While many citizens long for stability as Mali holds its first presidential elections since the 2012 coup, France and others are positioning themselves to reap the rewards of military intervention from the impoverished resource-rich nation.
As one of the world’s poorest countries, day-to-day life in Mali has never been easy for the vast majority of the people, but the situation has significantly deteriorated since the March 2012 military-coup that deposed democratically elected President Amadou Toumani Touré just weeks before scheduled elections. The borders of Mali, once known as "French Sudan," are based on boundaries drawn by French colonists who took little notice of the ethnic homogeneity of the groups living within the lines they drew across the map, the ramifications of which still create deep-seated tribal and ethnic conflicts across Africa today. Mali is defined socially as well as economically between the fertile south where the capital Bamako is located, and an arid neglected north where ethnic Tuaregs have long sought autonomy. The coup’s main protagonist, Captain Amadou Sanogo, had been handpicked by the Pentagon to participate in an international military education and training program sponsored by the US State Department.
After several stints in the United States undertaking military education, Sanogo returned to Mali and staged the coup, which he justified by accusing President Touré’s regime of being complacent and unable to quell the latest Tuareg rebellion in the north. The EU and US, along with international institutions like the World Bank, immediately cut aid and slapped sanctions on the desperately poor import-reliant nation, which only exacerbated disorder and war-like conditions, making any advance against the Islamists impossible. Despite its impoverishment, Mali is an Eldorado of sorts, boasting massive gold reserves, uranium deposits, as well as diamonds and oil. The outrage over the coup displayed in European capitals had more to do with Touré being a Francophile, and a guarantor of stability for foreign multinationals, despite his democratic credentials. Many in Bamako empathized with Sanogo’s position and supported the coup; people were even seen in the streets of Bamako with placards bearing slogans like “Down with the International Community” in the wake of the economic embargo being imposed.