The President of Mali Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was arrested by mutinous soldiers on Tuesday after they stormed the West African country’s capital.
Tens of thousands of Malians have flooded the capital Bamako in recent months, calling for a new leadership, and accusing President Keïta of failing to tackle an Islamist insurgency wreaking havoc in the country, and allowing the economy to collapse.
Frustration further skyrocketed after the government imposed lockdowns and shutdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The head of the African Union Commission and West African leaders condemned the uprising, and called for the immediate release of President Boubacar Keïta, Prime minister Boubou Cisse and other top officials.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional political and economic union of fifteen countries located in West Africa, urged the military to “return to their positions without delay”.
Local and international reports said soldiers barricaded roads, torched government buildings and fired bullets into the air as protesters even as the national the national television went silent with many people saying President Keïta had been overthrown.
Earlier on Tuesday, ECOWAS said it had rejected the demand by the opposition that President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali should resign for political stability to return.
The main opposition group, M5, is insisting on the resignation of President Boubacar Keita, a position not acceptable to ECOWAS, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is ECOWAS Special Envoy to the Republic of Mali, reported back to current Nigerian leader Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday.
Jonathan said any attempt to oust Keita outside the democratic process would not be accepted by ECOWAS.
“We told them that no international organization, including the African Union (AU), United Nations (UN), and others, would agree with their position. We continued to emphasize the need for dialogue,” Jonathan told Buhari at the state house in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.
President Buhari and four other ECOWAS leaders had visited Bamako, the capital of Mali, last month, followed by a virtual extraordinary summit of the sub-regional body.
Dr Jonathan, who was in Mali from Monday to Thursday, last week, recounted his meetings with the stakeholders, including political and religious leaders, Ambassadors of US, France, Russia, Germany, European Union, and other important personalities key to peace and cohesion in the country.
Jonathan told Buhari that the Constitutional Court had been reconstituted and inaugurated, while vacancies in the Supreme Court had been filled, thus sorting out the judicial arm of government.
In a statement, the presidency in Nigeria said, President Buhari thanked Dr Jonathan for what he called “the stamina you have displayed” on the Mali issue, and counseled further consultations with the Chairman of ECOWAS, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic.