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Mali wakes up to military rule after President is forced out

Mutinous soldiers surrounded the private residence of Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on August 18, 2020 firing shots into the air and deepening fears of a coup attempt following several months of demonstrations calling for his resignation. (File Photo)

Mutinous soldiers surrounded the private residence of Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on August 18, 2020 firing shots into the air and deepening fears of a coup attempt following several months of demonstrations calling for his resignation. (File Photo)

Mali awoke on Wednesday to a new chapter in its troubled history after rebel military leaders forced President Boubacar Keita from office, prompting its West African neighbours to threaten border closures and sanctions against the coup leaders.

Mr. Keita, embattled by months of protests over economic stagnation, corruption and a brutal Islamist insurgency, said he had resigned to avoid bloodshed.

There were few obvious traces of the previous day’s drama in the capital Bamako — there were no troops on the streets despite the coup leaders announcing a night-time curfew.

The burnt-out home of the former Justice Minister after an attack by protesters was one of the few visible signs of the overthrow.

UN seeks Keita’s release

Jubilant crowds had cheered the rebels on Tuesday as they arrived in Bamako, where they detained Mr. Keita along with Prime Minister Boubou Cisse.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres demanded the “immediate and unconditional release” of both men as diplomats in New York said the Security Council would hold emergency talks on Wednesday.

It was unclear whether Mr. Keita was still in custody on Wednesday at the Kati military base — a facility seized by the mutineers that was also the site of the 2012 coup that brought him to power.

The coup leaders appeared on television overnight to pledge a political transition and new elections within a “reasonable time”.

Malian Air Force deputy chief of staff Ismael Wague said he and his fellow officers had “decided to take responsibility in front of the people and of history”.

There were no reports of casualties during the military takeover but the coup leaders announced a curfew and border closures, in effect sealing off the country.

French President Emmanuel Macron was among the first to condemn the mutiny, his office saying that he still supported mediation efforts by other West African states.

Mali is the cornerstone of French-led efforts to roll back jihadists in the Sahel, and its neighbours are anxious to avoid the country sliding into chaos.

Colonel Wague said “all past agreements” would be respected, including Mali’s support for anti-jihadist missions in the region.

“MINUSMA (the UN force in Mali), (France’s) Barkhane force, the G5 Sahel, Takuba (a European special-forces initiative) remain our partners,” he said.

The coup leaders also remain “committed to the Algiers process,” a 2015 peace agreement between the Malian government and armed groups in the north of the country, he said.


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Printable version | May 19, 2022 5:05:23 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/mali-wakes-up-to-military-rule-after-president-is-forced-out/article32389817.ece