Emma Emeozor and Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja with agency report
Malian President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was seized yesterday by mutinying soldiers in the capital Bamako.
This came a few hours after President Muhammadu Buhari received briefing from ECOWAS Special Envoy, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, on the political situation in the West African country, as corollary to efforts by West African leaders to restore stability to the country.
The briefing was in his office at State House, Abuja. Dr. Jonathan, who is Buhari’s immediate predecessor, was in Mali from Monday to Thursday, last week.
President Buhari and four other ECOWAS leaders had visited Bamako, Mali, last month, followed by a virtual extraordinary summit of the sub-regional body.
Following the mutiny, anti-government protesters cheered the soldiers’ actions, some setting fire to a building that belongs to Mali’s justice minister, AP said.
Prime Minister Boubou Cisse, who was believed to be sheltering with Keita, urged the soldiers to put down their arms and puts the interests of the nation first.
“There is no problem whose solution cannot be found through dialogue,” he said in a communiqué.
According to Reuters, soldiers had earlier in the day mutinied at the Kati military base about 15 km (9 miles) outside of Bamako and rounded up a number of senior civilian and military officials. A spokesman for Keita could not be reached for comment, the report said.
A mutiny in 2012 at the Kati base led to a military coup that toppled former President Amadou Toumani Toure and hastened the fall of Mali’s north to jihadist militants, who continue to operate across the north and centre of the West African country.
Keita has faced mass protests since June calling for his resignation over alleged corruption and worsening security. The United States, France and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) all condemned the mutiny.
“The U.S. is opposed to all unconstitutional changes of government whether in the streets or by security forces,” tweeted J. Peter Pham, the State Department’s special envoy for the Sahel region.
As at press time, Associated Press (AP) said mutinous soldiers surrounded the private residence Keita, firing shots into the air and deepening fears of a coup attempt following several months of demonstrations calling for his resignation.
The dramatic escalation capped off a day of political chaos in Mali, where the United Nations and former colonizer France have spent more than seven years trying to stabilize the country since a 2012 coup allowed an Islamic insurgency to take hold in the West African nation. The unrest kicked off earlier in the day in the garrison town of Kati, where the previous coup originated under similar circumstances eight years earlier. The soldiers took weapons from the armory at the barracks, and then detained senior military officers.
Earlier in the day, government workers fled their offices as armed men began detaining officials including the country’s finance minister Abdoulaye Daffe.
“Officials are being arrested, it’s total confusion,” said an officer at Mali’s Ministry of Internal Security, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to journalists.”