Mali Military Coup Could Be Bad News For a Revolutionary West Africa

With elections in Mali just one month away, the New York Times reported that Captain Amadou Sanogo has led a coup d'etat which has taken control over the government and captured many state officials. Mali has been one of the more stable African countries over the past couple decades, which makes this news all the more shocking. The Arab Spring has caused a myriad of revolutions and protests across Africa, and Mali was the next geographic domino to fall. With the Tuareg rebels capturing swaths of Northern Mali, the situation shows the greater instability of the whole Saharan region and creates a domino effect that could push further through the continent.

With Arab Spring protests throughout the region, Mali was subjected to the spillover from the Libyan revolution. Battle-hardened rebels from Mali who had gone to Libya to fight brought the revolution back with them. Mali's last large-scale revolution occured in 1991, where hundreds had died.

One issue that confronts Mali is the loss of aid as a result of this coup. Canada has already removed its aid from the country and the United States is reviewing its aid options in Mali, though has been slow in making a decision. USAID's website still says, "In less than 20 years, Mali has developed a strong, stable, and vibrant democracy."  

The ramifications of this rebellion could spell trouble for the rest of the continent.

With protests already occuring in neighboring countries such as Western Sahara, Mauritania, Algeria, Senegal, and nearby Cameroon, the potential for this to spread to the smaller countries across the sub-Saharan region is immense. If the Tuareg rebels were able to come down from Libya and disrupt an otherwise stable country, then the same could happen in other places.

Just recently, in neighboring Guinea-Bissau, one of the two final presidential candidates refused to participate in a runoff election, citing fraud. This could be another potential hotspot for revolution, as contentious elections have stirred up conflict many times in the past. Guinea, another neighboring country, had an assassination attempt on its leader less than a year ago in another attempted coup.

While Mali is not an Arab country, there is no doubt that this is a part of the Arab Spring. As Mali falls, the beacon of hope of this stable country vanishes, and all of the other quasi-stable countries surrounding it may crumble as well. This rising tide of rebellion could take down much of the Western African region with it.