The transitional president and prime minister of Mali are still being held on Tuesday after being forcibly taken to army headquarters hours after a government reshuffle left out two junta members who had seized power during a coup nine months ago.
President Bah N’Daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were taken to Kati military headquarters with others on Monday evening. The African Union, the UN mission in Mali, the West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS and other members of the international community have called for their immediate release.
The garrison town is about 15 km from the capital and is the former junta stronghold.
In a firmly worded statement, the international bodies that make up the local transition monitoring committee condemned what they called an “attempted coup” and stressed that “the military elements that hold them will be held personally responsible. of their safety ”.
The group reaffirmed its support for the transitional authorities, calling for Mali’s political transition to continue and be completed on time.
“The international community rejects in advance any act imposed by coercion, including forced resignations,” the statement said. “They stress that the thoughtless action undertaken today risks weakening the mobilization of the international community in favor of Mali.”
An ECOWAS delegation will visit Bamako on Tuesday, the joint statement said.
The military has yet to release a statement on its actions. Bamako remained calm on Tuesday. Malian national television only rebroadcast the official statement announcing the new members of the government.
The arrests came just about an hour after the announcement of a new government cabinet. In particular, it did not include Internal Security Minister Modibo Kone or Defense Minister Sadio Camara, both supporters of the junta. No reason was given for their exclusion, but the move suggested growing divisions within the transitional government.
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Alexandre Raymakers, senior analyst for Africa at Verisk Maplecroft, said if the military’s intentions were not immediately apparent, the military is likely to hope the president and prime minister will reverse their decision and will change cabinet appointments.
“The decision to reshuffle the Cabinet was taken in light of growing criticism of the slow pace of reform and growing anger over the leading role given to the military,” he said in the first Cabinet. of the Prime Minister. “Although the officers have in turn been replaced by other members of the army, Koné and Camara are widely regarded as the pillars of the August 2020 coup.”
The developments raise new alarm over whether the transitional government will be able to move forward freely as promised with plans to hold new democratic elections by next February in Mali, where the UN is spending $ 1.2 billion. dollars per year for a peacekeeping mission.
The two leaders were sworn in last September after the ruling military junta, under increasing international pressure, agreed to cede power to a transitional civilian government.
The junta had seized power a month earlier after mutinous soldiers surrounded the home of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and fired shots into the air. He then quit on national television under duress, saying he did not want blood to be shed for him to stay in power.
The soldiers then went on state television calling themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People and promising a swift return to civilian rule. However, Monday’s developments appear to call that promise into question.
He was widely concerned that the upheavals in Mali over the past year had further hampered efforts to contain militants linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
Islamic extremists took control of major cities in northern Mali after the 2012 coup. Only a 2013 military intervention by the former colonial power, France, pushed extremists out of these cities. France and a UN force have continued to fight extremist rebels, who operate in rural areas and regularly attack roads and towns.