Mali’s interim president and prime minister remain in jail Tuesday after being forcibly taken into military headquarters for hours after a government reshuffle left out two members of the junta who took power in a coup nine months ago.
President Bah N’Daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, along with others, were taken to Kati’s military headquarters late Monday. The African Union, the United States Mission in Mali, the West African Regional Bloc known as ECOWAS, and other members of the international community have requested their immediate release.
The garrison town is about nine miles from the capital and is the former fortress of the junta.
In a strongly worded statement, the international bodies that make up the local committee to monitor the transition condemned a so-called “coup attempt” and stressed that “the military elements detaining them are held personally responsible for their security”.
The group reiterated its support for the transitional authorities and urged Mali’s political transition to continue on its course and complete it within the established timeframe.
“The international community opposes in advance any act of coercion, including forced resignation,” the statement said. “They stress that the ill-considered measures taken today run the risk of weakening the international community’s mobilization in support of Mali.”
An ECOWAS delegation will visit Bamako on Tuesday, according to the joint statement.
The military has not yet issued a statement regarding its actions. Bamako stayed calm until Tuesday. State television in Mali only broadcast the official statement announcing the new members of the government.
The arrests came about an hour after a new government cabinet was announced. In particular, Interior Minister Modibo Kone or Defense Minister Sadio Camara, both supporters of the junta, were not present. No reason was given for their exclusion, but the move indicated growing divisions within the transitional government.
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Alexandre Raymakers, senior African analyst at Verisk Maplecroft’s risk advisory firm, said that while the military’s intentions were not immediately apparent, the military hopes are likely that the president and prime minister will reverse their decision and change cabinet appointments.
“The decision to reorganize the cabinet was made in the face of mounting criticism of the slow pace of reform and growing anger over the paramount role of the army,” he said in the Prime Minister’s first cabinet. “Although the officers were again replaced by other military personnel, both Koné and Camara are widely viewed as pillars of the August 2020 coup.”
Developments raise new concerns about whether the interim government will be able to move freely as promised and plans to hold new democratic elections by next February in Mali, where the United States is home to $ 1.2 billion annually spend on a peace mission.
The two leaders were sworn in last September after the ruling military junta agreed, under increasing international pressure, to hand over power to a civilian interim government.
The junta had seized power a month earlier after mutinous soldiers encircled President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s home and fired shots in the air. He later resigned under duress on national television, saying he did not want blood to be spilled in order to stay in office.
The soldiers then went on state television calling themselves the National People’s Salvation Committee, promising a swift return to civilian rule. However, developments on Monday appeared to call into question that promise.
There have been widespread concerns that the upheaval in Mali over the past year has further reduced efforts to contain militants associated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic state group.
After the 2012 coup, Islamic extremists took control of large cities in northern Mali. Only a 2013 military intervention led by the former colonial power France drove extremists out of these cities. France and a US force continued to fight the extremist rebels, who operate in rural areas and regularly attack roads and cities.