The president and prime minister of Mali, West Africa, have been ousted by the army officer who led a military coup last year.
Colonel Assimi Goita headed the movement last August to remove the repressive leader Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
The military then installed president Bah Ndaw and prime minister Moctar Ouane. But the soldiers remained in charge.
When they tried to reshuffle the cabinet without asking the military, Goita whipped Ndaw and Ouane from office and detained them in a military base. They were released after several days after agreeing to resign.
Behind all the manoeuvres at the top is the rulers’ fear of a resistance from below.
Goita admitted this openly by saying that the government had presided over “a general consternation marked by the persistence of strikes”. He added the outcome was “ultimately an unlimited strike resulting in a real asphyxiation of the Malian economy.”
On 17 May the UNTM trade union federation called a nationwide five-day strike in a country of 20 million people. It demanded pay rises, an extra 20,000 jobs in the civil service and other improvements for workers.
The strike was hugely successful, shutting banks and public services. It also hit parts of the crucial mining industries. The union reported, “The country is literally paralysed.”
It said that 96 percent of workers called out had taken part in the capital Bamako—and even more in other regions.
A further strike was due to follow, and union leaders announced plans to escalate to indefinite action.
Then came Goita’s coup. With politics in turmoil it was an ideal time for workers to redouble their fight and impose their own solutions.
Instead the UNTM leaders showed their criminally narrow focus. They said they couldn’t strike because there was nobody to negotiate with. UNTM general secretary Yacouba Katile said, “As of today, we have no contact. Given this situation, we have decided not to further penalise our activists and the population in general.”
But it’s guaranteed that without workers’ struggle and mobilisations in the streets, there will be a lot of “penalising of activists and the population in general”.
The imperial powers, mainly the former colonial ruler France, are in chaos about what to do next. They aren’t completely sure who will be in office in the next few months, let alone in the longer term.
The French government condemned what it called “a coup within a coup”. But these events underline that France’s years of military intervention—and brutal treatment of the population—have never been about democracy.
Instead, the real concern is maintaining its economic, military and geopolitical influence in the region. It wants to beat back competition from the US, China and Russia.
France also seeks to exploit crucial resources. Around 70 percent of French electricity is generated by nuclear power. It relies on uranium mined in the region.
Mali’s Taoudeni Basin, a massive oilfield that stretches 600 miles from Mauritania across Mali and into Algeria, is very important for French oil giant Total.
And Mali is Africa’s third largest gold producer, its industry riddled with British, South African and other multinationals.
The strikes of the last few weeks have shown the potential for ordinary people to fight for a new life. It would be one free from imperialist forces, the Malian rich and the military. They are the hope for the future.