Soldiers detained Mali’s president and prime minister Tuesday after surrounding a residence and firing into the air in an apparent coup attempt after several months of demonstrations calling for President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s ouster.
The soldiers moved freely through the streets of Bamako, making it increasingly clear that they were in control of the capital city. There was no immediate comment from the troops, who hailed from the same military barracks in Kati where an earlier coup originated more than eight years ago.
African Union chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat condemned the “forced detention” of Malian leaders and called for their immediate release. He rejected “any attempt at the unconstitutional change of government.”
The developments were also condemned by the United States, the United Nations, the regional bloc known as ECOWAS and former colonizer France, which along with a U.N. peacekeeping mission has worked since 2013 to stabilize the West African nation.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sought “the immediate restoration of constitutional order and rule of law,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Protests began in the garrison town of Kati near Bamako, where soldiers took weapons from a barracks’ armoury and arrested senior military officers.
Demonstrators cheered the soldiers’ actions, with some even setting fire to a Bamako building that belongs to Mali’s justice minister.
Armed men also detained other civilian officials including finance minister Abdoulaye Daffe.
Mr Keita, who came to power in a democratic election in 2013, has tried to meet the protesters’ demands through a series of concessions since the demonstrations began in June.
Keita, who has tried to meet protesters’ demands through a series of concessions since the demonstrations began.
He has broad support from the country’s former coloniser France and other Western powers. Tuesday’s developments were immediately condemned by ECOWAS, the regional body that had been mediating the crisis.
France and the United States also strongly criticised the unrest. J Peter Pham, the State Department’s special envoy for the Sahel region, tweeted: “The US is opposed to all unconstitutional changes of government whether in the streets or by security forces.”
Mali has experienced years of unrest since a 2012 coup allowed an Islamic insurgency to take hold in the West African nation.