The military junta in Mali has told the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) special envoy that ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita would not be released now because he may flee the country.
“They call themselves National Committee for the Salvation of the People. We asked them to allow ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to return to his personal residence, where he would be given tight security, but they said he could travel abroad, and not return to answer questions they may have for him,’’ ECOWAS Special Envoy Goodluck Jonathan told Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja on Wednesday.
“We also told them that what would be acceptable to ECOWAS was an Interim Government, headed by a civilian or retired military officer, to last for six or nine months, and maximum of 12 calendar months. The Interim Government would then organize elections to restore full constitutional order,” Jonathan, a former Nigerian President himself, added, according to a statement by the Nigerian presidency.
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Dr Jonathan disclosed that his team was allowed to meet with the ousted President, who confirmed that he resigned voluntarily, adding that he was no longer interested in returning to his former position.
He added that the military leaders want ECOWAS to lift sanctions put in place, as it was already affecting the country, “but we told them that the authority to do such was only in the hands of ECOWAS heads of state”, the statement added.
President Buhari said the priority for Mali now should be securing the country, which is largely occupied by terrorists.
“About two-thirds of Mali is occupied by terrorists, and it makes common sense to secure the country, rather than pursuing individual interests,” he said, according to the presidency.
He said the sub-region would take a common position on the issue when the leaders meet on Friday, hoping that an amicable and generally acceptable position to all interested parties would be arrived at.