Canada should rethink aid to Mali after two coups, analysts say

The Globe and Mail
National Comittee for Salvation of the People The Globe and Mail | James Alexander Michie

Colonel-Major Ismael Wague, centre, spokesman for the soldiers identifying themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, speaks during a news conference at Camp Soudiata in Kati, Mali, on Aug. 19, 2020, one day after President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was forced to resign in a military coup. AROUNA SISSOKO/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

After two military coups in Mali in the past eight years, Canada and other key donors are being urged to reconsider their massive financial and security support for Mali’s dysfunctional government.

Soldiers seized power in the West African country on Tuesday for the second time since 2012, capitalizing on mass protests and rising discontent with a government that has failed to end years of violent insurgencies and corruption. The mutinying soldiers were greeted with jubilation in the streets of Mali’s capital, Bamako, in a clear sign that the government had lost the support of the population, despite the huge flows of international aid.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta announced his resignation within hours of his arrest by the rebel soldiers. The military announced plans to set up a civilian transitional government and hold elections, but the African Union decided on Wednesday to suspend Mali, while West African countries closed their land and air borders with Mali and threatened to impose sanctions on it.

Canada is one of Mali’s biggest foreign supporters, providing a total of about $1.6-billion in development aid over the past 20 years, along with hundreds of military peacekeepers and police trainers. Other countries, including France, have sent thousands of soldiers and military vehicles to fight Islamist radicals.

The aid, however, has failed to end the violent conflict that has devastated the country. A report this month by United Nations’ experts found that senior army and intelligence officials in Mali are deliberately obstructing a 2015 peace agreement, allowing the violence to continue.

Over the past year alone, Canada provided about $140-million in development aid to Mali, deployed troops and police officers to the country, spent millions of dollars on peace and stabilization programs and wrapped up a 12-month peacekeeping mission in northern Mali that included helicopters and hundreds of military personnel. Canadian mining companies have also invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Mali.

About 10 Canadian military officers are currently stationed at the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping mission in Bamako, and there are no plans to evacuate them, according to Captain Gregory Cutten, a public-affairs officer for the Canadian Armed Forces.

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Source: Geoffrey York, Steven Chase | The Globe and Mail

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