Bamako, Aug 19 (efe-epa).- Mutinying soldiers have taken power in Mali by forcing the resignation of president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and his cabinet and dissolving parliament to pave the way for a transitional government and elections.
Five uniformed men appeared on Mali’s public ORTM TV station on Wednesday morning to read out a statement confirming the end of Keïta’s tenure and vowed to hold elections within a “reasonable time limit.”
They announced the creation of what they called the National Committee for the Salvation of the People.
The statement was read out by LtCol Ismael Waghe, the apparent spokesperson for the coup leaders, although it is unclear who is to call the shots during the rebellion, given that other names involved include high-ranking officials like colonels Sadiou Camara and Malick Diaw.
The first public appearance of the coup-plotters was a reminder of the ills currently plaguing Mali: political corruption, ethnic and sectarian violence, and territorial conflicts.
The military has declared a nighttime curfew across the country and announced the closure of its land and air borders until further notice, a measure that had already been announced by the Economic Community of West African States, of which Mali is a member.
ECOWAS released a statement on Tuesday evening to announce the suspension of Mali’s participation in the West African bloc and urged other member states to draw up sanctions against the coup plotters.
The organization leveled a thinly veiled warning of military intervention should the rebels refuse to stand down.
A delegation from ECOWAS, which has played a crucial role in mediating the crisis in Mali following the April elections — which the opposition claimed were fraudulent —, was due to arrive in Bamako Wednesday but the trip has been shelved.
In a bid to quell regional and international concern, the coup leaders have insisted they would adhere to the 2015 Mali peace accords, a fragile framework that has since its inception failed to end civil conflict or convince the country’s numerous militias to lay down their arms.
The rebels have also extended their hand to the three international military missions present in Mali: the United Nation’s Minusma, the French Berkhane, which was deployed for anti-terror operations in the West African nation’s restive north and the G5, and a military alliance between Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.
Despite these efforts, international support for the coup is non-existent. Condemnation has rained down from the UN, the European Union, the African Union, the United States and France, which is Mali’s former colonizer.
Tuesday’s coup d’etat was the fourth in Mali’s short history, which gained independence from France in 1960.
The military has previously overthrown the government in 1968, 1991 and 2012, the latter in this list of upheavals being the one that opened the door to Islamic extremists, who seized swathes of the West African country.
The Malian Armed Forces have been responsible for all four rebellions and soldiers would emerge on each occasion declaring themselves saviours of the people and guarantors of stability in a country born with ethnic tensions.
Although the international community shunned Tuesday’s coup, the overthrow of the government attracted popular support in its early stages as it comes after months of anti-government protests.
There were celebratory scenes in the capital Bamako, where military convoys were welcomed with applause.
It also took place with minimum bloodshed, given the army quickly sided with the mutineers.
The only brief military skirmishes occurred at the Kati base, where the rebellion was launched.
Ousted government members are believed to be in the custody of the coup-plotters but only president Keïta has appeared in public to read out his resignation letter on TV. EFE-EPA