Less than a year after the coup d’état that ousted the democratically elected president of Mali, military officials on Monday (24) arrested the three main names of the transitional government, exacerbating the political instability affecting the country located in West Africa.
Acting President Bah Ndaw, Prime Minister Moctar Ouane and Minister of Defense Souleymane Doucoure were taken to a military base in Kati, near the capital, Bamako. The arrests follow a government reshuffle that excluded from their ministries two officers who actively participated in the coup in August last year, reportedly provoking military discontent.
According to the acting vice-president, Colonel Assimi Goita, Ndaw and Ouane were dismissed for not consulting him on changes of government, which would have violated the terms of the transition letter. Goita, who led the coup that led to the downfall of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and who is now the outgoing president, said recent events had not changed the planning of elections scheduled for next year . The colonel said “he was forced to act in defense of the republic”.
The political scenario in Mali is viewed with suspicion by the international community, and even France, a former colonizer and military ally of the African country, has joined the chorus against the arrests and the immediate release of those involved. “We are ready to impose sanctions in the coming hours,” said President Emmanuel Macron, who called the crisis a “coup d’etat within a coup”.
The United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), African Union, Commonwealth of West African States (ECOWAS), United States and other European countries have issued a statement joint calling for the immediate release of the detained authorities and “strongly condemn the attempted coup”.
ECOWAS leaders said they were heading to Bamako on Tuesday to follow the next steps in Malian politics. The organization played a key role after the August coup in forming the interim government, which is now threatened by further military interference.
In a note, UN Secretary General António Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” by the arrests and called for calm of the country’s authorities and for the unconditional release of the detainees. Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy, threatened to impose sanctions “against those who were on the way to transition”.
A retired colonel and former defense minister, Bah Ndaw, 70, had been appointed by the military junta which ousted President Keita to rule Mali in September for an 18-month transition period. The promise at the time was that at the end of this period power would revert to civilians.
Keita, elected president in 2013 and re-elected in 2018, resigned on the day of the coup, August 18, while he was already in detention. In his speech, the now ex-president also dissolved parliament and said he did not want blood to be shed so he could stay in power.
The coup came after the start of anti-government protests in early June last year and took to the streets of Bamako. Protesters complained about government corruption, the economic crisis and the ineffectiveness of the coalition trying to fight Islamic extremists in the north of the country.
Actions remained peaceful until police cracked down on protesters, killing dozens. From then on, the movement began to demand the resignation of the president. ECOWAS has tried to alleviate the situation on three occasions. In the last before the coup, after an extraordinary conference with all member states, the bloc made recommendations to pacify the opposition and protesters.
Among them, the formation of a government of national unity which included the opposition and the resignation of 31 deputies elected after a controversial decision of the Constitutional Court which favored the Keita government, in addition to the restoration of the court itself , dissolved in response to the acts. The government tried to put the recommendations into practice, but the opposition did not budge and continued to demand the downfall of the president.