Mali’s military government suspends political activities until further notice

Mali’s ruling junta has issued a decree suspending all political activities until further notice, saying it needs to preserve public order, a move that follows last year’s decision to call off elections indefinitely. Junta spokesman Abdoulaye Maiga read out the statement on state television late Wednesday evening, while the country was celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan in which observant Muslims fast from dawn until dusk.

Mali has experienced two coups since 2020, during a wave of political instability that has swept across West and Central Africa. The country has battled a worsening insurgency by jihadi groups linked to al-Qaida and the group for over a decade.

Col. Assimi Goita, who took charge after a second coup in 2021, promised to return the country to democracy in early 2024. But in September, the junta canceled elections scheduled for February 2024 indefinitely, citing the need for further technical preparations.

The United States said it was “deeply concerned” by the development.

“Freedom of expression and freedom of association are critical to an open society,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters in Washington. “The transition government has already made a decision not to hold an election in February, 2024, to return to a civilian-led democratic government despite the commitment that it made publicly in 2022 to do so.”

“We call on Mali’s to honor its commitments to its citizens and hold free and fair elections,” Miller said. “In Mali and elsewhere, democracy remains the best foundation for stability and prosperity.”

Analysts said the move was likely a backlash against political figures, civil society and students who have expressed frustration with the junta’s repeated moves to delay the nation’s transition back to democratic rule.

“Recent weeks saw mounting pressure by political parties and figures,” Rida Lyammouri of the Policy Center for the New South, a Morocco-based think tank, told . “For the first time, the public and politicians have publicly criticized junta leaders and accused them of a lack of seriousness.”

Mali previously relied on French troops to help push back the insurgents. Amid growing frustration over the lack of progress, the ruling junta ordered French troops out and turned to Russian contractors instead for security support. The last French forces departed in August 2022 after almost a decade of operations in Mali.