From relative obscurity to national prominence, the head of the military junta, which seized power in Mali earlier this week intends to correct the ills in his country, which is in a bad shape, but who is Assimi Goita?Colonel Assimi Goita, who is only 37 years of age, carries on his shoulders the expectations of a nation bedeviled by security and socio-political challenges.
The leader of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), the military junta that ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK), hopes to be on the right side of history by leading Mali to a smooth political transition.
In the early hours of IBK’s fall, Assimi Goita appeared on national television alongside four other colonels: Modibo Kone, Malick Diaw, Sadio Camara and Ismael Wague, the CNSP spokesman.
The new strongman in Bamako has insisted that the coup leaders “cannot afford to make mistakes”.
His father’s son
Assimi Goita is the son of an army officer. Very early on, he showed predispositions to follow in his father’s footsteps.
To make his childhood dream come true, he joined in 1992, the Kati military Prytanee in Kati, about 15 kilometers from the capital Bamako.
After this training as a rite of passage, Goita headed for the Koulikoro Combined Military School where he specialized in armored weapons and cavalry.
As a troop child, he very early stood out for his rigor, his tenacity and aptitude in command – strengths that will earn him several operations in northern and central Mali under his belt.
A good CV
In the early 2000s, Assimi Goita was assigned to the 134th Reconnaissance Squadron in Gao.
In 2005, he joined the 123rdReconnaissance Squadron in Kidal and the same year graduated from the Train Application School.
His qualities as a leader propelled him to the rank of deputy squadron commander, a position he held until 2008.
That same year, Goita graduated from the Captain’s Course in Germany.
This inborn fighter continued his ascension by subsequently becoming the commander of Battle Group N° 3, whose mission was to hunt down armed terrorist groups and drug traffickers roaming the area near the border with neighboring Algeria.
From 2011 to 2013, Goita led the 2ndSupport Company, then the 37th Transport Regiment.
At the end of several missions in Gao, Kidal, Menaka, Tessalit and even Timbuktu, he decided to serve in the Special Forces decorated with the certificate of Higher Military Education N° 1.
In 2015, he flew to Gabon where he continued his studies at the Staff School.
Back in Mali, he was appointed Staff Officer at the Combined Arms Operational Center of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, then Head of the Operations Division of the Army General Staff.
He later participated in the Counterterrorism Special Operations Course in Garmich, Germany and in Florida (United States).
A seasoned combatant, Colonel Goita was promoted, in November 2015, to the position of Special Operations Coordinator at the Ministry of Defense, following the terrorist attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako.
Between 2016 and 2017, he commanded the operational unit of the Autonomous Battalion of Special Forces deployed in Sofara.
And since July 2018, he has been in command of the Autonomous Battalion of Special Forces and Toughening Centers.
This elite unit often collaborates with US forces, especially in Flintlock exercises.
Married and a father of three, Assimi Goita has been decorated many times: the cross of military valor, the medal of military merit, the commemorative campaign medal, the French Defense medal with Gold echelon and the United Nations medal in Darfur.
For the moment, the ‘Mouvement du 5 Juin – Rassemblement des Forces Patriotiques’ (M5-RFP), which has for several weeks been calling for the departure of the former head of state, places its trust in Goita for the restoration of constitutional order, with the organization of general elections a highlight.
The M5-RFP, made up of political activists, civil society and religious actors, plans to celebrate “the victory of the Malian people,” this weekend but will undoubtedly ensure respect for the pact sealed with the military junta.
Last Wednesday, the head of the CNSP met senior Malian officials at the Ministry of Defense to “assure them of (his) support for the continuity of state services.”
However, it will take more to reassure the international community, which unanimously condemned his putsch.
According to military sources, Assimi Goita was the main mastermind of the coup.
However, he has been at pains to impress upon Malians and the outside world that he does not nurse any political ambition whatsoever.