UN mission in Mali calls for immediate release of the imprisoned president and prime minister

The United Nations mission in Mali has called for the “immediate and unconditional” release of the country’s president and prime minister, who were detained by the military on Monday and later deprived of their powers.

The UN MINUSMA mission said on Twitter that those who detain the leaders will have to answer for their actions.

#Mali Nous suivons with the events et restons engagés and appui à la Transition. Nous apples au calme et exigeons la libération immédiate et inconditionnelle du president et du Premier ministre. This is a non-binding partner who deals with the leurs.

– MINUSMA (@UN_MINUSMA) May 24, 2021

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for calm and the release of Mali’s civic leaders.

“I am very concerned about the news of the detention of civilian leaders from the transition to Mali,” Guterres said on Twitter. “I call for peace and their unconditional release.”

I am very concerned about the news of the detention of civilian leaders from the transition to Mali. I call for calm and their unconditional release. My Special Representative works closely with ECOWAS, the AU and all other international actors supporting the ongoing political transition.

– António Guterres (@antonioguterres) May 25, 2021

The European Union and the African Union have also condemned the arrests of President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane.

Mali’s powerful interim vice president, Colonel Assimi Goita, said on Tuesday that he had impeached the interim president and prime minister for not consulting him on the appointment of a new government, in violation of the country’s transitional charter.

Monday’s arrests sparked fears of a second coup as Ndaw and Ouane headed an interim government installed after an August putsch under threat of regional sanctions.

Goita, who led the August coup that toppled then-President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, said in a statement that next year’s elections to restore an elected government would go ahead as planned.

Two senior officials, who refused to be named, told AFP that soldiers had taken Ndaw and Ouane to the Kati military camp on the outskirts of the capital, Bamako.

Their arrests followed a sensitive government reshuffle on Monday afternoon, designed to respond to growing criticisms of the interim government.

The military retained the strategic portfolios it controlled during the previous government in the realignment.

But two coup leaders – ex-Defense Minister Sadio Camara and ex-Security Minister Colonel Modibo Koné – were replaced.

The reshuffle also came at a time of mounting political challenges in the capital, Bamako, and pressure to meet the deadline for promised reforms.

Unconfirmed rumors of a possible coup d’état circulated in Bamako, but the city remained relatively calm.

Ouane was reached by telephone shortly before the line was cut and told AFP that soldiers were “coming to get him”.

A joint statement signed by the UN, AU, ECOWAS, EU, US and UK on Monday condemned the politicians’ arrest and called for their “immediate and unconditional freedom”.

‘Send a message’

Young military officers deposed former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Aug. 18 after weeks of protests over alleged government corruption and his handling of the jihadist insurgency in Mali.

After the 15-nation West African bloc of ECOWAS threatened sanctions, the military junta turned over power to a transitional government that promised to reform the constitution and hold elections within 18 months.

Coup leader Goita was appointed vice president of the caretaker administration, and the interim president, Bah Ndaw, is a retired army officer.

Many have questioned whether the military-dominated government has the will or the ability to implement reforms in the short term.

Among other problems, the vast country faces a major logistical and security challenge as parts of its territory are in the hands of jihadists.

Doubts persisted despite the interim government promising last month to hold a constitutional referendum on Oct. 31, with elections to follow in February next year.

On May 14, amid growing anger, the government said it would appoint a new “broad” cabinet.

An official in Mali’s interim presidency, who asked for anonymity, said the reshuffle was intended to send a message that “respect for the transition period remains the priority.”

He also underlined the need to replace Defense and Security Ministers.

“They are not symbolic figures of the junta,” the official said, referring to the newly appointed ministers.

Political quarrel

In an example of growing unease, the opposition’s M5 movement – which led the protests against Keita in 2020 – this month pushed for the interim government to be dissolved and demanded a “more legitimate” body.

But the M5 is divided. For example, two members of the Union for the Republic and Democracy party were appointed interim ministers on Monday. The party is part of the M5.

Civil disputes in Mali are also increasing the pressure caused by political strife.

The country’s largest union, UNTM, declared a second week of strikes on Monday after wage negotiations with the interim government collapsed.

( Jowharwith AFP and REUTERS)

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