Soldiers in Mali have detained the president and prime minister of the interim government, according to the United Nations and the African Union, deepening political chaos in the country just nine months after a military coup overthrew its previous leader.
In a joint statement on Monday, the two bodies called for President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane’s “immediate and unconditional release” and said “the international community rejects in advance any act of coercion, including forced resignations”.
The United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and the West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS also signed the statement.
Diplomatic and government sources told Reuters and AFP news agencies that Ndaw, Ouane as well as Defence Minister Souleymane Doucore were being held at a military base in Kati, outside the capital, Bamako.
AFP managed to reach Ouane briefly, and before the line cut, he told the agency that soldiers had come to get him.
The detention of Mali’s civilian leadership came hours after a government reshuffle left out two soldiers who led the coup in August last year and raised fears of a second military takeover.
The UN, AU, ECOWAS and others called Ndaw and Ouane’s detentions “reckless” and called for Mali’s political transition “to resume its course and conclude within the established timeframe”.
The statement added: “We emphasize that the ill-considered action taken today carries the risk of weakening the mobilization of the international community in support of Mali.”
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern in a Twitter post and urged calm, while European Union leaders condemned what they called the “kidnapping” of Mali’s civilian leadership.
“What happened was grave and serious and we are ready to consider necessary measures,” EU Council President Charles Michel told reporters after a summit of the bloc’s 27 leaders. Here