US military aid to Mali’s post-coup transition government will remain suspended until a new government is in place following elections, a senior US official said Wednesday.
Such a government is not expected to be formed for another 18 months at least, the timeline set by the new authorities for a political transition tasked with preparing the ground for general elections and the restoration of civilian rule.
The United States announced it was suspending security aid to Mali following a military coup that overthrew elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on August 18, following months of political unrest in a country gripped by an Islamist insurgency.
The military leaders who seized control put in place a president and a transition government while retaining a grip on power.
The US special envoy for the Sahel region, J. Peter Pham, told journalists in a conference call that Washington could only unblock military assistance when the proper conditions are met.
When the military topples a government, “we’re obliged under US law to restrict (security) assistance that benefits that government until such time as constitutional order is restored,” Pham said.
“Those restrictions remain in place,” he added.
But he said humanitarian and development assistance — which makes up the bulk of US aid — continues to reach Mali through non-government and international partners.
“We view the establishment of the transitional government, which I met with, certainly as an initial step in that process toward a restitution of constitutional order through free and fair elections,” Pham said.
“But until such time as those are held and a constitutional government is restored, we are obliged under US law to restrict our assistance – our military assistance, that is – to the regime,” he said.