GZERO Media logo

A dangerous déjà vu in Mali

A dangerous déjà vu in Mali

Malians woke up on Wednesday without a government. Although details are still murky, we do know a group of soldiers detained President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and forced him to step down. The rebel troops have promised a return to democracy — but isn't that what coup masterminds always say right after seizing power?

How did we get here, what happens now, and who's watching?

Mali's political crisis. Mali, a vast mineral-rich and mostly arid nation in Western Africa, is one of the continent's poorest countries. It also has one of the world's youngest populations (the median age in 2020 is just 16.3) and is extremely vulnerable to climate change as it borders the Sahara.

To make matters worse, years of political instability have opened the way for Islamic militants to take over parts of Malian territory. French troops arrived almost a decade ago to bolster a disgruntled local military that still struggles to keep al-Qaeda and the Islamic State at bay. Attacks have been rising recently, and the violence has spilled over into neighboring Burkina Faso.

Keïta was quite popular when he first voted into power in 2013, less so when he was reelected two years ago, as allegations of corruption and election fraud have eroded his support. The current crisis started in March, when the opposition won big in a parliamentary election, but Mali's constitutional court overturned part of the tally and awarded extra seats to allies of the president.

That brought thousands of Malians to the streets to call for Keïta's ouster. They were unofficially led by Mahmoud Dicko, a popular cleric known as the "Imam of the People" whom many now view as the only figure capable of uniting the country. As the unrest deepened, Keïta tentatively accepted a power-sharing agreement proposed by other West African nations, but the Malian opposition rejected the idea, leaving the country in a deadlock that rebel soldiers attempted to break yesterday by deposing the president.

What happens now? The rebels say they are committed to handing over power to a civilian caretaker government that will call a fresh election. But many fear the sudden military takeover creates an opening for further chaos.

The key figure to watch is Dicko, who could play kingmaker despite earlier refusals to seek political power directly himself. The imam announced his departure from politics after meeting with the coup leaders on Wednesday, but will continue to be influential behind the scenes.

Who's watching outside Mali? France sees its former colony as a key battleground in its "Forever War" against Islamist armed groups in the region. Other EU countries and the US are concerned about further deterioration of security in the region, which could stoke a fresh refugee crisis that might affect Europe.

Regional organizations like the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States are also worried further regional instability, but lack the tools to do much about it. And although there is no word (yet) from either al-Qaeda or ISIS, both stand to benefit from any uncertainty to make further inroads in Mali.

The thing is, we've been here before. Eight years ago, a similar coup created a power vacuum for jihadis to take control of most of northern Mali... until they were expelled by French soldiers. Could it happen again now, or will the military and the protesters restore political stability before Islamic militants exploit the situation to wreak further havoc?

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

More Show less

On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

More Show less

In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

UNGA banner


Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal

Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

UNGA Livestream