What Went Wrong in Mali?

6a00d8341c562c53ef017c3177862e970b-320wiBruce Whitehouse in the LRB:

The Republic of Mali has long been seen as the exception to the dictatorships or civil wars that have seemed the rule in West Africa since the end of the Cold War: a state that was able to shift from autocracy to democratic governance. Arid, landlocked, larger than France (its former colonial master) and Spain combined, and among the world’s poorest nations, dependent on foreign aid, Mali shook off single-party rule in 1991, when massive protests touched off a coup that ended the 23-year reign of General Moussa Traoré. The coup’s leader, Colonel Amadou Toumani Touré, presided over a transition that brought a new constitution and multiparty elections the following year.

Every five years since then Mali has held elections which have been considered generally free and fair by observers. Alpha Oumar Konaré, who won the presidential election in 1992, reformed state institutions and negotiated an end to a long-simmering rebellion by Tuareg nomads in the northern deserts, where central government had never had much control. Konaré stepped down in 2002, respecting a constitutional two-term limit, and was succeeded by Touré. Privately owned newspapers and radio stations, once a state monopoly, flourished, and the country became popular with aid donors, a destination for tourists and a regular venue for music festivals. It was a tranquil place that never made the news.

It lost that distinction on the afternoon of 21 March, when troops in Kati, just outside the capital city of Bamako, launched a mutiny.