Mali: monthly report May 2024

The month of May has been rich in developments for the region. On the military front, the armies of the newly formed alliance of Sahel states held a joint exercise with the armies of Chad and Togo. This operation was described as "significant" by their respective chiefs of staff in a joint statement. The ultimate goal of the exercise is to improve coordination among the region's armed forces; but the political message conveyed by the operation is one of increasing cooperation between coup-led regimes and other countries in the region.

In this context, the Presidential elections in Chad concluded amidst controversy, with the expected victory of Mahamat Déby. The first political effect of the elections was the resignation of Prime Minister Succés Masra, leader of the political party Les Transformateurs, who announced appeals against the election results, having secured 19.8% of the votes (a result much lower than expected). Déby swored to be the President for all the citizens and now faces the challenge of continuing military cooperation with the USA and France, a factor that, considering the current dynamics in the Sahel, is predicted to be particularly turbulent.

Meanwhile, the Nigerien junta has returned under the spotlight following recent reports of ongoing negotiations with Iran. According to these reports, the colonels in Niamey are negotiating with the Ayatollahs for the sale of 300 kilograms of uranium that Tehran could use in its nuclear program. These negotiations have reportedly provoked American criticism and led to Tiani's subsequent request for the withdrawal of stationed troops in the country. Although Niamey officially denies that there have been active negotiations, the sale of uranium would align perfectly with the junta’s policy of addressing the financial crisis affecting public accounts, in which the sale of raw materials represents the main form of income. Niamey has indeed engaged in a standoff with Beijing over the past month, which concluded with the signing of a MoU between China’s CNPC and the Nigerien government worth $490 million for the sale of Nigerien oil via the Niger-Benin pipeline. In this context, there have also been tensions with the government of Porto-Novo, which blocked the sale of Nigerien oil following Niamey’s failure to reopen the borders. The impasse was resolved only thanks to the mediation of a high-level Chinese delegation that managed to break the deadlock situation, ensuring the export of the first barrels of Nigerien crude.

Meanwhile, the consolidation of the juntas in Mali and Burkina Faso continues, not without setbacks. Regarding the latter, the government led by Traoré announced the extension of the transition period until 2029, a widely expected decision that raises international concern, especially in light of the ongoing humanitarian crisis. However, the transition remains unstable. On May 26, gunfire was reported in front of the Burkinabé presidency, causing yet another alarm over a possible coup and the usual mobilization of Ouagadougou’s population in defense of the presidency. Despite the extension, Burkina Faso’s transition does not seem stable, with burkinabe security forces that must take into account the first cases of defections even in the VDP, the pro-government militia.

In Mali, there is a substantial realignment of factions within the context of the transition. In the North of the country, the CSP announced that it has initiated talks with the pro-jihadist groups of JNIM to negotiate what the Tuareg delegation described as a "non-aggression pact." This long-anticipated event confirms that the national transitional government’s war against the Tuaregs has so far only led to the consolidation of the northern front. Finally, there are reports of splits between civilians and the military in the transitional government, particularly between the presidency and Prime Minister Choguel Maïga. The prime minister harshly criticised the management of the transition and supported the positions of the political movement from which the M5-RFP originated, which criticised the suspension of political parties, the prolongation of the transition and the government’s inability to manage the state. In this context, the opposition announced the establishment of a government in exile, which according to reconstructions are supposed to be based in Geneva. The prime minister of the government is Mohamed Cherif Kone, a historical figure in Malian politics and currently in exile after the rise of Goita.

Download the May 2024 report