Mali Coup Leaders Promise Elections Within ‘Reasonable Time Limit’


Soldiers who ousted Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta say they plan to set up a civilian transitional government and hold new elections.

The spokesman for the soldiers said they acted to prevent the country falling further into chaos.

President Keïta resigned on Tuesday night saying he did not want “blood to be spilled to keep me in power”.

The African Union was among global and regional leaders who condemned the coup, and voted to suspend Mali.

It’s 15-member security council called for the “restoration of constitutional order” and the release of the president and other government officials.

The UN Security Council is due to hold an emergency session to discuss the latest developments.

Mali, a vast country stretching into the Sahara Desert is among the poorest countries in the world and has experienced several military takeovers. It is currently battling to contain a wave of jihadist attacks and ethnic violence.

The soldiers, calling themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, said they did not want to stay in power.

“We are keen on the stability of the country, which will allow us to organise general elections to allow Mali to equip itself with strong institutions within the reasonable time limit,” said the group’s spokesman, Col Ismaël Wagué, the air force deputy chief of staff.

What did Mr Keïta say?
On Tuesday night, wearing a surgical mask amid the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Keïta resigned in a brief address on state television.

“If today, certain elements of our armed forces want this to end through their intervention, do I really have a choice?” he asked.

“I hold no hatred towards anyone, my love of my country does not allow me to,” he added. “May God save us.”

Mr Keïta won a second term in elections in 2018, but since June has faced huge street protests over corruption, the mismanagement of the economy and a dispute over legislative elections.

There has also been anger among troops about pay and the conflict with jihadists.

What have the soldiers said?
A televised statement was read out early on Wednesday on behalf of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People.

Col Wagué urged Mali’s civil and political groups to help create a “political transition leading to credible general elections for the exercise of democracy through a roadmap that will lay the foundations for a new Mali”.

He also announced the closure of all air and land borders and a curfew from 21:00 to 05:00.

Flanked by soldiers, Col Wagué said: “Our country is sinking into chaos, anarchy and insecurity mostly due to the fault of the people who are in charge of its destiny.”

It was the war in Libya, almost a decade ago, that nudged Mali along the path to chaos.

Weapons from Libya flooded across the Sahara Desert, fuelling a separatist conflict in northern Mali, which morphed into an Islamist militant offensive, which prompted a coup in the capital Bamako.

It’s been a mess ever since, in a landlocked nation that had been a West African success story.

Today French troops, American drones, UN peacekeepers, and British helicopters are all trying – and largely failing – to strengthen security, not just in Mali, but across a vast region increasingly threatened by Islamist insurgencies and other conflicts.

This latest military coup in Bamako appears to be a reaction to those security challenges, but also to corruption, disputed elections, and political drift.

The coup itself seems unlikely to fix anything.

But it highlights a familiar truth – that while foreign intervention has its uses, the key to repairing a nation like Mali lies in its own hands, and with its own faltering democratic institutions.

What’s the mood in Bamako?
Journalist Mohamed Salaha told the BBC that banks and offices were closed on Wednesday but some daily activities were slowly resuming.

A small group of people gathered outside the Independence Monument to celebrate, while some opposition activists detained during the recent street protests have been freed.

However, some people are also worried about the future as it is not clear who is in charge of the country, he said.

What do we know about the mutiny?
It appears that mutinying soldiers took control of the Kati army camp about 15km [nine miles] from Bamako on Tuesday.

It is where President Keïta and the prime minister were later taken after being seized.

However, it remains unclear how many soldiers took part in the coup.

But BBC Afrique’s Abdoul Ba in Bamako says it seems to have been led by Col Malick Diaw – deputy head of the Kati camp – and another commander, Gen Sadio Camara.

After taking over the camp, the mutineers marched on the capital, where they were cheered by crowds who had gathered to demand Mr Keïta’s resignation.

They stormed his residence and arrested the president and his prime minister – who were both there.

The president’s son, the speaker of the National Assembly, the foreign and finance ministers were reported to be among the other officials detained.

What has the reaction been?

As well as calls by the UN and AU for the release of those held by the soldiers, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional body, also said its 15 member states had agreed to close their borders with Mali, suspend all financial flows to the country, and eject Mali from all ECOWAS decision-making bodies. In recent months, ECOWAS has been trying to mediate between Mr Keïta’s government and opposition groups.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has tweeted his condemnation of the “mutiny”:

Mali’s former colonial ruler, France, was also quick to condemn the president’s detention, and Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian urged the soldiers to return to barracks.

A member of Mali’s opposition M5 movement, which has held protests against Mr Keïta for the past few weeks, welcomed his resignation.

Prof Ramata Sissoko Cisse told the BBC World Service: “I think it’s a relief for the Malian people and for all the citizens of Mali to finally hear from the president that because of the lack of support of the Malian people he finally accepts to resign, to give back power to the people.”

M5 is led by the conservative Imam, Mahmoud Dicko, who has called for reforms after rejecting concessions from Mr Keïta. (BBC)