Anti-gov’t protesters poured onto Bamako streets amid reports of mutinous troops holding president and gov’t officials.
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced around midnight on Tuesday that he is resigning from his post saying that he does not wish blood to be shed following a military mutiny that plunged the country into a political crisis.
“Today, certain parts of the military have decided that intervention was necessary. Do I really have a choice? Because I do not wish blood to be shed,” Keita said in a brief statement broadcast on national television.
Keita said that he has decided “to give up my duty from now on.”
It is unclear if the military is now officially in charge of the country.
Earlier, Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse were detained by soldiers in a dramatic escalation of a months-long crisis in the country.
The development came hours after soldiers took up arms and staged a mutiny at a key base in Kati, a town close to Bamako.
The soldiers were expected to deliver a statement later, while countries in West Africa, along with former colonial power France, the European Union and the African Union, denounced the actions of the soldiers and warned against any unconstitutional change of power.
The events came amid a weeks-long political crisis that has seen opposition protesters taking to the streets to demand the departure of Keita, accusing him 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 on Tuesday, opposition protesters gathered at a square in Bamako in a show of support for the soldiers, while foreign embassies advised their citizens to stay indoors.
Here are the latest updates:
The soldiers behind the coup – calling themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People – appeared on state television in military fatigues, pledging to stabilise the country.
“We are not holding on to power but we are holding on to the stability of the country,” said Ismail Wague, Mali Air Force’s deputy chief of staff.
“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” said Wague, announcing borders were closed and a curfew was going into effect from 9pm to 5am.
“This will allow us to organise within an agreed reasonable timeframe, general elections to equip Mali with strong institutions, which are able to better manage our everyday lives and restore confidence between the government and the governed.”
Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita resigned around midnight on Tuesday and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, plunging a country already facing an insurgency and mass protests deeper into crisis.
Looking tired and wearing a surgical mask, Keita resigned in a brief address broadcast on state television after troops seized him along with Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and other top officials.
“Today, certain parts of the military have decided that intervention was necessary. Do I really have a choice? Because I do not wish blood to be shed,” he said from a military base in Kati outside the capital Bamako where he had been detained earlier in the day.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has condemned the coup attempt in Mali and has moved to suspend the country from its decision-making body, according to Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, who is reporting from Abuja in Nigeria.
In an announcement, the regional alliance also said that neighbouring countries of the West African state are closing its borders and will impose sanctions as the crisis continues.
Go here to read how Mali’s months-long political crisis culminated to Tuesday’s events.
Negotiations reportedly underway in #Mali for immediate release of the Pres and PM with a guarantee from the international community that the mutineers will not be prosecuted. Still unclear whether #IBK has/will resign as unconstitutional. What happens next? @AJENews for latest
— Folly Bah Thibault (@follybahAJE) August 18, 2020
See images from the day’s events here.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the arrest of Keita and members of the government, calling for their immediate release, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
Guterres called for “the immediate restoration of constitutional order and rule of law in Mali”, read the statement.
Read more here.
The UN Security Council will hold on Wednesday afternoon an emergency meeting 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 told AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.
The European Union “strongly condemns the coup attempt under way in Mali and rejects any unconstitutional changes,” the block’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Twitter.
“This can in no way be a response to the deep socio-political crisis that has hit Mali for several months.”
L’UE condamne fermement la tentative de coup d’Etat en cours au Mali et rejette tout changement anti-constitutionnel. Ceci ne peut en aucun cas être une réponse à la profonde crise socio-politique qui frappe le Mali depuis plusieurs mois #AUEU https://t.co/L8airgRjy3
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) August 18, 2020
Keita and Cisse are both being held by rebel soldiers, a senior government official confirmed to the AFP news agency.
“The prime minister and the president were driven by rebel soldiers to Kati in armoured vehicles,” said Boubou Doucoure, who works as Cisse’s director of communications.
He added that both men were now at Kati. A mutiny in 2012 at the same base led to a military coup that toppled then-President Amadou Toumani Toure and contributed to the fall of northern Mali to fighters.
