On September 21, the military junta that overthrew the Mali government of President Ibrahim Keita announced a transitional government. It is headed by retired Colonel Bah N'Daw, with junta leader Colonel Assimi Goïta as his vice president. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has insisted that the Mali military coup-makers step down and that a civilian transition government plan for new elections in eighteen months. (ECOWAS, despite its name, is also a West African regional security organization). The African Union (AU) expelled Mali in the immediate aftermath of the coup, and is supporting the ECOWAS call. For their part, the coup-makers are insisting on a military-led transition government, and that elections not take place for three years. It is likely that eventually the coup-makers and ECOWAS will reach an agreement that leaves the military in charge, though for less than three years. There is, of course, no certainty that the military will live up to any such agreement.
A retired colonel, Bah N'Daw is only technically a civilian. He has been a minister of defense, and he was an aide to Moussa Traore, the military ruler of Mali from 1968 to 1991. The junta announced that the president and the vice president were chosen by a transition committee made up of representatives of political parties and civil and religious groups; in other words, the political class. It is unclear whether a government headed by Bah N'Daw, which is a military government in all but name, will be acceptable to ECOWAS.
The Mali coup-makers, led by Col. Goïta, had met with ECOWAS in Ghana the week of September 14. The negotiations made little if any progress. Meanwhile, Bamako, Mali's capital, remains quiet. Based on media reporting, it is unclear whether there has been an upsurge in jihadist violence in the far north. The coup-makers released deposed president Keita a few days after the coup. In early September, media reported that he had been hospitalized; he has appeared to be frail. He has assumed no public role since he was deposed.
ECOWAS has imposed sanctions on Mali. ECOWAS states have closed their borders with Mali and have banned trade and financial flows. The impact of these sanctions is unclear. West African borders are highly porous, and ECOWAS states have limited capacity to enforce trade and financial sanctions. If, however, sanctions start to bite the Malian elite, there may be pressure on the military to compromise. Thus far, that does not appear to have happened. The coup-makers have made no further public statements about the French and UN military presence in the country since they welcomed their continuation in the coup's aftermath.