Just months after a military coup overthrew Mali’s previous leader, soldiers in the country have detained the president and prime minister of the interim government, the United Nations and African Union said. The arrests of President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane on Monday came hours after two soldiers who led the coup in August last year lost their positions in a cabinet reshuffle.
Ndaw and Ouane were reportedly taken to the Kati military base located near Mali’s capital, Bamako. AFP said it managed to reach Ouane briefly. He told the agency that soldiers had come to get him.
The “attempted coup” was met with disapproval from some Malians. Dozens of protesters on Monday gathered at Bamako’s Independence Square. There was a heavy security presence, DW reported. “We are here to say no to the coup that just took place. We are not here to support the president. We are not here to support the prime minister,” one of the protesters, Mamidi Drame, said.
In a joint statement condemning the arrest of the two leaders, the UN and AU called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of Mali’s civilian leadership, adding that “the international community rejects in advance any act of coercion, including forced resignations”. The statement was also signed by the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and ECOWAS. The statement said a delegation from ECOWAS would visit the capital, Bamako, on Tuesday.
The joint statement further called Ndaw and Ouane’s detentions “reckless” while asking Mali’s political transition “to resume its course and conclude within the established timeframe”. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” by the arrest of Ndaw and Ouane. “I call for calm & their unconditional release,” he said on Twitter.
The EU also called for the immediate release of the two leaders. “What happened was grave and serious and we are ready to consider necessary measures,” European Council President Charles Michel told reporters on Monday.
In August last year, Mali’s soldiers ousted President Ibrahim Bouboucar Keita, compelling him to resign. An interim government with Ndaw as leader was formed in September. The interim government is to govern the country for 18 months, during which it is expected to implement reforms and subsequently hold elections.