Mali coup: Military promises elections after ousting president

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Mali coup: Military promises elections after ousting president

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Media captionThe mutinying soldiers were cheered by crowds as they reached the capital Bamako on Tuesday

The soldiers who ousted Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta say they plan to set up a civilian transitional government and hold new elections.

The spokesman for the soldiers said they acted to prevent the country falling further into chaos.

President Keïta resigned on Tuesday night saying he did not want “blood to be spilled to keep me in power.”

The African Union, regional leaders, and the UN have condemned the coup.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current African Union (AU) chairperson, urged the soldiers to release President Keïta and others government officials being detained.

The UN Security Council is to hold an emergency session on Wednesday to discuss the latest developments.

Mali, a vast country stretching into the Sahara Desert is among the poorest countries in the world and has experienced several military takeovers. It is currently battling to contain a wave of jihadist attacks and ethnic violence.

The soldiers, calling themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, said they did not want to stay in power.

“We are keen on the stability of the country, which will allow us to organise general elections to allow Mali to equip itself with strong institutions within the reasonable time limit,” said the group’s spokesman, Col Ismaël Wagué, the air force deputy chief of staff.

What did Mr Keïta say?

On Tuesday night, wearing a surgical mask amid the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Keïta resigned in a brief address on state television.

“If today, certain elements of our armed forces want this to end through their intervention, do I really have a choice?” he asked.

“I hold no hatred towards anyone, my love of my country does not allow me to,” he added. “May God save us.”

Mr Keïta won a second term in elections in 2018, but since June has faced huge street protest over corruption, the mismanagement of the economy and a dispute over legislative elections.

There has also been anger among troops about pay and the conflict with jihadists.

What have the soldiers said?

A televised statement was read out early on Wednesday on behalf of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People.

“Civil society and political social movements are invited to join us to create together the best conditions for a civil political transition leading to credible general elections for the exercise of democracy through a roadmap that will lay the foundations for a new Mali,” said Col-Major Wagué.

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Reuters

Image caption

Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta won a second term in 2018

He also announced the closure of all air and land borders and a curfew from 21:00 to 05:00.

Flanked by soldiers, Col Wagué said: “Our country is sinking into chaos, anarchy and insecurity mostly due to the fault of the people who are in charge of its destiny.”

It was the war in Libya, almost a decade ago, that nudged Mali along the path to chaos.

Weapons from Libya flooded across the Sahara Desert, fuelling a separatist conflict in northern Mali, which morphed into an Islamist militant offensive, which prompted a coup in the capital Bamako.

It’s been a mess ever since, in a landlocked nation that had been a West African success story.

Today French troops, American drones, UN peacekeepers, and British helicopters are all trying – and largely failing – to strengthen security, not just in Mali, but across a vast region increasingly threatened by Islamist insurgencies and other conflicts.

This latest military coup in Bamako appears to be a reaction to those security challenges, but also to corruption, disputed elections, and political drift.

The coup itself seems unlikely to fix anything.

But it highlights a familiar truth – that while foreign intervention has its uses, the key to repairing a nation like Mali lies in its own hands, and with its own faltering democratic institutions.

What do we know about the mutiny?

It appears that mutinying soldiers took control of the Kati army camp about 15km (nine miles) from Bamako.

It is where the President Keïta and the prime minister were later taken after being seized.

It, however, remains unclear how many soldiers took part in the coup or who is now in charge.

But BBC Afrique’s Abdoul Ba in Bamako says it seems to have been led by Col Malick Diaw – deputy head of the Kati camp – and another commander, Gen Sadio Camara.

  • Who is behind Mali’s coup?

After taking over the camp, about 15km (nine miles) from Bamako, the mutineers marched on the capital, where they were cheered by crowds who had gathered to demand Mr Keïta’s resignation.

On Tuesday afternoon they stormed his residence and arrested the president and his prime minister – who were both there.

The president’s son, the speaker of the National Assembly, the foreign and finance ministers were reported to be among the other officials detained.

What has the reaction been?

The United Nations and African Union have both called for the release of those held by the soldiers.

In a statement, President Ramaphosa called for an immediate return to civilian rule and for the military to return to their barracks.

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), a regional body, also said its 15 member states had agreed to close their borders with Mali, suspend all financial flows to the country, and eject Mali from all Ecowas decision-making bodies. In recent months, Ecowas has been trying to mediate between Mr Keïta’s government and opposition groups.

Mali’s former colonial ruler, France, was also quick to condemn the president’s detention, and Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian urged the soldiers to return to barracks.

A member of Mali’s opposition M5 movement, which has held protests against Mr Keïta for the past few weeks, welcomed his resignation.

Prof Ramata Sissoko Cisse told the BBC World Service: “I think it’s a relief for the Malian people and for all the citizens of Mali to finally hear from the president that because of the lack of support of the Malian people he finally accepts to resign, to give back power to the people.”

M5 is led by the conservative Imam, Mahmoud Dicko, who has called for reforms after rejecting concessions from Mr Keïta.

  • The popular imam taking on Mali’s president

The events which led to the coup:

  • 2018: President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita re-elected for a second term
  • 2019: Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga and his government resign following an upsurge of ethnic violence
  • March 2020: Opposition leader Soumaila Cisse kidnapped as he campaigns ahead of parliamentary elections
  • 30 April: Constitutional court overturns some parliamentary election results amid fraud allegations
  • May: Opposition coalition led by popular Iman Mahmoud Dicko calls for President’s Keïta’s resignation
  • June: Ecowas calls for creation of a “consensus government of national unity” following massive opposition street protests
  • 10 July: At least 10 people killed after opposition supporters clash with security services
  • 18 August: Mutinying soldiers carry out a coup