Rebel Mali junta frees president and prime minister who ‘agree’ to resign

The UN Security Council said Wednesday after a closed meeting that the resignations were forced and demanded an immediate resumption of the civilian-led transition and said the military should return to their barracks.
Thursday 27/05/2021
Commander Baba Cisse, representative of Mali vice president Colonel Assimi Goita gives a statement in Bamako, Mali, May 26, 2021. (REUTERS)
Commander Baba Cisse, representative of Mali vice president Colonel Assimi Goita gives a statement in Bamako, Mali, May 26, 2021. (REUTERS)

BAMAKO - Mali’s interim president and premier have been released, a military official said Thursday, three days after they were detained and stripped of their powers in the country’s second coup in nine months. However before they were let go, both men “agreed” to resign.

“The interim president and prime minister were released overnight around 1:30 am (0130 GMT). We were true to our word,” the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The resignations of President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane on Wednesday coincided with a visit by an Economic Community of West African States delegation to press the military to back down. One report has it that the resignations took place in front of members of the delegation.

“They resigned, their release was scheduled, we have nothing against them,” said a junta spokesman.

However on Tuesday Assimi Goita, who headed a junta which seized power less than 10 months ago and later became Ndaw’s vice-president, had already declared that the pair had been stripped of their powers.

Ndaw and Ouane were heading an interim government installed in September under the threat of regional sanctions, with the declared aim of restoring full civilian rule within 18 months.

ECOWAS has floated the possibility of sanctions against the officers responsible for the takeover.

The UN Security Council said Wednesday after a closed meeting that the resignations were forced and demanded an immediate resumption of the civilian-led transition and said the military should return to their barracks.

The UN, the African Union and other international bodies, as well as the US, had also urged Mali’s military to release the transitional leaders.

Family members confirmed that Ndaw and Ouane had been freed. They have returned to their homes in the capital Bamako, those close to them said, though the conditions of their release were not clear. The two had been held at the Kati military camp around 15 kilometres from Bamako.

In a move that sparked widespread diplomatic anger, the pair were detained on Monday by army officers who were apparently disgruntled by a government reshuffle.

The arrests, orchestrated by Goita, have jeopardised Mali’s transition back to democracy after a coup in August overthrew former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Goita, a colonel, also led last year’s coup. He has promised that elections planned for next year will still go ahead.