While the house of the presidents son is being trashed, and the military take president and PM in custody, no sign of the 14000 UN+foreign troops meant to support the Malian state https://t.co/WzaapVT2iz
— Nicolas Haque (@nicolashaque) August 18, 2020
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”.
“IBK did not want to listen to his people. We even proposed an alternative but he responded with killings,” Nouhoum Togo, spokesman for the M5-RFP coalition, told Reuters news agency, referring to Keita by his initials.
Mali state television broadcaster ORTM has gone offline after mutinying soldiers detained Keita and Cisse, a journalist at ORTM has said.
The chairperson of the African Union Commission has condemned the arrests of Keita, Cisse and other officials.
Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat also condemned any attempt at “anti-constitutional” change and called on the mutinying soldier’s to respect the state’s institutions.
“I strongly condemn the forced detention of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali, the Prime Minister and other members of the Malian government and call for their immediate liberation,” he wrote on Twitter.
I strongly condemn the forced detention of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of #Mali, the Prime Minister and other members of the Malian govt, and call for their immediate release. My full statement:https://t.co/zvJVuJJbjp
— Moussa Faki Mahamat (@AUC_MoussaFaki) August 18, 2020
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov has said that Russia has received information about the arrests of Mali’s president and prime minister, RIA news agency reported without providing further details.
He also said, according to the media outlet, that Moscow is concerned about the events in Mali.
Developments are moving fast in Mali. Here are a few stories to get you up to speed with what has been happening in the country in recent weeks.
The AFP news agency, citing a source identified as a leader of the mutiny, said the soldiers have detained Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse.
“We can tell you that the president and the prime minister are under our control,” the leader, who requested anonymity, told AFP.
He added that the pair had been “arrested” at Keita’s residence in Bamako.
>Another military official, who also declined to be named, said the president and prime minister were in an armoured vehicle en route to Kati.
Reuters news agency has reported, citing two security sources, that Keita has been arrested by mutinying soldiers in Bamako.
The arrest came after soldiers mutinied at the Kati army base and rounded up a number of senior civilian and military officials, according to Reuters.
French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the soldiers’ mutiny in Mali on Tuesday with his Malian counterpart and other West African leaders, expressing his support for mediation efforts by the ECOWAS regional bloc, the presidency in Paris said.
Macron discussed the unfolding situation with Keita and the leaders of Niger, Ivory Coast and Senegal, and “condemned the attempted mutiny under way,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement.
The French presidency did not say precisely when Macron’s talks with the African leaders took place.
In Bamako, hundreds of people have poured into the square around the Independence Monument, the site of mass protests since June, calling for Keita to quit over alleged corruption and worsening security.
“Whether he’s been arrested or not, what is certain is that his end is near. God is granting our prayers. IBK is finished,” Haidara Assetou Cisse, a teacher, told Reuters news agency, referring to the president by his initials.
“We have come out today to call for the total resignation of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Because we heard there were shots fired by the military and we have come out to help our soldiers get rid of IBK,” opposition supporter Aboubacar Ibrahim Maiga said.
Protesters have also attacked the justice minister’s personal offices, setting parts of them on fire, a Reuters witness said.
Cisse, the Malian prime minister, called on the mutinying soldiers to stand down and urged dialogue to resolve the situation.
In a statement, he said the mutiny “reflects a certain frustration that could have legitimate causes. The government of Mali asks all the authors of these acts to stand down.”
France denounced “in the strongest terms” what it described as a mutiny launched by soldiers in Mali.
“France has become aware of the mutiny that has taken place today in Kati, Mali. It condemns in the strongest terms this serious event,” Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian said in a statement that also urged the soldiers to return to their barracks “without delay”.
The West African bloc ECOWAS called on the soldiers “to return to their barracks without delay”.
“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,” the bloc said in a statement.
Gunfire was heard at an army base near Bamako, with the Norwegian embassy talking of a possible military mutiny. Soldiers fired their guns into the air in the base in Kati, some 15km (9 miles) from Bamako.
Witnesses said armoured tanks and military vehicles could be seen on the streets of Kati, The Associated Press news agency reported.
Read more here.