- Mali witness months of protests against alleged corruption and decreasing security
- Military mutiny in Mali forces President Keita to resign
- The military seized Keita from his home
- Military said elections will be held within a “reasonable time”
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the President of Mali, has resigned from his office hours after the Mali military soldiers seized him from his house as a part of the coup following the months of huge protests against the alleged corruption and decreasing security on the court in West Africa.
The announcement of Keita’s resignation was met with jubilation by the anti-Government demonstrators on Wednesday whereas the leaders of the military upheaval said they would now enact a political transition and hold the elections within a “reasonable time”.
The soldiers behind the mutiny who call themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People appeared on state television in military fatigues, and pledged that they will stabilise the country.
Deputy Chief of Staff of Mali Air Force, Ismail Wague said, “We are not holding on to power but we are holding on to the stability of the country,”.
Wague announced that the country’s border will be closed and a curfew will be imposed with effect from 9:00 PM to 5:00 AM and added, “With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,”.
He said, “This will allow us to organise within an agreed reasonable timeframe, general elections to equip Mali with strong institutions, which are able to better manage our everyday lives and restore confidence between the government and the governed.”
Former President of Mali, Keita announced his resignation in a brief address to the nation on the national broadcaster ORTM close to midnight (local time). The 75 year old looked considerably tired and was wearing a surgical mask said his resignation was effective immediately.
He resigned 3 years before his final term was due to end.
He also declared the dissolution of his government and the National Assembly.
Keita said, “If today, certain elements of our armed forces want this to end through their intervention, do I really have a choice?” from a military base in Kati which is outside the capital Bamako where he and his Prime Minister Boubou Cisse had been detained.
Keita said, “I wish no blood to be shed to keep me in power,” and added “I have decided to step down from office.”
Though there was no comment from the opposition leaders in Mali immediately after the coup, on Tuesday, the coalition of M5 and RFP behind the mass protests around the country signalled support to the mutineers’ actions and the spokesperson from the coalition Nouhoum Togo even came in front and said that what happened was “not a military coup but a popular insurrection”.
However, the regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) denounced “the overthrow by putschist soldiers of the democratically elected government” and even ordered the closing of the regional borders with Mali along with a harsh suspension of all the financial flows between Mali and its 15 member states.
In the capital of Mali, however, the anti-Government who initially took to the streets back in June demanding the resignation of President Keita were seen rejoicing the soldiers’ actions.
One demonstrator was quoted as saying, “All the Malian people are tired – we have had enough,”.
A Bamako based journalist named Mohamed Ag Hamalech said that there was excitement and apprehension in the capital city of Mali after Keita announced his resignation.
He said, “Some people were sad to see Keita leave in this manner,” and added “We don’t know who’s in charge … We don’t have a government, we don’t have a national assembly.”
The political turmoil unfolded in the country months after its disputed legislative elections and came in support for the resignation of Keita amidst the criticism of how his government handled a spiralling security situation in the northern and central regions which have tangled regional and international governments, along with a United Nations mission.
Keita who was first elected in 2013 and then returned to the office five years later witnessed the downfall which mirrors that of his predecessor. Amadou Toumani Toure was forced out of the presidency in a coup in 2012 after a series of punishing military defeats. Only that time, the attacks were carried out by the ethnic Tuareg separatist rebels.
In the coup of 2012, which erupted at the same place the Kati military camp, rushed the fall of Mali’s north to armed group which some people even linked to the al-Qaeda.
It was only the French led Military operation which was able to overthrow those fighters, however, they regrouped and expanded their reach to central Mali during the Presidency of Keita. A report said, “at times, Mali’s military has seemed powerless to stop the fighters, some of them now also affiliated with the ISIL (ISIS) armed group.”
The violence in which the armed forces stoked the ethnic tensions while rallying for power has spilt into the neighbouring countries like Burkina Faso and Niger which has destabilised the wider Sahel region and have created a huge humanitarian crisis.
Also in March, unidentified gunmen abducted Mali’s main opposition leader, Soumaila Cisse, as he campaigned in the country’s volatile centre. He has not been heard from since.
And as the tensions grew, anxiety in Mali in the recent weeks have skyrocketed about another military led change of power in the country especially after the regional mediators from ECOWAS failed to bridge the impasse between the opposition leaders and the government led by Keita.
The report from Al Jazeera read, “Keita tried to meet protesters’ demands through a series of concessions and even said he was open to redoing disputed legislative elections. But those overtures were swiftly rejected by opposition leaders who said they would not stop short of Keita’s resignation.”
On Tuesday, soldiers in Katil picked up weapons from the armoury at the barracks and even detained several senior military officer, the anti-Government protestors cheered the actions of these soldiers and some even set for to a building which belonged to the Justice Minister of Mali in its capital.
Prime Minister Cisse requested the soldiers to put down their weapons and said, “There is no problem whose solution cannot be found through dialogue,” in a statement.
The deed was already in motion by then and the armed forces began detaining the people in Bamako as well including Keita, Cisse and the Finance Minister of Mali, Abdoulaye Daffe.
William Lawrence, professor of political science at the American University in the United States, expressed concern over the potential for more chaos in Mali.
Lawrence said, “Mali has three overlapping sets of problems, and added “There’s a severe political crisis that grew out of the botched March 2020 elections. There’s a severe economic crisis, complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic and there’s a severe security crisis which has led to the arrest of one of the major opposition leaders, held by terrorists in the North.”
Lawrence also said, “There are lots of grievances about the failure to contain terrorism, but also the actions of the military against civilians.”
While the opposition stood united with their demands of Keit’s resignation, Lawrence said, “there is not very much consensus on what to do next or who should represent Malians,”.
Apart from ECOWAS, incidents of Tuesday in Mali were condemned by the African Union, the United States of America, the United Nations, and France.
Antonio Guterres, who is the UN Secretary-General sought “the immediate restoration of constitutional order and rule of law”.
The United Nations Security Council scheduled a closed meeting on the Wednesday afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the UN has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission.
Chairman of the AU, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said he “energetically” condemned Keita and Cisse’s arrest and called “for their immediate liberation”.
Foreign Minister of France, Jean-Yves Le Drian said France “condemns in the strongest terms this grave event”. J Peter Pham who is the US envoy to the Sahel, said the US was “opposed to all extra-constitutional changes of government”. China’s Foreign Ministry said the country strongly denounces the change in regime by force.