A key meeting between the Malian coup plotters and the mediators of the West African regional bloc seeking a return to civilian rule ended after just 20 minutes.
Saturday’s talks were to last 90 minutes, according to a tentative schedule set by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). But the meeting ended after just 20 minutes, according to Reuters.
It was not clear whether the schedule had been changed or whether the talks had been halted.
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s overthrow on Tuesday was condemned abroad, but celebrated by many in a country struggling with an armed uprising and months of political unrest.
A 15-nation delegation earlier arrived in the capital, Bamako, for talks aimed at reversing Keita’s overthrow.
The bloc took a hard line on the coup, closing borders and halting financial flows – a move diplomats said was aimed as much at warning opponents at home as at stabilizing Mali.
Before a series of meetings with the mutineers and other groups, the head of the delegation, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, looked upbeat.
“I believe that in the end, we will find something which is best for the people and which is good for ECOWAS and the international community,” he told reporters.
The most anticipated meeting took place at the Ministry of Defense, where face-masked ECOWAS mediators sat at a long table across from military government chief Assimi Goita, who wore a desert camouflage uniform and was flanked by other military officers in berets and fatigues.
ECOWAS and the coup plotters, who call themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), have not yet commented on the discussions.
Ahmed Idris of Al Jazeera, from neighboring Nigeria, said ECOWAS is seeking to break the deadlock as quickly as possible, to prevent outside forces from plunging the country into an all-out crisis that could be exploited by fighters. armed.
The CNSP has been in control of the country since Tuesday, when the mutineers arrested Keita at gunpoint and forced him to resign. They promised to oversee the transition to elections within a “reasonable” time frame.
The overthrow of Keita, known as IBK, has been hailed by many in Mali, which has been rocked by months of protests calling for his resignation over alleged corruption and deterioration of security in areas where affiliates of Al Qaeda and ISIS are active.
Reinstate Keita “out of the question”
The presidents of Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea are among those pushing for tough ECOWAS response, diplomat said, as they both faced violent public protests for their candidacy for third term. and want the bloc to show that it will not allow power takeovers behind its own back. Court.
“They cannot allow this to happen. They take it very personally. It’s on their doorstep and they think they’re next, ”said a second regional diplomat.
After three days of calm after the coup in the capital Bamako, police used tear gas earlier on Saturday when a scuffle broke out between a group of 50 pro-Keita protesters and local residents who threw stones , a witness told Reuters news agency.
“The reinstatement of IBK is out of the question. The only thing they (the delegation) can achieve is the transition. Under ECOWAS rules, ECOWAS should oversee the transition, ”said one of the diplomats, referring to the outcome of the delegation’s visit. .
Thousands of coup supporters gathered in a central square in Bamako on Friday to celebrate the takeover. There is no outward sign that the suspension of ECOWAS financial relations is still being felt.