Mali’s president, top leaders detained by country’s military

Military officers in Mali have detained the transitional government’s president, prime minister, and defense minister on Monday, escalating political instability just months after the previous president was deposed by a military coup. 

President Bah Ndaw, Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, and Defense Minister Souleymane Doucoure were all taken to a military base in Kati, outside Bamako, hours after two military members lost their jobs in a cabinet reshuffle, according to diplomatic and government sources. 

Their detentions came after President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was deposed by the military in August. The development could escalate instability in the West African region, where al Qaeda and Islamic State-linked militants control large swaths of the desert north.

Political unrest and military infighting have hampered attempts by Western powers and neighbors to help the impoverished nation, leading to regional insecurity.

Bunnaj Africa gathered that the UN mission in Mali demanded the group’s “immediate and unconditional” release, stating that those holding the leaders must be held accountable for their behaviour. 

In a joint statement, ECOWAS, the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union, and other European countries said a delegation from the top international decision-making body would visit Bamako on Tuesday to help resolve the “attempted coup.” 

“The international community rejects in advance any act imposed by coercion, including forced resignations,” the group said.

After the August takeover, Ndaw and Ouane were tasked with overseeing an 18-month transition back to civilian rule, but they seem to have defied the military’s authority over a range of key positions. 

“The sacking of the pillars of the coup was an enormous misjudgement,” reveals a senior former Malian government official. “The actions are probably aimed at getting them back in their jobs.”

The military’s ultimate objective was unclear at first. This, according to a military official in Kati, was not an arrest. “What they have done is not good,” the source said, referring to the cabinet reshuffle. “We are letting them know, decisions will be made.”

Kati’s military base is infamous for overthrowing Malian rulers. President Keita was taken to Kati by the military in August and forced to resign. In 2012, a mutiny there helped to overthrow his predecessor, Amadou Toumani Toure. 

Since then, Mali has been in a state of upheaval. Following Toure’s departure, an ethnic Tuareg insurgency took control of the country’s northern two-thirds, which was then taken over by al Qaeda-linked jihadists. 

Insurgents were defeated by French forces in 2013, but they have since regrouped and continue to assault the army and civilians. They’ve spread their methods to Burkina Faso and Niger, where attacks have increased dramatically since 2017.

There seemed to be a reason to be optimistic. To restore a democratic government, the transitional government announced last month that legislative and presidential elections will be held in February 2022. 

“It is regrettable, but not surprising: the arrangement agreed to after the coup last year was not perfect, but it was a compromise agreed to by all the major Malian and international stakeholders,” said J. Peter Pham, former U.S. special envoy for the Sahel, now with the Atlantic Council, reveals.

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