goita to come to Ghana’s capital Accra for “consultations” ahead of an extraordinary summit on Sunday devoted to Mali, according to letter from the 15-nation bloc seen by AFP.

He flew to Accra on Saturday, military and airport sources said.

Goita had served as vice president since leading a coup last August that ousted the democratically elected president, with the roles of president and prime minister held by civilians after pressure from ECOWAS, which has served as a mediator.

However on Monday soldiers detained transitional president Bah Ndaw and prime minister Moctar Ouane, releasing them on Thursday while saying that they had resigned.

The twin arrests triggered a diplomatic uproar and marked the second apparent coup within a year in the Sahel country.

Mali’s constitutional court completed Goita’s rise to full power on Friday by naming him transitional president.

With the junta going back on its previous commitment to civilian political leaders, doubts have been raised about its other pledges, including holding elections in early 2020.

The junta said this week it will would continue to respect that timetable, but added that it could be subject to change.

The constitutional court said Goita would “exercise the functions of transitional president to lead the transition process to its conclusion”.

Sanctions threat

ECOWAS, which issued sanctions against Mali after the August coup before lifting them when the transitional government was put in place, will meet from 2:00 pm (1400 GMT) in Accra on Sunday.

The 15-nation bloc has warned of reimposing sanctions on the country, as has the United States and former colonial power France.

Ndaw and Ouane’s detention came hours after a government reshuffle that would have replaced the defence and security ministers, both of whom were army officers involved in the August putsch.

On Friday, Goita said the army had had little choice but to intervene.

“We had to choose between disorder and cohesion within the defence and security forces and we chose cohesion,” he said.

Goita added that he wants to name a prime minister from the opposition M5 movement within days.

M5 spearheaded protests against former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in 2020 that built up pressure ahead of his ouster, but it was excluded from key posts in the army-dominated post-coup administration.

A rapprochement with the group might serve to soften domestic and foreign criticism of the military.

In Mali, regularly ranked among the world’s poorest countries, the previous ECOWAS sanctions were felt hard by a country reeling from numerous crises, including a grinding jihadist insurgency.

 

AFP

Mali Junta Chief Urges Support For French, UN Troops In Country

Assimi Goita, president of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) in Mali, is seen at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting in Accra, Ghana, on September 15, 2020, as part of several efforts to resolve the political crisis in Mali. (Photo by Nipah Dennis / AFP)

 

The leader of Mali’s military junta, Colonel Assimi Goita, on Tuesday urged support for French and United Nations troops, a frequent target of popular anger in the war-torn country.

Speaking to reporters during a ceremony marking Mali’s 60 years of independence from France, Goita asked Malians to support national troops as well as “partner forces” from France and the UN.

Mali has struggled to contain a jihadist insurgency that first emerged in the north in 2012, and which has since spread to the centre of the country and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Thousands of foreign troops in Mali do not appear to have slowed the fighting, and their presence has often stoked controversy in the country.

The urging came as a protest against foreign troops was expected in Mali’s capital Bamako on Tuesday.

Frustration over the long-running conflict contributed to mass protests against president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, which culminated in his ouster in a military coup on August 18.

Goita on Tuesday also called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to lift economic sanctions it imposed in the wake of the coup.

West African leaders warned last week that they will not lift the sanctions unless Mali’s junta appoints civilian leaders.

The junta on Monday chose retired colonel Bah Ndaw to lead an interim government before staging elections and returning to civilian rule to the poor Sahel country.

“The international community is watching us… which is why we accepted the ECOWAS principles,” Goita said on Tuesday.

“In the coming days ECOWAS must remove these sanctions for the happiness of the Malian people,” he added.

West African leaders have not yet reacted to the nomination of Ndaw — a retiree but also a consumate military man — as interim president.

AFP