Military officers in Mali have detained the country’s President and Prime Minister and taken them to a military base, just months after a military coup ousted the previous president.
President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were transported to a military compound in Kati outside the capital of Bamako, hours after two members of the junta that had seized power in the coup lost their positions in a government reshuffle.
Mali’s defence minister Souleymane Doucoure is also believed to have been detained alongside the President and Prime Minister, reports said.
Their detentions followed the military ouster in August of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The development could exacerbate instability in the West African country where violent fighters linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State control large areas of the desert north.
Political instability and military infighting have complicated efforts by Western powers and neighbouring countries to prop up to the impoverished nation, contributing to regional insecurity.
European Union leaders on Tuesday condemned what they called the ‘kidnapping’ of Mali’s civilian leadership.
‘What happened was grave and serious and we are ready to consider necessary measures,’ EU Council president Charles Michel told reporters after a summit of the 27 national chiefs.
The United Nations’ mission in Mali called for the group’s ‘immediate and unconditional’ release and said those who hold the leaders would have to answer for their actions.
A delegation from the top regional decision-making body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will visit Bamako on Tuesday to help resolve the ‘attempted coup’, ECOWAS, the UN, African Union, European Union and several European countries said in a joint statement.
‘The international community rejects in advance any act imposed by coercion, including forced resignations,’ the group said.
The U.S. State Department called in a statement for the ‘unconditional release of those currently being held’.
Ndaw and Ouane had been tasked with overseeing an 18-month transition back to civilian rule after the August takeover, but they appear to have moved against the military’s control over a number of key positions.
Kati’s military base is notorious for ending the rule of Malian leaders. Last August, the military took President Keita to Kati and forced him to resign. A mutiny there helped topple his predecessor Amadou Toumani Toure in 2012.
Mali has been in turmoil ever since. Toure’s departure triggered an ethnic Tuareg rebellion to seize the northern two-thirds of the country, which was hijacked by al Qaeda-linked jihadists.
French forces beat the insurgents back in 2013 but they have since regrouped and carry out regular attacks on the army and civilians. They have exported their methods to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger where attacks have skyrocketed since 2017.