Bamako, Aug 18 (efe-epa).- Members of the military in Mali, who staged a mutiny against the government on Tuesday in the conflict-ridden West African nation, say that they have captured President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse.
One of the military officers who revolted at the barracks in the town of Kati, some 15 kilometers (less than 10 miles) from the capital of Bamako, told reporters that the country’s two top officials had been taken into custody by the coupists. He gave no further details on the matter.
What is certain is that both the president and prime minister have been unaccounted for a number of hours while the military revolt has been under way, with the uprising later morphing into an outright coup d’etat.
With the report, a communique allegedly signed by Cisse on Tuesday afternoon appealing to the coup forces to engage in dialogue with the legitimate authorities was called into question by observers and attributed to people in the premier’s entourage who were trying to hide the seriousness of the situation.
Demonstrations and political chaos have been ongoing in Mali for the past several months amid popular calls for the president’s resignation.
The United Nations and France, the former colonial power that ruled Mali until it gained independence in 1960, have spent more than seven years trying to stabilize the nation of some 19.1 million since an Islamic insurgency came to power in a 2012 coup.
The news of the apparent success of the coup on Tuesday immediately spread throughout the capital, with military vehicles patrolling along its main avenues and where thousands of people took to the streets amid a festive atmosphere.
So far, some reports of gunfire, but no reports of violence have emerged, and it appears that the revolt and/or coup has been largely, if not completely, bloodless.
Meanwhile, the main countries and international organizations with an interest in Africa have unanimously condemned the coup, with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) calling on the mutinying Malian soldiers to “return to their barracks without delay” and expressing its “firm opposition to all anti-constitutional political change.”
Expressing himself in similar terms was the president of the chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, who demanded that the coup forces renounce the use of violence and called for Malian institutions to be respected.
France, too, which continues to have significant interests in its former colony, firmly condemned the coup, with Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian expressing Paris’s support for Malian sovereignty and democracy.
The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, meanwhile, warned on Twitter that a coup “is never the solution to a crisis, no matter how profound it may be.”
And the European Union’s top representative for foreign policy, Josep Borrell, condemned the coup, calling for dialogue and the avoidance of greater destabilization in Mali and in the region.