Mali Junta Leader Takes Charge As Regional Bloc Considers Sanctions

Mali’s military Vice President Assimi Goita will be in charge of the West African country, an adviser said Friday, as West African leaders prepare for a high-level summit on Mali’s latest political crisis.

Goita resumes the functions of the president and will lead the transitional government until a new leader can be named or elections are held next year, Commander Baba Cisse said by phone from Bamako. Goita, a colonel, will manage “daily affairs” and “assure the transition,” but stays vice president for now, Cisse said.

Bah N’Daw resigned as interim president and Moctar Ouane stepped down as interim prime minister on Wednesday while in military detention at an army barracks just outside the capital. They were released in the early hours of Thursday after the United Nations Security Council, the U.S., France, and regional authorities demanded that they should be let go.

“A situation where most parts of the country are in the hands of insurgents calls for a consensus and restoration of peace, not a
further escalation of the crisis,” Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said, ahead of a summit of leaders from the regional Economic Community of West African States set for Sunday.

A multinational military effort including French and U.S. troops alongside a 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping force has failed to stabilize Mali, which saw more than 2,800 causalities in 2020 -- Mali’s deadliest year yet, according to data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

The U.S. State Department said it would halt all military cooperation with Mali’s army while France threatened targeted sanctions against the junta over their detention.

The political upheaval that’s rocking Africa’s third-biggest gold producer, still reeling from the overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August, threatens to further destabilize a nation that’s a linchpin in an international effort to contain a mushrooming insurgency by Islamist militants in the Sahel region.

The political crises undermine the credibility of the Malian state, leaving space for militants to present themselves as an alternative to an absent state, International Crisis Group’s Sahel director Jean-Herve Jezequel said.

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