December 5, 2022

No deal between ECOWAS and military officers who overthrew President Boubacar Keita of Mali

Talks between a delegation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the military officers who overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali ended on Monday with no deal.

Keita was overthrown on August 18 after soldiers at the barracks in Kati launched a mutiny and began detaining officials in the capital Bamako.

They later encircled the private residence where Keita was staying with his prime minister, fired shots into the air and detained them.

Keita later appeared on state television around midnight and announced his immediate resignation and the dissolution of his government and the National Assembly. 

“Today, certain parts of the military have decided that intervention was necessary. Do I really have a choice? Because I do not wish blood to be shed,” Keita added in his brief statement.

Five military officers also made a televised statement announcing that their committee was now in control.

Since then, Keita has remained in detention along with several officials.

ECOWAS and the military leaders have been negotiating a possible return to constitutional rule and the release of President Keita.

After some initial progress on Monday, the negotiations ended with no deal.

Military spokesman Colonel Ismael Wague announced on Monday that the mediation team from ECOWAS would report to heads of state on progress made before a summit on Mali later this week.

Wague added that the final decision on the makeup of an interim transitional administration would be decided by Malians and not people from outside the country.

He said no timeline had been established for elections to return the country to civilian rule.

The military leaders had previously said they would stage elections “within a reasonable time”. 

ECOWAS and the military leaders both said President Keita, whose return to office had been initially demanded by ECOWAS, no longer wished to resume duties.

“President Keita told us that he has resigned, that he was not forced to do so and that he does not want to return,” former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who led the delegation, said on Monday.

“He says he wants a quick transition to allow the country [to] return as soon as possible to a civilian regime.”

The ECOWAS delegation met the 75-year-old former president.

He was being held at the military barracks in Kati, near the capital, Bamako.

Military spokesman Wague maintained that Keita, whose term was set to expire in 2023, resigned of his own free will and not because he was under pressure from mutinous soldiers, several reports said.

Earlier on Monday, it appeared talks were headed in the right direction.

“We have been able to agree on a number of points but not yet on all the discussions,” said former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan who is leading the mediators.

Agence France Presse (AFP) quoted a source in the ECOWAS delegation as saying that the military leaders have proposed a military-led transitional body to rule for three years with a mandate to review the foundations of the Malian state.

The report added that the junta has also agreed to release ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta.

But it appeared more talks would be needed.

The coup against Keita triggered shock waves among Mali’s neighbors.

They feared extremist violence in Mali could spread in the region.

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