Salif Keïta’s Support for Mali’s Coup Leaders Raises Concerns

Salif Keïta, known as the Golden Voice of Africa, has created shock and bafflement among music fans by accepting a role as a special adviser to coup leader Col Assimi Goïta. The veteran musician, who has spent 50 successful years in the music industry, is highly influential and respected. Keïta has used his platform to raise awareness about albinism and campaign against discrimination faced by people with the condition. However, his decision to align himself with the military junta in Mali has raised eyebrows and sparked speculation about his motives.

The coup in Mali took place in August 2020, following mass protests against then-President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. Many Malians were frustrated with the country’s feeble leadership, corruption, economic hardship, and chronic insecurity caused by an Islamist insurgency. Salif Keïta was among those who vehemently criticized the ousted president, demanding that he take a stronger stance against France, which had troops in Mali fighting the militants.

Keïta’s views on democracy have also drawn attention. He has been quoted as saying that democracy is not a good thing for Africa, suggesting that African countries need a benevolent dictator instead. While these views are out of step with the majority of Africans, they resonated with the Malian public, with 82% of people expressing trust in the military. By aligning himself with the junta, Keïta appears to be tapping into this sentiment and supporting their agenda.

However, the situation in Mali remains unstable and far from achieving true stability. Violence has reached unprecedented levels, with the presence of the Russian mercenary group Wagner further undermining the junta’s claims of sovereignty. The junta’s adoption of a new constitution that solidifies their grip on power has also fueled speculation about Keïta’s decision to step down from the interim parliament and then accept a role as a special adviser.

The question now is whether Keïta will be a mere praise-singer for the military junta or whether he will provide critical counsel as an advocate against discrimination. Musicians have historically been influential in speaking out against oppressive regimes and military takeovers, often at great personal cost. Keïta’s role as a cultural adviser raises concerns about the motivations behind his decision and the potential impact it may have on his legacy as a champion for justice.

As observers, we should be careful not to jump to conclusions about Keïta’s intentions. It is important to consider the complex political and social dynamics at play in Mali and to engage in critical dialogue about the consequences of aligning with authoritarian rulers. Ultimately, the impact of Keïta’s support for Mali’s coup leaders will depend on his actions in his new role and how he chooses to use his influence.