Mali, AFP, May 25, 2021 — Mali’s strongman on Tuesday pushed out leaders tasked with steering the return to civilian rule following a coup, as former colonial power France warned it could lead a charge to impose sanctions against the regime.
Assimi Goita, who headed a junta which seized power less than 10 months ago, said that transitional President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane had been stripped of their powers, and he promised elections in 2022.
The detention of the pair — likened by French President Emmanuel Macron to a second coup — marked the latest crisis to hit a state burdened by poverty and a brutal jihadist insurgency.
Ndaw and Ouane have been heading an interim government that was installed in September under the threat of regional sanctions, with the declared aim of restoring full civilian rule within 18 months.
But in a move that sparked widespread diplomatic anger, the pair were detained on Monday by army officers disgruntled by a government reshuffle.
In a statement read on public television, Goita said Ndaw and Ouane had been stripped of their duties for seeking to “sabotage” the transition, which would “proceed as normal.”
“The scheduled elections will be held in 2022,” he said.
Monday’s government reshuffle, designed to respond to growing criticism of the interim government, saw the military keep the strategic portfolios it controlled during the previous administration.
But two other coup leaders — ex-defence minister Sadio Camara and ex-security minister Colonel Modibo Kone — were replaced.
Colonel Goita, who holds the rank of vice president in the transitional government, accused Ndaw and Ouane of failing to consult him on the reshuffle.
“This kind of step testifies to the clear desire of the transitional president and prime minister to seek to breach the transitional charter,” he said, describing this as a “demonstrable intent to sabotage the transition”.
The transitional charter, a document largely drawn up by the colonels, sets down principles for underpinning Mali’s return to civilian rule.
Macron, whose country has committed more than 5,000 troops in the fight against jihadism in the Sahel, condemned the arrest of Ndaw and Ouane as a “coup d’etat in an unacceptable coup d’etat.”
“We are ready in the coming hours to take targeted sanctions” against those responsible, Macron said after a European Union summit.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told parliament in Paris that France had called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the crisis.