Mali President, PM Held by Mutinying Soldiers

Opposition supporters in the Independence Square in Bamako react to the news of a possible mutiny of soldiers [Rey Byhre/Reuters]

August 18, 2020//-Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse have been detained by mutinying soldiers in the capital during an apparent coup attempt.

The development on Tuesday came hours after soldiers took up arms and staged a mutiny at a key base in Kati, a town close to Bamako.

It followed 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 regional and international powers urged the troops to return to the barracks and foreign embassies advised their citizens to stay indoors.

Here are the latest updates:

19:25 GMT – EU condemns the ‘coup attempt’ in Mali

The European Union “strongly condemns the coup attempt underway 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.”

19:00 GMT – Govt official: Mutinying soldiers holding president, PM

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.

18:50 GMT – Protest movement says detention of president ‘not a military coup’

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 soldiers
Malian soldiers are greeted by protesters as they arrive at the Independence square [Malik Konate/AFP]

18:30 GMT – State television channel taken off line

Mali state television broadcaster ORTM has gone offline after mutinying soldiers detained Keita and Cisse, a journalist at ORTM has said.

18:20 GMT – Chairperson of the African Union Commission condemns arrests

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 energetically condemn the arrest of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the prime minister and other members of the Malian government and call for their immediate liberation,” he wrote on Twitter. 

Translation: “I firmly condemn the arrest of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the Prime Minister and the other members of the Malian government and I call for their immediate release.”

18:00 GMT – Russia says it has information about arrests of president, PM

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.

17:40 GMT – Catch up on the situation 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.

17:30 GMT – President, PM arrested, mutiny leader tells AFP

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.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse [AFP/EPA]]
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse [File: AFP/EPA]

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.

17:20 GMT – Keita ‘arrested’ by mutinying soldiers: Reuters

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.

17:20 GMT – Elysee: Macron discussed mutiny with Keita

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.

16:40 GMT – Protesters gather in Bamako

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.

Mali protest
Opposition supporters in the Independence Square in Bamako react to the news of a possible mutiny of soldiers [Rey Byhre/Reuters]

16:07 GMT – Mali PM calls for dialogue

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.”

16:04 GMT – France condemns Mali ‘mutiny’

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”.

Opposition supporters react to the news of a possible mutiny of soldiers in the military base in Kati, outside the capital Bamako, at Independence Square in Bamako, Mali August 18, 2020. The sign read
A protest movement calling for Mali’s president to step down has been ongoing for two months [Rey Byhre/Reuters]

15:50 GMT – ECOWAS urges Mali soldiers to ‘return to barracks’

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.

15:30 GMT: Warnings of possible mutiny

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.

 Al Jazeera and news agencies 

 

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