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The West African regional bloc that’s led efforts to bring stability to Mali has demanded that President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita return to his post, days after he was forced to resign by a military junta that’s taken control of the country.
The Economic Community for West African States demands Keita’s reinstatement “in conformity with the constitutional requirements of his country,” Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, who currently heads the bloc, said in a statement Thursday after it met to discuss the crisis. “We are going to engage in discussions with the leaders of the military junta to share our message and make them understand that our sub-region no longer accepts the forceful takeover of power.”
A military junta in Mali promised to organize new elections amid international condemnation after forcing President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign. (
Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, Niger Foreign Minister Kalla Ankourao and Ecowas officials will travel to Mali by Friday in a bid to meet with the junta’s leaders, said two people familiar with the matter. They asked not to be named because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly.
Keita, 75, dissolved his government and
resigned late Tuesday under pressure from soldiers who detained him hours after staging a mutiny at an army barracks on the outskirts of the capital. The junta, known as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, has pledged to help form a transitional administration that will prepare new elections.
Read: Mali’s Coup Needs a Speedy West African Solution: Bobby Ghosh
Army Colonel Assimi Goita, who on Wednesday presented himself as the junta’s leader, previously headed a special military unit based in central Mali, and has participated in U.S-led military exercises.
Keita, who’s known by his initials IBK, remains in captivity. Prior to his detention Ecowas tried to
mediate between his government and a popular protest movement demanding that he step down. Further instability in Mali could be exploited by Islamist insurgents in the north that have staged increasingly violent attacks in the region despite the presence of a 15,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force.
While Ecowas has activated its standby force, it’s unlikely to intervene militarily as it did in 2017 to end a political crisis in Gambia, said Paul Ejime, an Abuja-based consultant, who advises the bloc on peace and security.
“The options open to it are dialog, consultation,” he said. “Deploying troops would require huge financial resources. With the pandemic, it will be difficult to assemble troops and Ecowas is already stretched with missions in Guinea Bissau and Gambia.”
Some opposition parties and civil society groups have welcomed Keita’s removal.
“To us, IBK has stepped down. He cannot be reinstated,” Mountaga Tall, a prominent member the M5-RPF coalition of civic and political groups that led weeks of anti-Keita protests, said by phone from Bamako. “You saw the people dancing and cheering in the streets when IBK resigned. Right now, he’s safer with the soldiers.”
The UN Security Council,, U.S., France and European Union have all condemned the army takeover, as has the African Union, which has suspended Mali’s membership. Ivory Coast and Niger both closed borders with Mali, halted banking transactions and suspended accounts in line with restrictive measures announced by Ecowas on Aug. 18.
Keita assumed office in 2013 after winning an election on pledges to restore state authority nationwide, 16 months after his predecessor, Amadou Toumani Toure ousted. That coup was staged from the same barracks where Tuesday’s mutiny started and organized by junior officers angry about the lack of resources needed to fight Tuareg separatists. The subsequent power vacuum was exploited by al-Qaeda-linked Islamist groups who seized control of the north.
Read: How African Jihadists Took Root in Mali and Beyond: QuickTake
A French military intervention pushed back the militants, but some groups later returned and expanded to carry out attacks on civilians and peacekeepers. The insurgency has since spread across the region to countries including Niger and Burkina Faso.
“A prolonged political crisis almost certainly will worsen security conditions in Mali, and it may hasten the conflict’s expansion,” said Judd Devermont, director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C.
— With assistance by Robert Brand
(Updates with analyst comment in third paragraph below first story tout.)
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