Wednesday (January 12th): Goïta in the hot seat

Name? Assimi Goïta


Westphalian identity? Malian

Age? 39

Why is he in the news? The West African economic bloc ECOWAS decided to impose tougher economic sanctions, sever diplomatic ties, close land and air borders, and freeze non-essential financial transactions with Mali after Goïta’s interim government proposed staying in power until December 2025.

Why do we care? As ECOWAS stated, this election proposal “simply means that an illegitimate military transition government will take the Malian people hostage.” Considering the direct impact Mali’s internal conflicts have previously had on security in the Sahel region, we care a lot about if and when these elections take place.

Why should you care? Because violence and unrest in the Sahel region is rarely limited to one country. Fears that violence could spillover into West African coastal states as armed groups hope to gain new supply lines for food and equipment. Despite the Accra Initiative, fear of spillover attacks is likely to grow given the increased instability of Goïta’s government. You should care 7/10 about a potentially more unstable Sahel.

Who else cares? French President Emannuel Macron. Relations between France, Mali’s former colonial power, and Mali have deteriorated since Goïta took power last year. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Macron’s government would endorse ECOWAS’ sanctions for the UN Security Council. Despite Macron’s “complete solidarity with the region,” Russia and China have blocked the Security Council from supporting ECOWAS’ decision; also unsurprising considering Russia’s disputed presence in the country.

Any further comments? After Goïta helped to overthrow the Malian President Keita in August 2020, the interim government promised an 18-month transition to civilian rule. However, Goïta staged a second coup in May 2021 in which he changed his role as special forces commander for the job of interim president. Unfortunately for the citizens of Mali and other West African nations, it seems Goïta will pay whatever cost to keep his presidential power, particularly in the midst of ‘inhumane’ sanctions.

Sarah McFadden

General Coordinator