By Bola Olajuwon, and Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja
- U.S., AU, ECOWAS condemn crisis
- Jonathan briefs Buhari in Abuja
Some soldiers in Mali on Tuesday took up arms against the state.
They arrested President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Prime Minister Boubou Cissé and some officials of the administration.
The West African country has been going through political crisis since its general election in 2018.
Yesterday’s military action started in the garrison town of Kati, where senior military officers were detained after an apparent mutiny.
The development raised fears of a coup after several months of anti-government demonstrations, led by 5 June Movement – Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP) – seeking Keita’s resignation.
Gunfire erupted inside a key military base, some 15km (nine miles) from the capital, Bamako.
President Keita, who was democratically elected and has broad support from the former colonial master, France and other Western allies, was initially believed to be sheltering at his private residence in Bamako’s Sebenikoro neighbourhood along with the prime minister.
But the president’s media aides could not be reached for confirmation on Tuesday.
With the mutiny, it showed that efforts made by Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mediator, former President Goodluck Jonathan, to bring together Keïta and leaders of the opposition movement for talks have failed.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday received an update from Jonathan on the political situation in Mali.
Jonathan, who was in Mali from Monday to Thursday, last week as the ECOWAS special envoy, briefed Buhari on his meetings with the stakeholders.
The main opposition, he said, continued to insist on the resignation of Keita, a position not acceptable to ECOWAS, which insisted only on the democratic process in the change of power within its jurisdiction.
Jonathan said: “We told them that no international organisation, including the African Union (AU), United Nations (UN), and others, would agree with their position. We continued to emphasise the need for dialogue.”
President Buhari thanked Jonathan for what he called “the stamina you have displayed” on the Mali issue and called for further consultations with the Chairman of ECOWAS, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic.
In the centre of Bamako, young men looted a government-owned building and set it on fire.
It also prompted some protesters to set fire to a building belonging to the country’s justice minister in the latest sign of mounting frustration with Keita’s government.
Keïta won a second term in elections in 2018, but there is widespread anger over corruption, the mismanagement of the economy and the worsening security situation with jihadist and communal violence on the increase.
Though it was not immediately clear who was behind the latest mutiny, the unrest erupted at the very same military barracks where the country’s 2012 coup originated.
The U.S. said it was concerned about the situation unfolding in Mali, where French troops and U.N. peacekeepers have been working to stabilise the country amid the Islamic insurgency that took hold after the 2012 coup.
“The U.S. is opposed to all unconstitutional changes of government whether in the streets or by security forces,” tweeted J. Peter Pham, the State Department’s special envoy for the Sahel region.
ECOWAS, the African Union (AU) and Mali’s former colonial power, France, have condemned the attack.
ECOWAS urged the mutineers to return to barracks.
“This mutiny comes at a time when, for several months now, ECOWAS has been taking initiatives and conducting mediation efforts with all the Malian parties,” its statement said.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, former Prime Minister of Chad and Chairperson of the African Union Commission, demanded the immediate release of Keita and Cisse.
In a tweet on his personal Twitter handle, Mahamat urged the people to stop violent takeover of government and respect the country’s constitution.
He said: “I strongly condemn the arrest of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the Prime Minister and other members of the Malian Government and call for their immediate release.
“I strongly condemn any attempt at anti-constitutional change and call on the mutineers to cease all use of violence and respect for republican institutions.
“I call on #CEDEAO, the United Nations and the entire international community to effectively combine their efforts to oppose any use of force to end the political crisis in Africa.”
France’s Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian said France condemned “in the strongest terms this serious event” and he too urged soldiers to return to barracks.