Malian president resigns after his capture by mutinous soldiers

(Update 1: Adds resignation, dissolution of government, details and edits throughout)

Bamako, Aug 18 (efe-epa).- Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita resigned Tuesday in a statement broadcast on state television hours after he and the prime minister were detained by mutinous soldiers.

He said he was also dissolving parliament and the government.

“I want no blood to be spilled to keep me in power,” said Keita, who was introduced on ORTM1 TV as the “outgoing president.”

Keita, popularly known as IBK and in power since 2013, added: “If today, certain elements of our armed forces want this to end through their intervention, do I really have a choice?”

Earlier, members of the military, who staged the mutiny against the government on Tuesday in the conflict-ridden West African nation, said that they had captured 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.

They have not issued any statement to explain their objectives, nor have they appointed a new leader, although they are expected to do so in the next few hours.

Both the president and prime minister were unaccounted for a number of hours while the military revolt was under way, with the uprising later morphing into what appeared to be an outright coup d’etat.

A communique allegedly signed by Cisse on Tuesday afternoon appealing to the coup forces to engage in dialog 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 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 d’etat is never the solution to a crisis, no matter how profound it may be.”

The European Union’s top representative for foreign policy, Josep Borrell, called for dialog, warning of the destabilization of not only Mali, but the entire region. EFE-EPA


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