By Lisa Vives
Salif Keita, renowned singer-songwriter known as the “Golden Voice of Africa”, has been appointed one of five “special advisors” to the head of Mali’s military junta.
Under a decree dated 11 August, the Afropop singer was named advisor to Colonel Assimi Goita who ousted elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in 2020.
Keita, 71, has been a supporter of the junta, endorsing its narrative of national sovereignty and calling for the departure of the UN peacekeeping troops from Mali. He stated he would always remain “the undisputed friend of my country’s soldiers.”
France colonized Mali in the late 19th century, driven by economic interests in resources —particularly gold, diamonds, and copper—as well as the desire to spread their political and cultural influence.
Renamed “Soudan Francais” (French Sudan), Mali was stripped of any semblance of economic, political or social autonomy. A network of French military bases was established throughout Mali, allowing France to use its colonial authority to suppress resistance movements and maintain control over the local population.
Despite gaining its independence in 1960, Mali has maintained close relationships with France that often take the form of paternalistic economic and military interventions.
In 2013, the French launched Operation Barkhane, a military counter-terrorism campaign aimed at defeating an insurgency that included Islamic extremists who had seized the country’s capital, Bamako.
In recent years, Mali has witnessed widespread protests against France, triggered by allegations of civilian casualties and human rights violations by French troops as well as the failure of the operation to bring about sustained peace and stability in the country.
One of the most significant anti-France protests occurred in 2022, when thousands of Malians took to the streets to express their anger and frustration sparked by the killing of several civilians carried out by French fighter-jets.
Though France insists that all the victims were armed jihadists, an investigation by the UN revealed that, “the group affected by the strike was overwhelmingly composed of civilians who are persons protected against attacks under international law.”The incident fueled long-standing grievances against the French military presence in Mali and the perceived lack of accountability for the actions of French operations.
In a related development, the UN has reportedly moved up the withdrawal of its 13.000 peacekeepers from Mali after six UN troops and dozens of fighters from an armed group were killed in confrontations near the northern city of Ber.