Malian President Appoints a New Prime Minister
On April 18, Mali’s Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga and his entire government resigned. After their exit, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta thanked his former colleagues for their “loyalty” and “high sense of duty.” In response, former PM Maïga thanked the president for the opportunity to “serve our country and our citizens.”
The reason for the abrupt resignation was not explicitly stated; many believe it to be the result of growing tension and violence in the country and the inability of the government to effectively respond. The former PM and his cabinet have been ridiculed by both “ruling and opposition parties for failing to clamp down on the unrest.”
Over the last month, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across Mali in opposition to the government. The most significant bout of protests came after an attack that led to the death of around 160 people in Ogossagou in late March, the deadliest attack Mali has seen in at least a generation. Between 30,000 to 50,000 people are estimated to have participated in the protests.
“We have witnessed killings that Mali has never known in its history,” said opposition leader Diakite Kadida Fofano.
This is not the only violence that Mali has seen in recent years. In fact, Mali has been experiencing heightened internal conflict since 2012, when a rebellion by ethnic Tuaregs and allied fighters split the country. Last month, 21 Malian soldiers were killed on a military base in Dioura. Last Saturday, a U.N. peacekeeper was killed and four others were injured when a mine exploded. Last Sunday, unidentified fighters were responsible for the deaths of at least 12 soldiers on another military base in central Mali. The violence is also spreading into neighboring countries like Burkina Faso, Chad, and Niger.
The people of Mali are becoming increasingly fed up with attacks like these — and serious inaction on the part of the government. “Today President Keïta’s regime is condemned,” says Issa Kaou Djim of the High Islamic Council of Mali. “His prime minister is not capable of resolving the country’s problems. He must accept the people’s will, which is democratic change, transparency in the country’s management, not using Malians against each other.”
Since the mass resignation late last week, a new prime minister has been chosen. Boubou Cissé, who has served as Mali’s finance and economy minister for the past three years, was chosen on Monday to fill the vacancy, according to an announcement made by the office of President Keïta.
But many fear that a new government will not make a difference without the simultaneous introduction of significant political changes. In 2012, the Malian government announced a “comprehensive plan for decentralization of the country” with the purpose of providing certain communities with more autonomy in order to prevent local groups from taking up arms. However, the plan has stalled, resulting in armed groups carving out their own “political and administrative role[s] by force” and weakening the ability of the government to stem violence.
A report by Foreign Policy observed that “it is not easy for a government that lacks popular legitimacy and whose security forces have been involved in human rights violations to take a central role in security and political sector reform.”
Many are calling for significant reforms throughout the government, not just a change of cast. Only time will tell whether Mr. Cissé will provide the kind of change that is necessary for Mali to begin to heal after all of this violence.