Military Ousts Civilian Leaders in Mali
The interim president and prime minister, appointed to oversee preparations for elections next year, were detained. Nine months ago, another coup toppled the previous president.
The interim president of Mali, Bah N’Daou, in Bamako, the country’s capital, last year. His removal followed a government reshuffle announced on Monday that sidelined some military officers. Michele Cattani/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
By Elian Peltier and Ruth Maclean
May 25, 2021
Military officials in Mali ousted the country’s interim civilian leaders on Tuesday, setting up a new crisis for the West African nation, just nine months after the previous president was forced out in a military coup.
The leaders — Bah N’Daou, the president, and Moctar Ouane, the prime minister — were appointed last year to lead a transitional government to prepare for new elections. They were both detained by the military on Monday and taken to a base outside the capital, Bamako. On Tuesday, they were officially stripped of their duties, the military said.
President Emmanuel Macron of France denounced the ouster as a coup on Tuesday and threatened to impose sanctions on the military leaders. France has remained involved in the affairs of Mali, a former colony, intervening in 2012 to fight an Islamist insurgency there and in the broader Sahel region.
Boubacar Sangaré, an independent journalist and researcher in Bamako, said that military interference in politics was a recurring problem in Mali.
“The army has, it must be said, interrupted political dynamics in Mali since 1978. That’s not normal, for an army to be doing that for nearly 50 years,” he said in an interview.
The removal of the civilian leaders followed a government reshuffle announced by Mr. Ouane on Monday that sidelined some officers who had taken part in the coup that ousted the former president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, in August. It also comes as workers in important sectors of the economy, including bankers and civil servants, have been on strike since last week after failed salary negotiations with the previous government.
Col. Assimi Goïta, who led last year’s coup and had been serving as a vice president to Mr. N’Daou, said on Tuesday in a statement read on public television by one of his advisers that Mr. N’Daou and Mr. Ouane had sought to “violate” the transition to a new civilian government.
In his statement, Colonel Goïta said that the new government had been formed without consulting him. The newly appointed defense minister, Souleymane Doucouré, was also detained, alongside Mr. N’Daou and Mr. Ouane.
Colonel Goïta’s statement said that the transition process would continue and that elections would be held in 2022, as planned, but he did not provide further details.
The removal of the interim leaders could further destabilize Mali, where rebel and Islamist groups have controlled large swaths of territory in the north for almost 10 years. Mr. Keïta, the former president, was forced by military officers to resign on state television following weeks of protests against the government.
Col. Assimi Goïta, center, who led the coup in August, in Bamako last year. He said on Tuesday that the interim leaders had sought to “violate” the transition to a new civilian government.Associated Press
Mr. N’Daou and Mr. Ouane were appointed in September to oversee an 18-month transition back to civilian rule after the coup.
“It’s mind boggling,” Kamissa Camara, Mali’s former foreign minister and a senior visiting expert for the Sahel at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said in a telephone interview. “This is the second time this has happened — a president and a prime minister together, picked up literally in a car, brought to the military camp, forced to resign. Unbelievable.”
The detentions on Monday drew widespread condemnation. The United Nations, the African Union, the United States, the European Union and Ecowas, the regional organization of West African states, issued a joint statement denouncing the move as an “attempted coup” and calling for the leaders’ release.
Nine days after the coup in August, Mr. Keïta, the former president, was released from the same military base where Mr. N’Daou and Mr. Ouane were taken and driven back to his home.
A delegation from Ecowas, which had negotiated the appointment of the transitional leaders last year, was headed to Bamako on Tuesday, according to a statement.
Last year at least, Ms. Camara said, protesters had a clear target for their outrage in Mr. Keïta’s government.
“You had a legitimate actor, who had the authority and you could point at it and say, ‘You are to blame for what is happening to us.’ But now,” she said, “who do you even blame? Who is even at the helm of the country? Nobody knows.”
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