A mutiny on 22 March by mainly low-ranked soldiers loyal to the newly formed CNRDR (National Committee for the Re-establishment of Democracy and Restoration of the State) spiralled into a coup that overthrew President Amadou Toumani Touré, who did not intend to run in the elections on 29 April. Frustrations ran high within the Malian army since the lack of supplies and weapons lead to a series of setbacks during a new Tuareg rebellion (MNLA) in the north, sparked by heavily armed pro-Gaddafi fighters returning from the Libyan war. Incumbent Touré’s whereabouts are uncertain but he is said to be safe. After three days of looting and gunshots in Mali’s capital Bamako, life slowly returned to normal as most mutinous soldiers returned to their barracks and people resumed work. The coup in Africa’s third largest gold miner, perceived as a stable democracy, has been widely condemned through suspending Mali’s membership in regional blocs and by Western donors putting off non-humanitarian aid.

Impact on country risk

Internally, several pro- and contra-coup demonstrations are taking place whereas lawmakers and political parties unanimously oppose the putsch. In a first scenario, these demonstrations could raise civil hostilities between the two sides. A second scenario that contains an equivalent security risk, involves a counter-coup executed by units loyal to President Touré. The third and most likely scenario originates from Mali’s neighbours’ (Ecowas) recent ultimatum, expired already, to relinquish power or face devastating economic and diplomatic sanctions while raising the threat of military intervention as a last resort. Besides economic strangulation, these sanctions would cut the CNRDR’s funds needed to push back the Tuareg rebels. The MNLA, probably backed by Islamist groups, are capitalising on the coup and seized three regional capitals in the north as the junta-led army retreated and subsequently pledged to start returning to civil rule under pressure of the ultimatum. Ecowas will probably keep pushing until elections are set under the supervision of an ‘acceptable’ interim government. As most economic activity is located in the south (Bamako) and coup violence stayed limited, the economic impact of the coup has so far been low. Nevertheless, sanctions such as freezing Mali’s account at the central bank of the CFA-zone or denying access to seaports would thoroughly increase transfer- and non- payment risks. Upcoming developments in this trial of strength will define whether ONDD’s policy should be adjusted.

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