MALI COUP LEADER SEIZES POWER SECOND TIME, DECLARES HIMSELF PRESIDENT

Mali

On Wednesday 26 May, Mali coup leader Col. Assimi Goïta seized power for the second time in just nine months and declared himself transitional president. The interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were stripped of their power on Monday 24 May. The two leaders were detained by the military just hours after a reshuffling of the cabinet removed two army officials involved in the coup last August. The leaders were escorted to and held in a military installation just outside of the capital Bamako. Col. Assimi Goïta complained he was uninformed of their decision to remove the army officials and declared that the interim President and Prime Minister were intent on sabotaging the country’s transition. Mr Ndaw and Mr Ouane were released on Thursday after resigning from their positions, but Col. Goïta refused to discuss their whereabouts for security reasons. On the same day, Mali’s constitutional court recognised Col. Goïta as transitional president, in a ruling prompted by what they determined to be a “vacancy in the presidency.”  A new Prime Minister will be appointed in the coming days. According to Col. Goïta, next year’s election will go ahead as planned. The events of last week were widely condemned by the international community. Bodies such as the EU, the UN, and ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) demanded a return to democracy. Mali’s neighbours fear the continued toppling of governments will undermine the region’s commitment to fighting armed groups such as the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda. Other key role-players, such as France and the US, have threatened serious action if the instability in the African nation continues. French President Emmanuel Macron warned in comments on Sunday 30 May that he would withdraw troops from Mali if they continued down the road towards “radical Islam.” A statement by the US State Department declared a suspension of all security assistance to Mali. 

From a Christian perspective, the people of Mali desperately desire a return to normality. Speaking to Agenzia Fides, Father Edmond Dembele, Secretary-General of the Union of Catholic Priests of Mali, shared: “People want to return to normalcy, and, above all, they ask the army to take care of security and to contain the penetration of jihadists, and not to waste time on political-military quarrels.” Many Malians, including Col. Goïta, have turned to the spiritual leaders of the nation to carve a path towards that outcome. After the first coup, Col. Goïta and the National Committee for the Salvation of the People invited key Catholic, Evangelical and Muslim leaders to consult with the government regarding the country’s direction. Though the Christian population in Mali is small, they still play a role on the national scene, specifically the Catholic church. Mali is a Muslim-majority nation, where about 80% adhere to Islam, according to Agenzia Fides, and the Christian community amounts to only 5% of the population, the majority of whom are Catholic. The population has, over the years, been able to maintain a fair degree of religious tolerance and open dialogue, despite the rise of Islamic jihadist violence in the region. Although Jim Bowers – a missionary in Mali- explained in an interview with Evangelical Focus last year that many churches have not been threatened, others have expressed some vulnerability regarding the situation.  The larger body of Christ can pray for the Lord to strengthen the Christians on the ground as they share the gospel and continue to minister even during these times of political instability. There is hope among the people that Col. Goïta will once again seek the godly counsel of Christian leaders as he did before, and lead the country into a time of peace and stability.

Please pray with us for the following:

  • For the Lord to grant wisdom to Christian leaders who may be involved in discussions with the country’s leadership
  • For His hand of protection to be on the people of Mali during this time of political turmoil and amid the threat of violent extremism
  • For the Lord to strengthen the body of believers within Mali to continue to be the light

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Image: REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko

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