UN mission in Mali calls for immediate release of detained President and Prime Minister


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The United Nations mission in Mali on Monday called for the “immediate and unconditional” release of the country’s president and prime minister, who have been detained by the military.

The MINUSMA mission said on Twitter that those who hold the leadership will have to answer for their actions.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for calm and the release of Malian civilian leaders.

“I am deeply concerned by the news of the detention of civilian leaders of the Malian transition,” Guterres said on Twitter. “I call for calm and their unconditional release.”

The European Union and the African Union also condemned the arrests.

The detentions raised fears of a second coup as President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane lead an interim government that was installed after a coup in August under threat of regional sanctions.

Coup leaders and army officers, however, wielded significant influence over the government, casting doubt on the promise to hold elections early next year.

Two senior officials, who declined to be named, told AFP soldiers took Ndaw and Ouane to the Kati military camp on the outskirts of the capital Bamako.

Their detentions followed a sensitive government reshuffle on Monday afternoon, which was aimed at responding to growing criticism from the interim government.

The military retained the strategic portfolios it controlled under the previous administration during the reshuffle.

But two putschists Рthe former Minister of Defense Sadio Camara and the former Minister of Security, Colonel Modibo Kon̩ Рhave been replaced.

The reshuffle also came at a time of growing political challenges in the capital Bamako and pressure to meet the deadline for promised reforms.

Unconfirmed rumors of a possible coup circled Bamako on Monday evening, but the city remained relatively calm.

Briefly reached by telephone before the line was cut, Prime Minister Ouane told AFP that the soldiers “were coming to get him”.

A joint declaration signed Monday by the UN, AU, ECOWAS, EU, US and UK condemned the arrest of the politicians and called for their “immediate and unconditional freedom”.

‘Send a message’

Young military officers ousted former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta on August 18 after weeks of protests over alleged government corruption and its handling of the jihadist insurgency in Mali.

After ECOWAS, a bloc of 15 West African countries, threatened sanctions, the military junta handed power over to an interim government that pledged to reform the constitution and hold elections in them. 18 months.

Coup leader Assimi Goita has been appointed deputy chairman of the interim administration, and interim chairman Bah Ndaw is a retired army officer.

Many doubted that the military-dominated government would have the will or the capacity to implement short-term reforms.

Among other problems, the vast nation faces a major logistical and security challenge, as swathes of territory are in the hands of the jihadists.

Doubts remained despite the caretaker government’s pledge last month to hold a constitutional referendum on October 31, with elections to follow in February next year.

On May 14, amid mounting anger, the government then announced that it would appoint a new “broad-based” cabinet.

An official in Mali’s interim presidency, who requested anonymity, said the reshuffle was intended to send a message that “meeting the transition deadline remains the priority.”

He also stressed the need to replace defense and security ministers.

“They are not emblematic figures of the junta,” said the official, referring to the newly appointed ministers.

Political quarrels

In an example of growing unease, the M5 opposition movement – which spearheaded protests against Keïta in 2020 – this month called for the dissolution of the interim government and demanded a “more legitimate” body.

But the M5 is divided. Two members of the Union for the Republic and Democracy party, for example, were appointed interim ministers on Monday. The party is part of M5.

Civil strife in Mali also adds to the pressure created by political disputes.

The country’s largest union, UNTM, called on Monday for a second week of strike action after wage negotiations with the interim government failed.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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