In April 2012 the military junta that overthrew Mali’s democratically elected government handed back power to a civilian administration under pressure of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The interim administration under Interim President Traore was stuck in political deadlock as military rulers were reluctant to give up actual power. That, combined with the tentative ruling style of interim Prime Minister Diarra, who was internationally criticized, and the interim president’s absence as he was forced to seek medical treatment in France for two months after an attack on the presidential palace in May by anti-government protesters were at the foundation of the deadlock. Islamist rebels continue to control the three northern regions after a Tuareg rebellion in April was outflanked by Ansar al-Din and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), disaffiliating the enormous ‘Azawad’ region and creating a safe haven for jihadi fighters. Under pressure of ECOWAS a new unity government was established on August 20 to accelerate the return to full constitutional rule and to finally address the northern insurgency with the help of a regional stabilization force fielded by ECOWAS.

Impact on country risk

The new government of interim president Traore incorporates elements of the old political guard, former opposition figures and pro-junta members who hold three key portfolios. As a result, the new cabinet largely resembles the previous one, which suggests on- going impunity of former junta leaders. At the same time, it does not bode well for any hopes of a proper regional force deployment to retake the north from Islamist militants. The military only agrees to a small ECOWAS force of 600-800 troops instead of the 3000 previously outlined, which are to undertake a supportive role while the military leads the repair of Mali’s territorial integrity. The junta’s reluctance to give up its monopoly on power in Bamako seems to be priority over the loss of the northern regions, since the Malian army is simply not capable to mount an effective counter-offensive without significant international support considering its earlier humiliating defeat in the north.

Analyst: Louise Van Cauwenbergh, l.vancauwenbergh@credendogroup.com