World and regional leaders have condemned in strong terms the coup attempt in Mali by mutinying soldiers, culminating in the arrest of the President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and the Prime Minister, Boubou Cissé.
The insurrection is coming just as ECOWAS special envoy to Mali, former President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday briefed President Muhammadu Buhari on the crisis in that country.
Jonathan said calls by the main opposition in Mali, M5-RFP, for President Keita to resign cannot be acceptable to African Union (AU), United Nations (UN) and others.
Yesterday, the soldiers arrested the Malian president and the Prime Minister after storming the West African country’s capital where protesters filled the streets demanding new leadership at a time of rising extremism and economic turmoil.
A group of young men set a government-owned building on fire hours after disgruntled junior officers detained commanders and took control of the Kati camp, about 15km (nine miles) from Bamako.
In the past weeks, the political crisis in that country degenerated, with opposition protesters taking to the streets to demand the departure of Keita, who they accused of allowing the country’s economy to collapse and mishandling a worsening security situation.
Mali’s years-long conflict, in which ideologically-motivated armed groups have stoked ethnic tensions while jockeying for power, has spilled into the neighbouring countries of Niger and Burkina Faso, destabilising the wider Sahel region and creating a massive humanitarian crisis.
Earlier yesterday, opposition protesters gathered at a square in Bamako in a show of support for the soldiers while regional and international powers urged the troops to return to the barracks and foreign embassies advised their citizens to stay indoors.
A statement by UN spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, noted that Guterres called for “the immediate restoration of constitutional order and rule of law in Mali”.
The European Union also condemned the insurrection in that country, saying it was not the solution to socio-political crisis in the country.
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“EU strongly condemns the coup attempt underway in Mali and rejects any unconstitutional changes. This can in no way be a response to the deep socio-political crisis that has hit Mali for several months,” the block’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Twitter.
Also, African Union (AU) also condemned the coup attempt in Mali, asking the soldiers to release President Keita and the prime minister with immediate effect.
The chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, noted in a tweet that AU “emphatically condemns” the arrests of President Keïta and his prime minister.
He also denounced “any attempt at unconstitutional change” while urging the mutineers to “cease all use of violence”.
Mahamat called on the 15-nation West African ECOWAS bloc, the UN and the entire international community to “combine their efforts to oppose any use of force to end the political crisis in Mali”.
Also, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned the uprising, urging 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,” ECOWAS noted in a statement.
Also, France’s Foreign Minister, Jean Yves Le Drian, said that country condemned “in the strongest terms this serious event” and urge soldiers to return to barracks.
“The United States opposes any extra-constitutional change of government, whether by those on the streets or by the defense and security forces,” tweeted Peter Pham, the US special envoy to the Sahel.
“The embassy has been notified of a mutiny in the Armed Forces and troops are on their way to Bamako,” the Norwegian Embassy wrote in an alert earlier yesterday.
Tens of thousands of Malians had flooded the capital of the West African nation in recent months, accusing Keïta of botching the response to a fast-spreading Islamist insurgency while allowing the nation’s economy to crumble.
The coronavirus pandemic further fanned frustrations after state lockdowns pushed many people out of school and work.
Earlier yesterday, Prime Minister, Cissé, acknowledged the “legitimate causes” of his countrymen’s anger in a statement and invited the soldiers to talk.
Malian mutinous soldiers also detained the President of the National Assembly and the Finance Minister, according to local journalists.
“There is a mutiny, but we do not know what it means yet,” said Mohamed Salaha, a news editor in Bamako. “Everyone is being told to stay inside. Everything is closed.”
We recalled that former President Olusegun Obasanjo had warned that the current political crisis in Mali could affect Nigeria if care is not taken to end the uprising.
In an article he wrote In July, Obasanjo said the crisis also posed grave security risks to West African countries particularly Senegal, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic.
Obasanjo said the protest was different from previous ones because in addition to having the support of a wide range of actors, notably political actors, civil society organisations and some security agencies, it also has the backing of a vast majority of the population.
“The consequences will reverberate across the whole West Africa region, with the safety and security of Senegal, Burkina Faso and Niger directly at risk. If those countries stumble, the effects will ripple across coastal states such as Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Guinea. It will reverberate even to Nigeria.
“Mali is the levee that if breached, will create a wave of insecurity throughout Africa’s western region.”
It’s Insurrection Not Coup, Says M5-RFP
But the coalition in Mali behind mass protests calling for Keita to resign said his detention by mutinying soldiers was “not a military coup but a popular insurrection”.
Meanwhile, former President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday said calls by the main opposition in Mali, M5-RFP, for President Keita to resign can’t be acceptable to African Union (AU), United Nations (UN) and others.
Jonathan stated this when he briefed President Muhammadu Buhari on the happening in Mali.
Jonathan who is ECOWAS Special Envoy to the Republic of Mali briefed President Buhari on the political situation in the West African country, as corollary to efforts by West African leaders to restore stability to the country.
According to statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, Jonathan who was in Mali from Monday to Thursday, last week, recounted his meetings with the stakeholders, including political and religious leaders, Ambassadors of US, France, Russia, Germany, Union, and other important personalities key to peace and cohesion in the country.
The main opposition group, M5, he said, continued to insist on the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, a position not acceptable to ECOWAS, which insisted only on democratic process in change of power within its jurisdiction.
“We told them that no international organization, including the African Union (AU), United Nations (UN), and others, would agree with their position. We continued to emphasize the need for dialogue,” former President Jonathan stressed.
He added that the Constitutional Court had been reconstituted and inaugurated, while vacancies in the Supreme Court had been filled, thus sorting out the judicial arm of government.
UN Security Council Holds Emergency Meeting Today
Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting today afternoon to discuss the current situation in Mali.
The session was requested by France and Niger and will take place behind closed doors, a senior UN diplomat disclosed on condition of anonymity.