Global Advocacy for African Affairs
Democracy/Politics

Mali president, PM arrested by soldiers in apparent mutiny

Soldiers staging a
mutiny in Mali also rounded up a number of senior civilian and military
officials outside the capital on Tuesday and drove them back to their
base, a Malian security source and an official in the prime minister’s office
said.

News of the
apparent coup prompted hundreds of anti-government protesters to pour
into a central square to celebrate and say it was time for him to resign.

A spokesperson for
the M5-RFP protest movement called the president’s detention “not a
military coup but a popular insurrection.”

Prior to his
arrest, Cisse issued a brief statement late in the afternoon calling for
dialogue to resolve the crisis. He did not address the whereabouts of any
officials nor say who he sought dialogue with.

“The outbursts
observed reflect a certain frustration that could have legitimate causes,”
Cisse said. “The government of Mali asks the authors of these acts to
stand down.”

It was not
immediately clear how many soldiers were involved. A Malian military
spokesperson confirmed that gunshots were fired at the base in Kati, about
15 kilometres from the capital but said he did not have any further
information.

AU Commission
chairperson calls for end to crisis 

In a series of
tweets, Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union
Commission, confirmed the arrests of the government officials and called
on the mutineers to cease all use of violence and anti-constitutional
change. 

Earlier in the day,
government workers fled their offices as armed men began detaining people,
including Finance Minister Abdoulaye Daffe.

“Officials are
being arrested — it’s total confusion,” said an officer at Mali’s
Ministry of Internal Security, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mali’s president
was believed to be sheltering with the prime minister at the private residence in
Bamako’s Sebenikoro neighbourhood.

A mutiny in 2012 at
the Kati base led to a coup that toppled then-president Amadou Toumani Toure
and contributed to the fall of northern Mali to jihadist militants, who continue
to operate across the north and centre of the country.

A European diplomat
said a relatively small number of members of the national guard, apparently
angered by a pay dispute, had seized a munitions depot on Tuesday but were then
reported to have been surrounded by other government troops.

Mali’s president
was democratically elected and has broad support from former colonizer France
and other Western allies. A French military source said discussions were taking
place between Mali’s army command and the mutineers.

Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is shown on June 30 at the G5
Sahel summit in Mauritania. (Ludovic Marin/Reuters)

In Bamako, hundreds
of people 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,” said Haidara Assetou Cisse, a teacher,
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 attacked
the justice minister’s personal offices, setting parts of them on fire, a
Reuters witness said.

U.S., France
condemn any forced change

Elsewhere in the
capital, government ministry buildings were evacuated, an official said, and
gunfire was heard near the prime minister’s office, according to a security
source.

The offices of
state television ORTM were also evacuated, said Kalifa Naman, a senior ORTM
official. There have been no reports of any attack on state TV, which was still
broadcasting prerecorded programming.

A Bamako resident
said armed men had shut down access to two bridges across the Niger River
within the city. It was not immediately clear who the armed men were.

Western powers and
a West African regional body condemned the mutiny. French Foreign Minister
Jean-Yves Le Drian said France “condemns in the strongest terms this grave
event.”

The U.S. envoy to
West Africa’s Sahel region, J. Peter Pham, said on Twitter: “The U.S. is
opposed to all extra-constitutional changes of government, whether it is by
those in the street or defence and security forces.”

The Economic
Community of West African States said it “calls on the soldiers to
return to their barracks.”

United Nations
spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Secretary General Antonio Guterres
“calls on all Malians to preserve the integrity of the country’s
democratic institutions.”

Foreign embassies
urged their citizens to stay home.

The ongoing
protests against Keita represent Mali’s worst political crisis since the 2012
coup. At least 14 people have been killed in the demonstrations.

Regional powers
worry any prolonged unrest from the protests could derail the fight against
Islamist militants in the region. Their presence has rendered large areas of
the centre and north of Mali ungovernable.

Keita had hoped
concessions to opponents and recommendations from a mediating delegation of
regional leaders would help stem the tide of dissatisfaction, but the protest
leaders have rejected proposals to join a power-sharing government.

Source:CBC News

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