Mali’s president and interim prime minister have been released, a military official said Thursday, three days after being arrested and then stripped of power in what appeared to be the country’s second coup in nine months.
Their release responded to a key demand from the international community, but fell short of other calls for an immediate return to civilian rule.
“The interim president and the prime minister were released at night around 1.30 am (01.30 GMT). We kept our word, ”the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Family members confirmed that President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane had been released.
The two men returned home to the capital Bamako, relatives said, although the circumstances of their release are unclear.
Transition leaders were tasked with leading the return to civilian rule after a coup in August that toppled Mali’s president-elect Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
Keita was kicked out by young army officers following mass protests against perceived corruption and his failure to quell a bloody jihadist insurgency.
# photo1 But in a move that sparked widespread diplomatic anger, Ndaw and Ouane were arrested Monday by army officers who were apparently unhappy with a government reshuffle.
The two were held at the Kati military camp about 15 kilometers (nine miles) from Bamako.
– Military influence –
The interim government – installed under threat of regional sanctions – has a stated goal of restoring full civilian rule within 18 months.
But his appointments were heavily influenced by the military.
Colonel Assimi Goita, who led the post-coup junta, was appointed vice president and other key positions were given to army officers.
On Tuesday, Goita said that Ndaw and Ouane had been stripped of their powers.
The next day, the two men resigned in the presence of mediators visiting the Kati base as diplomatic pressure began to mount.
The UN Security Council, organizing an emergency meeting at the request of the former colonial power, France and others, demanded “the safe, immediate and unconditional release” of the duo and called for a restoration of the civilian-led transition.
# photo2But Goita told mediators he intends to lead the transitional government himself and appoint a prime minister, diplomats said.
The Security Council has not discussed the imposition of sanctions and has refrained from characterizing the detentions as a coup.
In contrast, French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country has engaged more than 5,000 troops in the fight against jihadism in the Sahel, said the two arrests were a “coup d’etat in an unacceptable coup”.
France, the United States and the regional ECOWAS bloc have also warned of sanctions, and US aid to the Malian armed forces has been suspended.
Thousands of people have died, and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, since a jihadist revolt began in northern Mali in 2012, then spread to the center of the country, then to Niger and Burkina Faso. neighbors.
Mali is one of the poorest in the world and its armed forces suffer from a lack of equipment and training. They are supported by UN and French troops, as well as a combined force from four other Sahelian countries.
© 2021 AFP